For starters at my first job post graduation, I told my boss upfront that I had sickle cell and how often I fell sick. This was news that I told her at the interview before she even thought about hiring. I’ve done this with every other interview ever since. Boss Lady, as I affectionately called her was so cool. She made sure my schedule wasn’t too hectic, refused to put me on more than 2 days in a row even if I begged for it, and whenever I needed a break from the unit, all I had to do was take a walk into her office to chat for a few minutes.
I didn’t fall seriously sick until I was about 4 months on the job. By then my coworkers knew and liked me, so when I came back after being out for 10 days, they were so solicitous and worried about my health. My coworkers became like my family, and whenever I was ill from then after, I would get lots of love, cards and visits from the staff. There was one time that I was in the emergency room downstairs and had to call up to them for help because they were treating me like shit and Boss Lady went down there, gave the ER charge nurse hell and had me transferred outta there asap. There was another time that the ER couldn’t get my IV so the best nurse on my unit came and got it in one shot.
I did get admitted to my unit a couple of times and both times I was too drugged out and in pain to even have any shame or embarrassment. One of my coworkers even inserted a foley catheter into me…talk about weird! I had this one admission that left me in the ICU with a face mask on getting hemapheresis on my blood. That was by far the worst admissions I’d ever had in my life. My coworkers came to see me and went back to my unit and told everyone that I was deathly ill. Boss Lady later told me that it cast a pall on the whole floor when I was really sick those few days. I would like to think that the prayers, care and support I got then from my family, friends and coworkers really pulled me through.
I did come to work sick alot of times. I just hated leaving my unit in a lurch at the last minute. and dragged myself in, achy joints and all. Usually on those days, I would take some Motrin, slap on a portable thermal heat wrap on my knees/calves and get to work. The heating pads helped with the pain immensely and if I limped, then so be it, my work was getting done.
Boss Lady even went as far as to suggest to and help me apply every year for the FMLA, so that I wouldn’t keep getting reprimanded for using more sick days than I had. The Family Medical Leave Act can also be used for people with chronic conditions that still want to work. Look into it, it’s a good law that prevents your job from docking your pay or reprimanding you for excused absences provided you have a longstanding medical condition.
So with my first job, working with sickle cell wasn’t as catastrophic as I thought. I wasn’t treated any differently when I was well, I still got the same rigorous case load as everyone else. However, I had the comfort knowing that whenever I was feeling poorly, I could tell the charge nurse, take a break or even duck out early if I needed to.
As you can tell, I loved, loved, loved my first job. Why did I leave? Well that’s another story for another day.