March 2012

Work was a difficult place. My employer was becoming more aggressive in terms of forcing me to accept night shifts and normal duties. At this time, I was on straight days and was not responding to any Code Whites which is the call for assistance in dealing with distraught patients.

I did not have the physical capacity to handle anything approaching this. In March, I physically collapsed while trying to snow blow the driveway. It was heavy wet snow and the machine needed a lot of man-handling.

The next week, a surprise meeting with Dr Anderson and I was told that I would need to return to full-duties. I told him about having chest pressure and collapsing while snow blowing and he pulled out the physio report and said, "It says right here that you are fit for work".

I said, that the Physiotherapist had no idea what she was talking about and that she never even assessed the post-exertional malaise even though I had made myself available. And I said that after the operation I would be needing to train my abbreviated digestive tract and would not be working nights.

It was a very unpleasant meeting and I was mad as stink. I was working so hard to get better and they were not helping in any way. My parting words were that if they wanted me at codes that I would go and they could deal with any consequences.

The next meeting was with my Unit Manager, and she had tears in her eyes and told me that her hands were tied. She knew I was sick, Human Resources knew I was sick but there was a policy. I told her that I was going to respond to codes.

Keep in mind that I did not know whether I would survive this degree of exertion. I had chest pressure and collapsed with an activity when there was no adrenaline on-board.

Ten minutes after the meeting there was a code called. (Weird, eh?) I ran as hard as I could and almost collapsed when I got there. A manager from a different unit took me aside and sat with me until I was strong enough to walk back to the unit.

I was in real distress which didn't combine well with the anger and depression. I didn't know what was going to happen but told my co-workers that I didn't want to be coded. I was OK with dying. I was ready to throw in the towel....I really was. My wife was with some students and one of the nurses brought her to me.

I insisted on walking to Employee Health but was put into a wheelchair there. I told the nurse, "I told you guys that I couldn't respond to codes".

I was in Emerg for 3.5 hours. At one point the attending Dr asked if I had a history of Mental Illness - seems that she had been talking to someone. I asked for hydrocortisone but didn't get any. I left the unit with the diagnosis of anxiety, history of Bipolar disorder and de-conditioning.

I collapsed on the unit and couldn't talk or think for the rest of the shift.

Dr Hui was not pleased and wrote a note saying that my Diagnosis was Severe Adrenal Insufficiency. I got a pill container for my work keys, car keys and wife's keys and carried hydrocortisone from then on and still do. I also ordered a Medic Alert bracelet. People die from adrenal insufficiency on operating tables if no one knows about it.

I met with a different Dr at Employee Health and made it clear that Dr Anderson was to have nothing to do with me from that point on. Either, he didn't believe me and I was a liar and a malingerer, or he did believe me but didn't care what happened.

I had a meeting with Human Resources and told them that all I needed was some hydrocortisone and that the diagnosis of Bipolar and anxiety were stupid. Of course someone in adrenal crisis has anxiety. My diagnosis was Severe Adrenal Insufficiency and all references to a former mental disorder were to stop.

And I told them if they wanted to see what would happen if they put me on nights to give it a shot but I had 20 different med times that I was juggling and I couldn't see how that was going to work out. I was currently waking up 4 times a night for pills and bathroom and couldn't fathom waking up even more.

Anyway, the hospital backed off. No more codes and no nights. I should have felt better about this as it was in one sense a victory but the whole think just left me bitter. I was a good employee and was being treated very poorly.

Next time - the shit hits the fan.


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