Advice from an old lady

I live in Minnesota, and I have arthritis, so you can imagine how bad that gets in the winter. The cold, and the damp (the lakes are wonderful, but the damp, my goodness, my hands hurt just thinking about it), it can be a real nightmare. Now winter is fast approaching again, which means I probably won’t be able to write much in the coming months. Before that, though, I’d like to put a few words down about workplace injuries.

My arthritis is almost certainly due to my work, or my former work now. I worked my way up from being a secretary to writing business reports for my entire floor at my office. I loved my work, from day one all the way to retirement (early retirement, because of these hands). I loved my boss and my colleagues. I loved the research I got to do for my reports. I loved that what I did felt like it meant something, that people would read what I wrote and really think about it. You see, I always harbored the dream of being a writer. I never got around to that (and never will now, I think), but that job got me pretty darn close to what I had been dreaming of.

Then, my hands started hurting. A little at first and then it became unbearable. By then, though, it was too late. I did some treatment, and it did get to the point it became manageable, but the doctors told me that I had done too much damage to walk it all the way back to how my hands used to be. There were surgery options, but by then, of course, I was an old woman, and I didn’t want that. So, I took early retirement.

I was lucky to be treated so well. I did have to battle a bit with the insurance company about the injury, though, which is what I want to write about here. I was lucky in that I had a great boss who went to bat for me and helped me get the evidence together to prove my injury was work-related. Not everyone has such a boss.

So, if you are in an industry that requires a lot of repetitive motion, I recommend all of you, no matter your current age, start documenting everything that you can related to that repetitive motion. If you work for eight hours straight typing and your hands hurt afterward, go see a doctor and get it on record that it was due to work. Keep track of how much writing you do every day. Talk to your boss about your concerns. Then, at regular intervals, talk to them again.

You need to create an evidence trail that proves your work could cause problems like mine. Otherwise, the insurance company may try to claim your arthritis is your fault.

If you have any questions about this, talk to a lawyer now, even if you’re a youthful twenty-five year old who thinks you’ll never have the same problems as an old lady.

Those problems do come eventually, and I’d just like to see everyone prepared for them.


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