Realized the other day I never wrote on the topic and figure this retroactive post may be useful for some.
My city of Seattle is currently undergoing a declared state of emergency for its homeless issues. Since my stroke, I’ve had a newfound empathy for the problem as I can certainly see how all too close I could have been forced to live under I-5 pulling a tarp over my myself with one hand if I hadnt had the awesome support and care-giving system in place. I’m in a very rare percentictile being privileged enough to have had a long list all come together to have this become mostly become a success. Also, a career in IT where I am physically able enough to work. A good job, insurance, and accommodating employer to even have such a choice to make. I’m extremely grateful, understanding so many out there are in a far different place. For a long time after returning, I often thought I decided to do so too soon, citing the stress. In hindsight though, the social engagement of it alone was worth it, not to mention challenging myself for the cognitive gains alone were both a huge boost.
The process for Haborview Medical Center (HMC) to legally be able to sign-off on me, proving I had the mental faculties to be able to return were a bit of a riculous nitemare. I understand it at some level now in hindsight, but wow was it was tough road! A standard battery of phycological tests are given. Important to say that most of my brain injurt caused motor deficits and very little speech, cognitive, or upper reasoning abilty were affected.
My first Inpatient rehab doctor back in Hawaii, had stated an estimated return to work (RTW) at around 6 months. This at the time sounded ludicrous and disheartening that it’d be that long.
Early on both in InPatient (IP) & OutPatient(OP), I had speach therapy that administered phycological and cognitive examination in addition to speech. A few examples being reading six or so numbers to me and I had to read them back backwards, listing out every word I could think of starting with a specified letter of the alphabet, drawing a clock with it hands for a specified time of the day, staring at a complex geometrical design to memorize what I can, take the picture away and try and re-draw on my own. Most were suprisingly hard in the first week or so in Hawaii’s IP, but picked up pretty quickly. Weeks into OP at HMC, it became old hat.
Jeanie & I kept in contact with my employer’s HR benefits dept regarding the state of my short-term, soon turning long-term disability and of course representing the word of my employer and no doubt their premiums, they urged me back to the job they were good to be holding for me, plus I was beginning to feel a small pull back to my ‘normal’ life again. I fulfill a small niche at my job in IT doing stuff not many others like to take on, so job securtity and they needed me back. Also was feeling anxiety over our financial future plans slipping, so wanted to not have that happen too much. Jeanie had already gone back to work part time, but with so much uncertainity, I was compelled to try to set a goal to return.
Once I decided to, it started a rather formal string of processes at HMC with yet another individual, a vocational therapist involved to oversee it all as it’s a legal release process. Input was gathered from all other therapists and doctors. The final test was one of the worst experiences of my life. It’s an all day phychological examination, sticking me into a small white room sitting across from a phychologist grilling me on similar mentioned above, but more difficult. Included were loads of topics too such as math and history which I always sucked at pre-stroke, so it was both a blow to my psyche. imbarrasing, and very draining. When breaking for lunch, instructed to return by 1p, for the first time in my life, I so nearly just left to never return. To not undo all the effort and all those that were going to bat for me, I sucked it up and returned to that small white florescent-lt room with the lab coat. Miraculously, I guess I ‘passed’ and they signed off.
They negotited with my employer to ease me into a part time schedule along with any other accomidations such as Dragon Naturally Speaking dictation software. They slowly added more time ramping up in a number of weeks back to full time. Accomodation was provided with the understanding some was to be work from home to not have the added stress of the commute. To this day, I still am fortunate enough to be working from home three days/week, being nearly unheard of in my field.
Looking back, work was often very stressful, much more than pre-stroke. Had good days and bad, but again the cognitive gains were probably worth it. About a year ago around the time my AED drugs had not yet stabalized, having issues concentrating, I made a few f*ck-ups, that potentially could have been disastorous, where in my line of work typically would have been jokingly called an RGE (‘resume generating event’). I was straight-up honest with management and was very lucky I was given another chance after chanve, hopefully learning important lessons as I was scared I’d never be able to land another job in my field ever again. Since then, things have been going pretty good, but if feel at times I’m not nearly the sharp on-the-ball engineer I was pre-stroke, so the injury most certainly took a toll.
Nice to think that it didnt take too much of a finacial bite out of our future plans. I did recently read a post here, discussing the true finacial cost of stroke to an individual. It’s WAY more than what first comes to mind with just the hundreds of thousands in healthcare costs. Time and money lost when not working, and likely the many future permotions and other career offers one may miss out later in life. Once you really think through it, costs can be staggering, well over hundreds of thousands depending on the circumstances.
To conclude, while the decision to RTW is a big one, it may be the right choice should you have the means to. Once you make the decision, there’s so many others that will need to weigh in along with a process to follow. There are some other avenues to explore if you can’t e.g. Long-term Disabilty (LTD) though you employer and/or the state government. Or, programs subject to constant attack by Trump & Republican lawmakers, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). If needing to look at these government approprited routes, I’d highly suggest hiring a disability attourney.