I experienced two strokes in quick succession. The second almost ended my life. When I was awakened – after life-saving brain surgery and several weeks in an induced coma – I found myself in a diminished state physically, mentally, and emotionally. It was only after months of intensive physical therapy, the support of friends and family, and by the Grace of God, that I was able to resume something like my normal life.
Three months after the strokes I returned to work, first on a very limited basis and, sometime later, full time.
I’d like to share what I learned about the work reentry process in the hope that my experiences will make it easier for others to move back to their jobs as they recover from a brain trauma or, perhaps, other debilitating illnesses.
Listen to your body.
Your body will let you know what you are capable of doing or not doing. For me, fatigue was a major issue. Throughout my career I could push through my fatigue and just keep going. Not anymore. Now, I try to stay aware of my energy levels and slow down or stop at the first sign of weariness.
“The mind’s first step to self awareness must be through the body.” –George Sheehan
Listen to your doctors and physical therapists as well.
They can anticipate many of the bumps you will be facing on your road to recovery that may catch you unaware. That doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate with them a bit when you have a difference of opinion. Mine were somewhat reluctant to agree that I was ready to return to work. But I explained to them that I was the COO and would be sitting behind a desk, not doing any kind of stressful physical labor. They agreed to my plan, only asking me to pace my re-entry into the company.