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Medical Retirement at 37!

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by lotty78, Feb 3, 2016.

  1. lotty78

    lotty78 New commenter

    Hi I have been off work as a FE Lecturer for the past 3 months with Depression and Degenerative Osteoarthritis of the Hip which means I cannot drive or undertake my duties at work. I am waiting on a hip replacement which is being delayed by the fact I have a very high BMI. My life is seriously effected on a number of levels. Yesterday I saw the Occupational Health Dr for the second time who stated that he was recommending that I would never be able to return to my job as even after I've had the operation given my size and mental health issues the recovery would be slower and the likelihood of me needing further surgeries on other joints was raised. He suggested I apply for medical retirement. I am completely floored by this. I am only 37 have 2 young children and no wages coming in (SSP only). I have been at my current college for 2 years and prior to that I believe I have about 7 years pensionable service with TP. I am seeking advice from my Union (UCU) but any other advice/help would be appreciated. I don't know where to start!
  2. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    What do your own drs say? Although possible hard due to your joint problems, you may lose weight in the future. I could perhaps understand recommending ill health capability if you were going to be unable to work for a long period, but not medical retirement. You may also be covered by the disability act. What help have you been offered to reduce your BMI and how delayed is your op?
  3. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    Suffering from osteo myself you have my genuine sympathy. At 58 I finally saw a specialist about my knees. He said he thought I prob needed knee replacement but that I was "too young" In the throes of some idiotic vanity I left feeling too youthful for such surgery. Hindsight is not too great a thing now re this but if I had my time again I would scream at him to give me new knees then and there because all that has happened is that I became increasingly slow/immobile,hastened by stumbling at work and aggravating my right knee badly. That saw me take voluntary redundancy from my PE job. Since then I have put on weight through inactivity. Although I swim regularly as an ex competitive swimmer it isn't "had work" even though it impresses the dr ( 30 lengths hardly breaks a sweat) and I am honest about it. Following 2 major health scares - a brain haemorrhage and a mini stroke followed by vascular surgery and enforced idleness.... more weight scurried on. Now the issues are 1. The surgeon wishes me to lose weight..... not that easy because of the above and lifelong thyroid issue and 2. for my past 5 appointments now the hospital/dr has phoned to cancel my scheduled appointment. I do wonder whether this is a new ploy for the NHS to keep to its deadlines....as if I accept a re scheduled appointment do the weeks/months etc not count? I haven't seen my knee dr in nearly 18months!

    As for medical retirement - am afraid I can't help you. My school hardly had to enhance my pension at all... maybe 9 months in all so I was a cheap person to make redundant. <My ex sis in law was medically pensioned out of teaching many years ago in her 40s and she did very very well out of it but I am sure those days are long gone. I would say that is at approaching 40 you need a new hip, that on the face of it there isn't any reason why you shouldn't return to work. A friend of mine had a early hip replacement in her 40s and she told me the relief from the pain she had had was instant..... as in waking from the op in no pain for the first time in a long time ! So I would tend not to make any decision re retirement from teaching until you absolutely have to as it might not be the case. Your current mental health leaves you not best placed to make a decision also.
    Obviously with osteo exercise can be difficult. Swimming is an option for you - if you are comfortable and competent in the water - otherwise it could be difficult. Could you manage cycling if not brisk walking? Exercise could help with the weight issue and also it would be of benefit mentally. Could you bear the thought of yoga which has so many benefits?

    I have just read "Shoot the dam Dog" by Sally Brampton on her experience of depression. I found it an excellent read and informative re depression.
  4. frangipani123

    frangipani123 Lead commenter

    You have my sympathy. I had to have both my hips replaced about 6 years ago due to hip displasia leading to severe osteo-arthritis. Despite taking heavy duty painkillers (so I was like a zombie) I was in agony for a long time. Agony. No exaggeration. This agony led to sleepless nights and with the combination of erratic work ( I worked on a contract basis at that point), consequent money worries and pressure on my relationships, I became very depressed indeed. To top it off I was given a different painkiller (tramadol) which made me feel I was going crazy - I eventually discovered that it has this effect on some people, so I stopped taking it. I have never been slim and the depression and inactivity led to weight gain and I was borderline for surgery, it being cancelled once because I just strayed over the limit at my pre-op assessment two weeks prior to surgery - and I swear that was because the nurse weighed me wearing my shoes!!

    I'm not an expert on workplace law but I do know that employers have to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff (and you are disabled and so are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act) so I don't know if that has been done. Have you had ongoing mental health problems or are they related to your physical problems? Is the doctor correct in saying that you will have to have further joint replacements? I do know from a friend who was an HR director in a university that the mention of disability in any claim for unfair treatment does fill them with fear. So, the union should be able to help you with this.

    As regards to your surgery and the weight issue, I can only encourage you to do what you can to get within the limits. In my case the upper limit was a BMI of 40. I was given the option of being treated on an NHS ward in a private hospital which I took for my second hip, only to discover at the pre-op assessment again 2 weeks before my booked surgery that the max BMI they accepted there was 35!! Nobody had thought to tell me despite knowing my BMI! By this point my BMI was 37 so I kicked up an almighty stink and was told that it was up to the anaesthetist, who reviewed my case and agreed to do it. Private hospitals don't have an intensive care unit so they take fewer risks.

    In conclusion, I hope the union will help you with the recommendation of the occ health doctor, I recommend reviewing any painkillers you are taking in case they are impacting on your mental health, speak to your own doctor about counselling (maybe via telephone) to help you with your depression, and make as much effort as possible to eat differently - not easy I know. Have a look at the arthritis charities for further support. My surgery transformed my life, the pain went immediately and the first time I went for a walk after having had both of them done it felt as if I was wearing the Wrong Trousers of Wallace and Gromit fame! I felt I'd lost 2.5 years of my life in pain and fear of having the surgery. Don't you lose more time at such a young age.
  5. lotty78

    lotty78 New commenter

    Thank you all for your words of support and advice. As many of you say speaking to people who have had surgery , my Mom for one on both hips, I am confident that I would be a lot better placed to make decisions once this is done and the pain is gone and I can function. I am dieting but am limited on exercise as Ive found even going swimming is too uncomfortable to bear now and being incredibly shorted sighted (gosh what a catch!) I'm not overly confident in the pool. I have been referred back to the NHS as like you say, the private hospital I was attending won't touch me with a barge pole. I have a case with the college I'm sure as last year after a bought of depression I was told that I would be moved to a campus closer to home and my hours reduced. Come September I find all the people who were part of this decision have taken VR and I am not moving campus and am still doing a 60 mile round trip to work. There goes my reasonable adjustments. If I had been at said other campus I believe I would still be at work, although limited and in pain. I also asked if I could be redeployed on a temporary basis again closer to home. Nothing! I have the union looking into this now. I don't want to take Medical Retirement and don't think TP would allow me to. It is so restricting as I would be unable to do ANY teaching, even part time/sessional until retirement age (a very long way off) and although I have problems I don't think I am totally unfit for work, FOREVER! Being made to feel that way doesn't help. I also know given the state of the benefits system in this country I would be ineligible for any assistance. I have a family to provide for and therefore I need an income. I am awaiting the report from Occupational Health and a call back from the Union rep. Take it from there I guess. Thanks for your advice and a sympathetic ear. It is all very confusing and I am not in the best place to deal with it.
  6. atwoodfan

    atwoodfan New commenter

    I can't advise much on the main issue here, although I wish you well with it, and agree that if you can delay a decision it might be the best thing to do.
    In terms of swimming, as / when you feel able to try again, I would strongly recommend prescription goggles. They are a bit more than regular ones, but you can order online and they make a massive difference to what you can see in the pool!
    Best of luck.
  7. frangipani123

    frangipani123 Lead commenter

    Good that the union is involved in looking into the college's failure to make the reasonable adjustments previously agreed to enable you to work. Again, via my HR friend there is a famous case - Mr Walker versus Northumberland County Council - whereby a social worker sued his employer for failure to make reasonable adjustments leading to a further bout of depression - a £1m payout was made to him. See http://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/hsw/content/cases-point-stress

    I feel with the losing weight thing it is about the food rather than exercise. I found any exercise very painful and felt it actually made things worse. I did occasionally go swimming (being hoisted in and out of the pool ......) and wore my glasses as I am short-sighted, didn't care what it looked like. Didn't know you could get prescription goggles!

    Keep us posted on your progress.
  8. Tigger1962

    Tigger1962 New commenter

    Sorry to hear of your difficulties. I am not in the UK but had a total knee replacement at 51 with a higher BMI following an accident. You need to push for your quality of life. Yes you need to be aware of the slightly higher risks of joint replacement with higher BMI - but there are risks of waiting as well if you lose your job and suffer muscle/bone degeneration while waiting for surgery.

    I recoment you post in the forums of Bonesmart - an international forum for prospective and post hip and knee replacement patients. It was a lifeline when I was waiting for surgery. I haven't been on the site for a few months but there used to be an excellent UK, NHS nurse who herself had gone through joint replacement with a higher BMI and was good at recommending hospitals/Dr.s prepared to take on such patients.
  9. lotty78

    lotty78 New commenter

    Thank you all again some very useful stuff. I'm just looking at bonesmart thanks. Occupational Health doc did recommend getting an advocate as he rightly pointed out we often just accept things from health professionals rather than push things for fear of repercussions. My quality of life is seriously affected and now I am not earning and with that looking like a permanent thing I need to push more.

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