10 October 2014

Pain and choices

My back was hurting quite a lot over the last year so during my review in September I told my boss that I would soon not be able to do my job. And that 'soon' meant 'sooner than she thought'. As a reminder, I work in a position which involves lifting bags and boxes weighing 20 kg. On average, I lift and carry about 1700 - 2000 kg a day. I went to the doctor for x-rays to find out if the pain was from the scoliosis or possible arthritis (seeing as how it was in my knees already and finger joints). It is arthritis in the lowest two vertebrae and lowest disc of my back, and I was told it's 'moderate to severe'. The doctor asked me if I had had any trauma in my life, I said no, she asked again, I repeated no. Then she told me I was living a very hard life and I need to give my bones a rest. I'm only 44.

So I told my boss about the arthritis and she found replacements for me. Well, one replacement and the cook would pick up the slack. It is our busiest season at work so I told her that two people full time were needed. But she kept my replacement in another department for two hours a day and kept putting the cook on the production line instead of in Scaling. Overtime ensued, but not my problem. My boss said she would give me paperwork to do because I have a lot of knowledge about the company and I'm very organized. Cool! Then she decided that it's too busy so I would be helping on the production line.

The first job I did was sprinkling white chocolate shavings onto 768 pumpkin cakes, one at a time (duh - lol). So standing in one spot and leaning forward slightly (I'm really short so I have to extend my arms a bit to reach). This lasted five minutes before my back locked up. A co-worker suggested a spongy pad to stand on (floors are cement), I got one and it was much better...for about a half hour. It took over two hours to finish all the cakes. The next position was feeding the line where I took the layers and put them on the belt. This involved a huge amount of bending to reach the layers on the bottom of the rack. There were over 1200 layers. It took over two hours. I could barely move.

The next day I felt sore but possibly ok. Thank you Robaxacet. I told the boss the two positions of yesterday were not working (nobody came to check on me, I had to track down the boss) so I tried boxing and casing the cakes. This was much better as there was no bending except to put the cases of cakes (two boxed cakes to a case) on the pallet. For about two hours. I did this by slightly bending and dropping the cases onto the pallet. The cakes are frozen and can survive this. Also I helped take the cakes from the belt and put them in the waiting box. For another two hours. I discovered that even lifting a 4 kg cake and carrying it only four steps was difficult but not impossible. Until today.

Today I was boxing again and lasted fifteen minutes before my back was deciding this was quite enough, thank you. I could feel the weight of each cake in my lower back and had to stop and stretch my back about every five minutes. After an hour and a half the supervisor said we would take our break before continuing. I told her I was going home. She was visibly upset (she's new to the position and very overwhelmed) but didn't counter it.

So for the first time in four years I took a sick day. Well, left early for being in pain. I am not the kind of person to take sick days and frequently just push through and get the job done. It helps that I am rarely sick. The only time I've taken off was when both parents died, when T was in an ATV accident, and when J's appendix needed removing. Oh, and one 'sick' day four years ago that was just me being passive-aggressive to a controlling boss that is no longer with the company.

Now I wonder, do I go on disability - would I be approved for disability - or do I simply quit and find a new job - keeping in mind I only have a high school education and no training for anything in particular - or do I see if I can push my boss to give me an administration job - but I'm unionized and can't do administration work unless I leave the union. Have I mentioned I don't like change? That I have anxiety which makes job hunting/interviews a nightmare? That schooling would be good but I don't know what to take or if I can financially survive not working? That I hate my current work environment because the boss doesn't seem to have a clue what she's doing? 

I know that once I make a decision and go with it that it will all be ok. That in five or ten years I will see how I made the right choice. It doesn't help to know that though. Right now I feel like I'm standing at a crossroad and I am looking around to see which choice has the best outcome...but I can't see anything.

I deeply admire both my sisters for the ability to move to a different city (a different province in one case and a different country in another!). I can't even decide on a different job. 

1 comment:

Chantelle said...

It sounds like you're in a really tough position :( I'm so sorry you're in such terrible pain.

This is a tough decision for you.. I hope you're able to decide soon.

Love you,
Chantelle