Three Weeks in Rehab – Day Four

Three Weeks in Rehab – Day Four

I wake up feeling like I’d been hit by a bus, and they didn’t have my pain meds ready…again. I got them only 15 minutes before my first session, which isn’t enough time.

I couldn’t even get out of bed for breakfast (which I’ve been trying to eat while I’m in here as I usually don’t.) My first session was at 8am, which I can’t say I appreciated much. It wasn’t physical though, it was Psychology. We went through a list of some of things ‘troubling’ me at the moment, and she referred me onto an additional Pain Session, and wants to try and look at how stress increases my pain. At the end she asked me if I want more sessions. I find it difficult to answer, as I think we haven’t even touched the surface, but then I feel embarrassed to say that and worry if I say yes I won’t know what to say. So she suggests we don’t book anything next week, and see if anything crops up in week three.

I come back from Psychology with five minutes to get up to Stretch, but I find my wheelchair isn’t back yet. I flail for a moment, until the porter rushes in with it and I make it a few minutes late!

I have a gap before my next session, so I take the opportunity to sleep and finish the bracelet for the birthday present.

Then it’s onto Postural Management. They go over the basics of posture – you should sit so your weight is going down the centre of your spine, keeping the curves at the top and lower back. Ideally, you should sit with your feet flat on the floor, at hip-width distance. This is something I find very difficult. My lower spine is in intense pain all the time – and sitting this way makes it a hell of a lot worse. I have to sit with my legs crossed, slightly leaning one way, which puts my weight through my hip, rather than my spine. I explained this to my physio and she said while the other position is ideal, she understands the mess my lower back is in, and as long as I keep swapping the crossed leg over to stop one side getting stretched and the other ignored, she would be happy.

We then look at different chair supports, from hard to soft. I try them all and decide to borrow a JML Sit Right. It’s slightly springy, which I find better than the hard ones, and when I lean back my back cracks in a nice way!  We then look at pillows. Most have the type that has a kind of roll for neck support on them, which I’ve found painful in the past.  I try a Putnams pillow which is very comfortable – but everyone wants to borrow it!

I go back to the ward, and by the time I get there my back pain has increased from the back support. Damn, foiled again – I thought I’d finally found a support that may help!

The session runs over a little, and when I get back all the lunches have been served. I ordered a soup, but it’s not there. I go to the kitchen, and can’t find anyone. I wait there, standing too long, and a healthcare assistance asks if I’m okay. I explain the issue and he says they will still be cooking it and he’d sort it out. However, the cook arrives at that point to inform me they were out of soup, and I could have Macaroni Cheese instead. Unfortunately, I dislike macaroni cheese.  Eventually she grudgingly agrees to give me a salad.  I’m pretty annoyed they wait until after lunch is served to inform me they didn’t have mine, but it’s nothing new!

My next session is with Lucy, my occupational therapist. She sets my goals for the weekend with me, which include trying to sit in a neutral seating position (no legs crossed) three times a day for 30 seconds; doing my stretches once over the weekend and to sleep with a pillow between my knees which is supposed to help ease the lower back.

Our final session is swimming! I’ve been looking forward to it all week. It’s a nice pool, very much set up for people in wheelchairs. I’m able to use my wheelchair right into a changing room, and leave it there.  There are a selection of frames and sticks that people can use to get right into pool.  There are even wheelchairs that can go right into the water!  The swimming pool is big and to get in there is a steady slope from one end to the other with handrails either side, so they’ve throught of everything.  Normally I manage quite a few laps, but after one my neck burns with pain. By two it’s so bad I can’t continue. Instead I get a float and cycle through the water, which is a good one as it eases the lower back and works the leg muscles. Then I walk backwards and forwards, and enjoy the freedom of being able to do that.

This is not how we looked like swimming.  Credit to plang

This is not how we looked like swimming. Credit to plang

Next the saga of trying to order the evenings food begins, and it takes hours! First sorting out everyone’s orders – four of the boys want chinese, everyone else pizza. We get a quote and get the money off everyone for the chinese, but when we try to order it won’t go through online. We phone them, and despite it saying they covered us, they now decide they won’t. We try restaurant, after restaurant, and they either don’t deliver, or not to our area.

I finally get one that says they will, and start to put in the order. Item one – sweet and sour prawn balls. Oh, sorry, they say, we don’t do that. I can’t just pick another item as I have no idea what he likes, so I hang up and send someone to his ward to ask him. I then hit redial, and ask again for a delivery only to be told they don’t cover us!  I get annoyed and say that thirty seconds ago they did, so what exactly has changed.  He explains they’re actually another branch, and as the original was engaged – it goes through to another.  But they’re in another area that doesn’t cover us.

I then manage to get back to the other chinese and put the order in. It comes to £10 more than the previous order. Again, someone is sent back to the ward to ask them for the money. Two of them already overpaid by £2, so they don’t want to put any more in. One did not have any more money on him he could possibly give. The fourth refused. This meant the female ward now has to cover the difference.

Not impressed.

Next, ordering from Dominoes. We have a voucher for 50% – great deal! But it’s online only. I put everyone’s order in, and it says I have to pay by card due to the limit. I try to pay, but it says that as it’s come to over £100 I need to call the store to order. So I call them and explain I haven’t put any codes in yet, but it says I need to order through them, but I wasn’t sure how it would work with an online-only code.  This causes massive confusion and lots of bad advice, before I eventually manage to get the order through. 

8.30 arrives and so does the pizzas.  We pay them for them, and head to our conservatory, which is attached to the female ward, and where all meals are taken. We plan to watch films and have the male ward over as well. We’ve had this planned since Tuesday.

We get in there, and an older lady from the ward is watching Coronation Street on her own very loudly. We all sit down and wait for her to turn it down, but she doesn’t. Someone then asks politely if she would mind turning it down as we have an event planned in the room (and she’d been pre-warned). She snaps back, “I’m watching it.”

“It’s just that we all want to talk,” she tries again.

The cantankerous ward mate replies, “And I will just turn it up.”

It’s so loud, it’s painful and I worry, as I wouldn’t be able to stay there with that level of noise, as it directly impacts my pain levels. Everyone decides to head over to the boy’s ward instead, so we all get up, every single member of the ward, young and old alike, and head over there, leaving her on her own. It’s a shame as the boy’s room doesn’t have a DVD player. We can see the girl’s conservatory from the boy’s, and about three minutes into our meal I see she has turned the TV off and leave.

It was very bad timing, and everyone is angry with her, as it was a group activity, planned days in advance. I’m afraid in these situations majority rules – you can’t always watch what you want to watch. It was late in the week and everyone had been pushed all week and was hurting, and tired. It was a good job we left really, as I could have seen a big argument break out, and a lot of us still need to live with each other for two more weeks.

We finish the pizza, and a DVD is put on in the conservatory, but I decide to have a relax on my bed and finish the earrings for the birthday girl. I’m very tired and done too much really.

The girl who had previous dislocated her shoulder mentions to me how bad her pain is. After the dislocation they’d pumped her full of very strong painkillers, so much it was wiping her out.  However, they’d worn off – but she wasn’t due anymore.  She begins to cry and I offer to go and ask the nurse for her. The nurse tells me she isn’t, but I ask her to come and see Kayleigh, as I hate seeing her cry in pain. The nurse does so, and basically says she isn’t able to have any for an hour, and they’d already pumped her full of stuff earlier, and that’s when she should have gone to bed.

A bit later she goes out for a cigarette with another girl, and begins to act oddly. She slumps over to the side and her eyes glaze over. I notice her weird shuffle as she returns to bed. Very quickly she begins twitching violently, and moaning in pain and getting very distressed. Two girls sit with her trying to help, by getting her to breathe deeply, and try to calm her down. I quickly go to get the nurse again, as this is much worse. The nurse is very snappy with me, telling me she can’t have any medications. I say I’m not there to get meds for her, but that I think she needs help.

The nurse grudgingly goes to see her, and realises something is wrong. She takes her blood pressure and her pulse is through the roof.  She starts to gag and her stomach muscles are visibly convulsing. The nurse goes back to call a doctor, but she says she’s going to be sick. Someone rushes off to ask the other night nurse on duty for a sick bowl and I have never seen a nurse walk so slowly, as if she couldn’t be bothered.

The nurses kick everyone out, which I think was the wrong thing to do. One of them should have stayed with her as she gets very anxious and needs a lot of support. It takes until 2am to get her to stop crying out in pain, after they give her medication to stop cramping. We’re all worrying about her during this time, as she almost looks like she’s fitting at times.

Finally she calms, and the nurses tell her to try and get some sleep. They get the lights off.  As soon as the nurses vanish, she jumps out of bed for a cigarette. Honestly!

It was a long day and I almost cry in relief when I can finally sleep.

The report from Occupational Health arrives

The report from Occupational Health arrives

Credit to Marcin Rybarczyk

Credit to Marcin Rybarczyk

I received my occupational health report this morning, which made for interesting reading.  I might be a little cranky today, okay?  So keep that in mind.  My work deciding not to pay me anything for the month also didn’t help.  (They have reconsidered after many phone calls and emails.)

So, the first thing the report says, on the very first page, is that I’m fit to return to work immediately – remember that!

Then page two began with an introduction from the medical company who said I’d been referred so my employer could find out what my conditions are, whether me working 22.5 hours a week is suitable, how much sickness am I likely to have, whether I still need to work from home and why, and finally whether I’d be covered under the Disability Discrimination Act (NO, it doesn’t exist anymore).

They continue to say I have a number of conditions which include a “so-called connective tissue disorder.”  What the hell is that meant to mean?  There is NOTHING so-called about Ehlers-Danlos, thank you very much.  Then they say I have Fibromyalgia, which is “aches in various joints.”  Oh, I wish.

Then the report writer passes it over to the doctor.  Thank god, I’ve had enough of that little weasel.

The GP clarifies my actual conditions, where I’m at with medication and medical treatment.  That I scored highly for anxiety and depression, and that I looked ‘profoundly unwell.’

He then says I am currently unfit to return to work, although he notes I would like to continue working. He says office based work is completely unsuitable currently due to high levels of pain and fatigue, but perhaps some limited home working would be good if it could be accommodated.

He ends by saying he thinks I would be covered under the Equality Act, under the disability provision.

But now we’re back to the weasel of a report writer, who says again I’m unfit for work (so why did page 1 say I could go back immediately?)  He then says I undoubtedly have genuine physical and non-physical problems and that he was surprised to see I have been able to achieve the levels of work that I have over the last few years.  Aw, that’s nice.

Then he turns on me and stabs me in the back.

He says commercially they need to consider if they cope with high levels of absence, whether I can work from home with the impact it will have on their ‘commercial value,’ and says he sees no likelihood of recovery for me, as my conditions are degenerative and not cureable.

Wait, we’re getting to the good part, where he shoves that knife in.  “From my reading of the referral note further home working may not be possible which then potentially leads to a question of capability.  It would be of course for the company to consider the questions and answers regarding home working, and if not a possibility than a careful response needs to be formulated to avoid critics in the event of any challenge.”

So reading between the lines, I will clarify for everyone.  We recommend she works from home, which is perfectly reasonable, as she has been doing that for the past three years in the same job, had low sickness levels, and has been damn good at her job.  But you probably can’t be arsed to put that in place, so just kick her out on capability grounds- but do it carefully so she can’t sue you.  Oh, then we’ll send this report straight to her so she can read this little shitty suggestion.

Well, fuck you too.

A visit to Occupational Health

A visit to Occupational Health

My lower back is in pretty intense pain at the moment, so I had to go to the Occupational Health assessment in my wheelchair.  I can’t get it in and out of my car alone, so I ordered a taxi.  It was the first time I’ve used public transport with my wheelchair and it went smoothly, except for trying to find a taxi in the first place.  I rang what seemed like every firm in the town before I found one that had a single wheelchair accessible vehicle.  Silly me expected them to have at least one on at all times – but by the sound of it most don’t have any at all!

English: Wheelchair adapted Fiat Doblò facelif...

Wheelchair adapted Fiat Doblò facelift taxi in Cheltenham, UK. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The occupational health assessment was interesting – the building wasn’t accessible for wheelchair users, and the doctor was very short on time, and his eyes widened when he saw my list of conditions and said my company should have booked more time, as the appointment wasn’t long enough to cover everything.  He asked how many consultants I was under, what I was doing while off from work (mostly sleeping!) and did a depression/anxiety checklist and then tried to finish the visit!  I objected, saying I thought I’d come to discuss adjustments and things in the workplace.  He asked what I wanted, and I said I’d been working from home at least one day a week for three years which suited me well, and while the company I was TUPEd across to said they’d honour it, they haven’t provided me with equipment.  He said he wouldn’t be writing the report, another medical company would, but he’d ‘probably’ mention it.  I then said I thought a phased return from work might help, and he said yes, they’ll probably do that.  He then said he didn’t think I was ready to go back to work, but I don’t see the point of him saying that, as it’s my GP that has to make that decision, isn’t it?

So it will be interesting to see what the report says.