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Advice:
Effect of Asthma on Job Attendance & Lifestyle
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I have always missed a lot of work due to my asthma. This year has been especially bad. I was very ill from April 28 to mid July and missed about 2 months of work. The last 3 or 4 weeks I have had difficulty breathing on the weekends (I don't work weekends) and have missed work on Monday and/or Tuesday. I think that looks really bad - to always be "sick" on Monday. But I really AM sick. I have FML so my job is protected. My employer made me see a pulmonologist THEY chose to confirm my own doctors' diagnosis. He agreed with my doctors and approved me to miss work "2 or 3 days in a row, once or twice a month."

My problem (aside from the fact that I can't breath) is that I worry about what my supervisors and coworkers think because I miss so much work. I don't want to be seen as unreliable but I AM unreliable. I cannot be depended upon to show up. (No, they will not allow me to work from home. I've asked repeatedly.)

The asthma became markedly worse in 2005 I was repeatedly exposed to perfumes at work that made me sick. I had to fight my employer for 2 years to get them to provide me with an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodation, which they would not do until I filed an EEOC complaint and was prepared to file a lawsuit. (One lady, who Id did not even know, upon learning that her perfume was making me ill, began wearing MORE of it and deliberately walking near my desk whenever she could. She BRAGGED about it to our supervisors and coworkers. I had to wear an R95 respirator mask IN AN OFFICE to be able to breath. My supervisor is her friend and treated me very badly.) The accommodation included moving my desk to an area where I am not so exposed to perfume and "asking" coworkers not to bathe in perfume. It helps about 75% of the time, but that leaves 25% of the time when I am sick at work.

My asthma doctors are great. I started seeing them about 2 years ago - switched from my old specialist who advised me to stay in the house because I'm hypersensitive and asked me if I had thought about going off on disability. The new doctors tested me for allergies and I am/was very reactive to mold, dust and ragweed. I've been on allergy shots for 1-1/2 years and on Xolair for 1 year (had to wait for the insurance company to decide to pay for it, so I could not start it when I started the allergy shots). I still have breathing problems. (The pulmonologist my employer sent me to indicated In his report that I have a reduced breathing capacity that is unresponsive to brochodilators. That was nice to see on paper, because I've always known that breathing treatments and rescue inhalers don't always help me. Now at least I have written confirmation from an expert.)

My diet is much healthier than most. I drink a 10 ounce glass fresh vegetable juice (juiced myself) each morning. Breakfast is a fruit smoothie I make myself. I eat fresh fruit thoughout the day. I really load up on the fruits and veggies. I started this in June when I was really sick and nothing was helping

My husband bought a motorcycle this spring, and I wear a P95 respirator mask when I ride, but I cannot ride 2 days in a row or I have breathing problems.

His family lives about 9 hours away, and he goes to see them once or twice a year. I always go with him. This year I cannot go because I have used up all of my sick and vacation time at work. My employer will allow me to miss work using FML (sick) time unpaid, but I cannot use unpaid time to take a vacation. (And can't really afford to either.)

So, basically, asthma, even though I'm on all the right treatments and my diet is good, is preventing me from living my life. I worry about what my supervisors and co-workers think, and I worry about what my husband thinks. We have been married for 5 years. I wasn't this sick when we first married - it started 6 to to 12 months after. This is hard for him as well and I worry that maybe he will decide it is too much trouble to be married to me. I have other conditions, which, when added together, are indicative of autoimmune disorder. All started in 2005. I have a fear that I am going to get sicker, not better in spite of all my efforts, and I am very depressed.

How does everyone else cope with the effects that asthma has on their life, job, marriage, etc? I could use a little help. (Please don't tell me to find another job. I work in Detroit - jobs are scarce everywhere, but Detroit has been especially hard hit and I have worked for this company for 24 years. Finding a new job is not a viable option.)

Thanks.
Posted on 09/21/09, 02:34 pm
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Reply #1 - 09/21/09  3:47pm
" I went through much the same things that you are encountering. All you can do is insist on your ADA rights and hope that eventually they'll do the right thing. If not you may have to report them again. Of course, then you are seen as a malcontent and troublemaker.
Be sure that you follow your company's policies and procedures to the letter. Don't give them any excuse to discipline you. It's awful that you have to work in such a hostile and uncaring work environment. Some people just don' t have a clue.
Good luck,
Tom "

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