How working from home can impact your health

Dawn discussed working from home with her employer, and they agreed.

My name is Dawn, and I am a 40 year old Litigation Executive from the Wirral.

In March 2020 at the start of the Covid pandemic, I was very unwell with an infection in my lungs. I was off work for a few weeks and was absolutely floored. My GP prescribed me antibiotics which didn’t work, followed by a course of steroids and an inhaler.

On my return to work I was worried about the possibility of contracting Covid in the office, after already experiencing problems with my lungs so recently.

I discussed working from home with my employer, and they agreed for me to do this after receiving a letter from my GP stating that they would strongly advise that I refrain from going into an office environment and to work from home. My laptop was delivered and I began working from home. More people had begun to work at home at this stage, and we were advised that a member of management could log into our system at any point in the day to check that we were working at all times. I became increasingly worried about leaving my laptop to get a drink or visit the bathroom.

My anxiety about working from home escalated. I was so worried about being told off for not doing enough that I daren’t leave my laptop to go to the bathroom or get a drink, unless I absolutely had to. I tried to hang on and only go in my lunch hour or after work. This meant that in a morning I was sat for approximately 4 hours, and then 3 hours in the afternoon.

I noticed that I was feeling more and more tired  as the days went on. I was sleeping through my lunch hour every day, straight after work at 5pm, and then sleeping in for as long as possible in a morning until I had to get up for work to log on. Some days I couldn’t even manage to get a shower before doing so, and I would log on still in my pyjamas. I would then stay in them all day until I could shower on the evening. I couldn’t do so in my lunch hour as I needed to sleep.

I woke up one morning with a really bad pain in my lower left calf. I assumed I must have had cramp in my leg during the night. The pain didn’t go away and it started to be extremely painful to walk up the stairs.

I contacted my GP a few days later who advised it sounded like I had tendonitis. I thought this was odd as I hadn’t been doing any exercise, I was too tired to even walk around the block after work.

I noticed that I then began to get very out of breath doing the smallest of things. Walking up the stairs to my bedroom I couldn’t breathe and had to sit down to catch my breath. I was annoyed at myself as I thought I’d made myself very unfit by sleeping so much. On the fourth day after noticing this I became concerned and asked for an urgent telephone appointment with my GP. The surgery advised that they would have a locum Doctor call me.

I received the call a few hours later and explained my symptoms to the Doctor. She told me to go to A&E immediately.

I was working when she called and I was more worried about the fact that I was going to have to stop working than the fact that I couldn’t breathe. I rang work in floods of tears apologising.

On arriving at A&E I was triaged quickly. The nurse advised they would probably just send me to the walk in centre next door. I stood my ground and said that I wasn’t happy to do that as I couldn’t breathe. She got the opinion of a doctor who agreed to do a blood test just to confirm that nothing was wrong. I went back to the waiting area and assumed I would just be sent home. Not long after waiting my name was called and as I got to the doors into the A&E treatment area, I was told to sit in a wheelchair and not take another step. I was rushed next door into resus. My D-dimer result which indicates clotting in the blood was so high, they thought I was going to have a stroke or heart attack imminently or worse, death.

I had various tests and scans, and it was confirmed that I had multiple bilateral pulmonary embolisms in both lungs. I was told I was lucky to be alive.

Initial treatment was a blood thinning injection, followed by anticoagulant tablets. This in itself caused me major problems as a female, I had to sleep on towels and experienced extreme blood loss. I was put on tablets to stop me bleeding as the blood loss was so severe.

Two weeks after my initial diagnosis I felt like the pain in my leg had moved. I called 111 and was called back by a GP who advised that it is better to be safe than sorry and to go back to A&E to have it checked. I ended up having a brain scan as I had experienced headaches since my blood clots, and a Doppler scan of my leg. A clot showed on the Doppler scan and it was decided that my treatment should change to blood thinning injections twice per day, and I had to stop taking the tablets I was prescribed to stop me bleeding. It was not known if I had developed another clot in my leg due to the tablets.

In total I was signed off work for 7 weeks. My recovery has been a long process, both physically and mentally.

My outlook on life has now changed. I have realised how precious life is, and how lucky I am to be alive. I still have some breathing issues which I use an inhaler for, and I inject my own stomach twice per day. My stomach is black and blue. My treatment will be reviewed at 6 months post diagnosis of clots. Luckily, two heart scans confirmed that my heart hadn’t been damaged by the clots.

I am now actively making sure I move more often, and exercise as much as possible. I now know that not moving for long periods could be fatal. That’s a risk I’m not willing to take again.

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