Going Back to Work

As of this coming Tuesday, I will be released to go back to work. In my mind, that is a good thing. However, I have some concerns. I work in a warehouse environment. My primary job is that of operating a forklift, loading and unloading freight, primarily in a flatbed trailer yard. This means I spend a part of my day tying down heavy freight with chains or straps as the situation warrants. I am having a hard time finding anything regarding guidelines for safety in my particular occupation. This worries me, as I want to know what I can and can not do. I already have spoken with one of my supervisors about moving me inside and having me simply load containers for the first few weeks after my return, if just to give me time to get comfortable with operating a forklift again. What I want to ask is simple. Does anyone know where I can find a list of guidelines regarding what tasks in my occupational field I can or can not do with a pacemaker. I know that if I wanted to work in our trailer repair shop, that is now out of the question due to the fact that I should avoid most forms of welding equipment. I want to return to work, but I want to do so safely. Thank you everyone for your time and consideration. I really appreciate it.


2 Comments

Back to work

by AgentX86 - 2020-07-30 14:26:06

At six weeks, you should be good to go on pretty much any physical activity that you feel capable of doing. Your cardiologist/EP knows what you do and has released you to go back to work. Do it but if you get tired or don't see good or don't feel safe, check our.:.

No, welders are not a good thing to be around.

Problem getting good information

by Theknotguy - 2020-07-30 18:22:19

I really understand your problem.  It's the same one I faced going back to doing my volunteer work at the furniture bank.  We load and unload furniture from trucks.  We also get 4x8 sheets of 3/4" melamine in bundles- about 2000 pounds per bundle.  Sheets are about 55 pounds per sheet.  So I'm moving that stuff while I'm there.  This is warehouse work and I'm out there with the guys year round.  Today it was about 95 degrees and I was sopping wet with sweat.  When I first went back got the FB, I couldn't find any information about going back to work and what I could and could not do.  There was a lot of mis-information out there and my doctors just shrugged their shoulders.  

My implant situation was different from most of the people on the forum.  So that's a caveat I'll give you up front.  I had CPR two times, they broke all my ribs on my right side, collapsed the lung on the right side, and broke some of my ribs on my left side.  I was in a six day coma.  I was really beat up and recovery took two years.  At almost seven years out I'm still dealing with some of the problems caused by CPR.  My situation may be a little more intense than most of the others on the forum.  Still, I do the work - running the forklift - moving the 55 pound sheets - and moving lighter furniture and parts.  I just have to be careful.  

There is some additional healing that goes on after the upper skin layer heals over.  I went out at/about six weeks and threw a ball for the dog.  Pulled some of the underlying scar tissue and it took another six weeks before I could throw the ball for the dog.  Based upon that I'd advise you to be careful with the chains and straps at first.  Your suggestion about just loading containers may help your muscles build up again and help stretch out the scar tissue without actually hurting yourself.  I went back to working and was lifting up to 55 pounds at/about nine months out.  I'd be OK during the day.  When I got up the next morning it would feel like someone had wrapped my pacemaker in sandpaper and scrubbed it around in the pocket.  Tylenol, hot and cold packs were my friends.  It usually took three to four days for the effect to wear off.   But, as I said, I'm not sure how much of that you'll have as you weren't beat up like I was.  I'd also suggest using the arm on the side opposite your pacemaker at first for tightening down the chains and straps.  We don't have chains at the furniture bank, but I do tighten down the larger straps all the time.  I think I use the opposite arm but to tell you the truth, I don't really know.  I just tighten them and go on.  

As for the welders, I don't think you'll have any problems with them.  We have members on the forum with pacemakers who are doing MIG and TIG welding with no problems.  I've also heard of some who have done the stick welding - supposedly with no problems either.  I was also volunteering at the 1300 bed hospital where I got my pacemaker.  I was going in and out of the ER and had to pass through the security checkpoint multiple times a day - no problems. I also had to go by the big MRI machines and had an MRI done - no problems.  Those MRI machines had some really big magnets and I didn't have any problems being close to them.  So I don't feel the welders shouldn't be any problem for you.  

I do have to warn you about one situation though.  The FB guys were cutting the corners off of some planks.  You'd lift about 40 pounds at a pop, put them on the chop saw, cut them, then lift them over to another pallet.  The lifting and swinging caused my shoulder to pinch my pacemaker between the shoulder and my ribcage.  It really hurt.  So I said nuts to that idea.  Got a Saws-all saw  (reciprocating), got a couple of clamps, clamped the planks and sliced the corners off like you were slicing a loaf of bread.  Completely forgot about my pacemaker.  Turned on the Saws-all, started cutting, and bore down with my left arm.  All the vibration went up my arm.  Pacemaker interpreted the vibration as me running and kicked my heartbeat through the roof.  One of the other guys at the FB came over and asked me I was OK.  He said, "You had the strangest look on your face!"  I also have trouble riding in the big, empty trucks.  Running joke is I give the drivers a Roman salute.  All the bouncing around kicks off the running feature on my pacemaker.  If I just reach over with my right arm and hold the pacemaker still, I don't have a problem.  So you may have to watch out for vibration.  It doesn't hurt anything.  Just the pacemaker thinking I'm running and kicking up my heart rate.  

There were times I'd pull something and I could feel the underlying scar tissue get torn.  It usually was a short, sharp pain.  The first few weeks it would really slow me down.  Later on, I'd be sore for a couple of days but could continue working.  Like I said, Tylenol, hot and cold packs, and aspirin were my friends.  At/about a year out I'd get severe itching in the pacemaker pocket.  But it was an indication things were healing.  Guys at the FB would make fun of me because I'd have to stop and rub the pacemaker pocket area.  

As I said, the overall healing for me took about two years.  But then I was beat up a lot more than most other people.  At/about the two year mark I was finally able to do pretty much anything I wanted to do with no problems.  I run all the machinery at the wood shop - no problems.  We don't have welders but since I was close to MRI machines I don't feel the welders would be a problem.  I load/unload the trucks.  I work on the cut crew and regularly move the 55 pound sheets.  Not at fast as I used to, but I can still move them.  I usually leave the furniture moving to the younger, paid guys.  I also move pallets using a pallet jack and have no problems pumping up the pallets and moving them.  Just not as fast as I used to.  

At/about six years out I had a change in routine and had increased activity.  My pacemaker couldn't keep up with me and I had to have it adjusted (rate response) so it would better respond to my new activity.  My EP and cardiologist are very happy with my activity and I've had good reports as far as my heart situation goes.  

At the hospital I regularly worked with one of the security guys who also had a pacemaker. He said he had worked up to bench pressing 300 pounds.  Broke  a lead at that level.  He said he knew he was pushing the envelope and wasn't surprised.  Had to get a new lead. He wasn't beat up like I was, so I feel that gives you an idea of what can be done after you have a pacemaker.   

I hope this helps.  I also hope you have a good adjustment to your pacemaker and you can get back to your new life quickly.  
 

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I am 100% pacemaker dependant and have been all my life. I try not to think about how a little metal box keeps me alive - it would drive me crazy. So I lead a very active life.