Tuesday, 15 July 2014

#7 Dealing with a Chronic Illness

In 1997 I took a temporary, out of town assignment with my company, for what was supposed to be two weeks and ended up seven. I drove up Monday morning, maybe Sunday night, and stayed in a hotel, returning home Friday night. I was the sole contract employee, brought in to manage the continuing care unit through major cost saving changes. Reading between the lines, the hospital was mandated by the government to cut costs and the plan was to meet those financial demands by changing the staffing ratios in their long term care unit. The staffing was heavy in registered staff as were the acute care beds, but the unit could be managed, still meeting patient care standards, by reducing the number of professional staff.

It was a tense time, people’s livelihoods were at risk, and being a smaller town, other employment opportunities would be limited. Staff members with years of service were facing lay off; or a decrease in salary due to a change in professional status.

Was I under stress? You bet. Not only did I have to deal with angry and uncooperative staff, I had to deal with ongoing patient care issues. At night in the hotel I would do spread sheets, time sheets, searching for a way to save maximum dollars with minimal staff cuts.

I was wearing myself out, working alone, isolated, not eating right, and not sleeping. It was no wonder I worked myself into my first relapse.

I walked into my office and was hit with a blinding bright light that obscured most of the field of vision in my right eye. It was like a bar of light that I could see over and under, but not through. Hours passed and it didn’t change. I returned to my hotel, looked up walk-in clinics in the phone book and went directly there.

I’ll never forget that doctor because he was probably one of the most understanding, most upfront and honest physicians I have ever met. He didn’t mince his words, but gave me the lecture I needed about living with a chronic illness. He told me I needed to manage my illness, and make changes in my life in order to cope.

My boss was there the next day and when she heard about my 'episode' she dragged me to the ER and made sure I saw the eye specialist. 

I’d like to think it was one of those “Ah Ha” moments, and it should have been. I listened to what the first doctor said, and agreed, but easier said than done. Strangely enough, I never called the MS Clinic to follow up. The other doctors had all weighed in with their opinions, so enough was enough.

I’m not sure that my volunteering for this difficult assignment was not a self imposed test. Did I have the need to prove, to myself, that my diagnosis was not going to make a difference? If I could manage and succeed in this, would it prove I was competent, that I was ABLE?

Denial? In spades.

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