True or False: I Lost My Job Because Of Heart Valve Surgery

Yesterday, I received a fearful email from Janice – a very concerned caregiver and mother. Janice’s daughter is preparing for heart valve surgery.

In her email, Janice noted that her daughter is planning on returning to work just 3-4 weeks after surgery. She also noted that her daughter is nervous that she might lose her job because of the medical leave-of-absence.

I wasted no time in immediately responding to Janice for several reasons:

First, I have been through double heart valve replacement. That said, I know that the recovery from cardiac surgery should not and can not be rushed. Healing is a very personal and individual process.

Survey About Returning To Work After Heart Surgery

Second, I have done a significant amount of research on the average time it takes patients to return to work following heart valve surgery. As you can see on the chart above, the average time required to return to work is 7-10 weeks after cardiac surgery, with some patients taking 15 weeks or more.

I’m an optimist and I truly believe anything is possible. But, my survey results suggests that only 7% of patients return to work in three weeks or less.

Third, I have to share with you that I feel incredibly lucky. I have a caring family and wonderful friends. Specific to this topic, I also have a great job.

Not once, following surgery, did my company hint or suggest that I needed to “hurry-up” back to work. My managers fully understood how difficult my recovery was due to several factors including my broken sternum and cardiac depression. So you know, I took over three months off from work. To learn more about cardiac depression, click here.

That said, I have yet to learn of a patient losing his / her job after heart surgery. If you know or experienced something different, please leave a reply below.

In my opinion, Janice’s email displays a fundamental issue with patients relative to heart valve surgery.

That issue is expectation management. Personally, I had several expectations about my surgery and my recovery that were completely wrong. In fact, according to a recent survey, 41% of former cardiac surgery patients suggested that their cardiologist and surgeon could have better prepared for recovery.

This is the key reason I wrote my book and publish this blog – to help YOU know what to expect and how to manage those expectations accordingly.

Thanks for writing Janice. I wish you and your daughter a very successful aortic valve replacement!

Keep on tickin,

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Gary

    Hi ,
    I’m having my aoritc valve and aortic root replaced, and a bypass – all next tuesday, january 29th.
    Although I work for a small company, who does not, under the laws of California or New York, have to pay me anything other than a pittance in the form of disability- the company has decided to pay my full salary for 6 weeks and all non cash benefits for the same, and leave my job open for me for 12 weeks. I wouldn’t have rec’d this, unless I asked for the help. Sometimes employers do have a “heart”.
    anyway- i finally have started to get a bit nervous,as yesterday was my pre-op testing and orientation.
    the surgery is being done at NY Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. If any of you have any last minute advice or comments, now’s the time. I have apositive attitude and just want to get it done, so i can begin the road to recovery. See you on the other side.
    Gary

  • Gary,

    Robyn (my wife) and I are sending you great big, healthy, heart-thumping thoughts from Los Angeles to New York.

    You are going to do great.

    Being nervous is par for the course.

    I understand. I can relate. I know exactly how you feel.

    The night before surgery, two things calmed my nerves.

    One, a Xanax. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Two, the wonderful concept that my heart was going to be fixed AND that I would live a much longer life as a result of the surgery.

    I’m here to support you. If you need anything, just let me know.

    Fyi, I just posted a blog on aortic root and aortic valve replacement. I hope Taylor’s story offers additional comfort to you.

    Keep on tickin!

    Adam

  • Adam and others,
    My name is Jeff and I’m currently home recovering form aortic and mitral valve replacement surgery. At the age of 44, this has been my third time around for open-heart surgery.

    To the Mom worried about her daughter’s losing her job over the surgery, it is a possibility. My first surgery for valve repair in 1993 occurred only a few months after my annual review where I was rated 4 or 5 out of 5 in every job dimension. About four months after returning to work, I was fired without reason. I suspect that I had become one of their most-expensive employees.
    Employment laws vary by state, but learn yours, and document everything.

    So it can happen, and I am an example, however… This change led me to go back to school and earn a degree in health care, and changed my life for the better in many, many ways. I would never hope anyone would have to go through this, but do you want to work for a company that is so short-sighted? If this is not the career of your lifetime but instead just a job, then change (sooner-than-later) can be a good thing!

    I have to say that I feel blessed to have many, many friends express support, that the actual risks are low, and the quality of the valves are much better that when I was younger. The repair bought me enough time to make my surgery on 1/20/08 my last!
    Mom, this is the time to focus on what is most important in life: not a paycheck, not achievement or other’s opinions, but instead love, friendships and others. Pull together and say all the things others regret not having said.
    I have prayed for you already! Jeff

  • larry tate

    I was with my company for 15 years. In fact I was a large shareholder of an employee owned company. I was permanently laid off after my surgery. The company is in NC. My surgery was early June 08 and I was released to work Sept 08. I am in depression and devastetated on what people who you have worked hard for for 15 years will do. Not sure which way to go. Sorry to report this but it is true!

  • Rose

    Hi Larry
    I fully understand how you feel, tomorrow 20th Oct 2008 I expect to hear if I have ny job or not, yes, I am on the selection list ad my administartor who has just returned after her 2nd pregnancy informs me tonight that she has received her letter stating her job is safe. I have worked for just over 12 years, have 4 years to go to retirement, and was stupid enough to invest my life savings of over 17k with this organisation. What a slap in the face !!! I wish you all the best. Rosie

  • John Turan

    Hi Adam,

    I am replying to your post about job loss after heart surgery. I had a double heart valve transplant (Ross Procedure) and aortic root this past March. You (and many of your bloggers) were so very supportive to me and my family and I cannot imagine enduring the challenge without all of your positive guidance. I just had my 6 month follow up and all looks great. I feel great. My recovery was really on the miraculous side of the recovery spectrum you often describe. However, I did lose my job three months after returning from my surgery/leave-of-absence. My understanding is that I was laid off due to a drop in our patient census (I worked for a healthcare provider) and even though I was on my third year, I was the most junior in the department. I was covered by my employers health insurance (which they provide to employees at no cost) for the procedure and no longer have that coverage. Fortunately, I have known of my condition since childhood and my parents made sure I had my own private policy and my Mom (you know her as Mercy) ensures that I keep it in force to this day, regardless of my employer coverage I may have at the time. I choose to look at this event in my life as another opportunity. I truly believe my life improved dramatically as a result of my heart valve experience. I woke up the day of recovery with a different view, a clearer view of the world and people that surround me. Because of that, each day is a gift and the love I feel is immeasurable. I wouldn’t change my heart valve experience and therefore I choose to see the lay-off as an opportunity. Besides…there’s worse things than looking for another job/career. I have the love of my family, I have the support of my friends and I have a heart that’s stronger than ever. Just because God’s path for me is unknown doesn’t mean I should be late, so I get up early and keep on tickin. Thanks for all you do for us! – John & Family

  • Aziz Ansary

    Dear Adam:
    Believe it or not, I was fired from my job one day after I returned to work after an open heart surgery. I had my heart surgery on June 24th and afterwards had pain, weakness, fatigue and numbness in my right leg and had to go for another surgery which caused massive swelling of my left groin area and scrotum. Meanwhile I was getting e-mails from employer as to when I am going to return to work. I returned to work on August 18 and after chief medical doctor wrote a letter addressed to employer stating a few restriction for me while in recovery, which in fact did not affect my job duties or performance in any way. The restrictions were only there:
    1- No walking long distance in heat
    2- No heavy exertions
    3- Avoid emotional stress.

    After receiving this letter, I was terminated.

    So I am proof that these things indeed happen.

  • Aziz,

    Thank you for sharing your story with all of us.

    I am very, very, very sorry to learn of the circumstances you describe.

    As you and the others point out above, this job loss can be an unfortunate side-effect of heart surgery for some patients.

    Again, thank you for sharing.

    Adam

  • patrick

    hi i am Patrick, i am about to have my third heart surgery on march 30,2009. i would really like to talk with anyone who has had a third heart surgery.i already have an artificial aortic valve. they are replacing it as well as my mitral valve. if anyone would care to disscuss this with me my e-mail address is mudratpat2 at yahoo.com. i have turned it all over to god to see me through but i would still like to talk about it. thank you,patrick

  • john

    I had to have a emergency quadruple bypass and just when I was ending my sick leave they call me in. I was thinking thats nice they to discuss new work arrangements but it was to lay me off.

  • walter

    I had an SVT cardiac ablation a little over a week ago. the procedure was to burn out an extra nerve in my heart. their was a complication with it, my good nerve and the one to be burned out were so close together my good nerve was hit and burned a little. as a result I had to get a pacemaker right away. then 6 days after my surgery my employer called and told me I was laid off cause they didn’t know when I was coming back to work. but that was not true cause the day before I called them and told them what happened and how long I would be in recovery. it makes me really upset how my employer acted. any advise for legal council. I live in Joliet IL. help please

  • Dannie Sea

    I lost my job after having a valve replaced. I only had 60 days of FMLA leave and now they won’t hire me back.

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