I switched to the day shift about ten weeks ago because I am having terrible trouble with my hands and arms. After fourteen years working as a histotechnician, the repetitive nature of the job is taking it's toll. I am having great difficulty with carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel and radial tunnel syndrome, as well as tendinitis and cervical issues. It got so bad this Fall that I couldn't sleep at all and my arms were numb from the shoulders down. It is not a new problem, but it went from a minor annoyance to nearly incapacitating after my workload increased dramatically. I moved to the day shift so I could do "light duty" and go to physical therapy.
I am better than I was, but by no means cured and, I am not doing anything. What I am doing at work is still enough to be exacerbating the problem. I have not been doing much around the farm, trying to give everything a chance to heal. However, it is unlikely at this point that the doctor is going to clear me to return to my normal job. My boss does not want to lose me and is willing to make some accommodations, but there is no changing the nature of the job, which is extremely repetitive and requires very fine motor skills.
Physical therapy, large amounts of Ibuprofen and
getting a break from the job has helped a lot. However, the
occupational medicine doctor that I am seeing is telling me that I need
to find a new job.
I always naively thought that Worker's Comp. existed to protect employees. I am learning the hard way that it is really more the other way around. An employee can't be fired for getting hurt. However, if the employee can't, "perform the normal tasks and duties of the job, then the employer can terminate that employee". It's hard for me to see where the difference lies within that tidy bit of semantics.
And therein lies my dilemma.
It is easy to tell someone to go out and find a new job, but I live in one of the most economically depressed areas in the country. I have spent the last fourteen years working in one of the most highly specialized jobs in existence. Even the doctors that I work with don't understand what I do. Years ago, I tried to convince the hospital to let me train in other parts of the lab, but got turned down flat because other people were afraid they would have to reciprocate.
I could go back to school (again) and study something else, but how do I pay for it and still support myself (and my animals)?
I've already caused permanent damage to my hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, tendons....What job is there that isn't going to cause more?
If I lose my job, how am I going to support all of us?
I can't find anyone who can tell me what happens next. I can't even get anyone to tell me if I will at least be eligible for unemployment.
I keep asking what happens from here and they keep telling me that, "it's up to you, Kris", but it doesn't feel like it is up to me. I don't work because I want to, I work because I have to. Where is the choice in that?
I feel very much like I am about to be thrown to the wolves in thanks for my 14 years of labor and expertise.
I've avoided writing about all of this, but I'm no longer sure why. Who am I protecting and why? I am having trouble writing about anything else as this little problem has been occupying all my thoughts and creating a great deal of anxiety.
I haven't come up with a fix for this yet, but the stress is getting to me. So, I did the only thing there is to do at the moment. I took a couple of days off, took Connor for a walk...
Went for a ride with RB...
...and took my donkeys for a walk.