Working with CHD, Sometimes You Need A Break

Growing up, Leticia didn’t realize how much her CHD would factor into her future career. But after years in a field she loved, she realized it was becoming difficult to keep up. Thanks to a concerned supervisor, Leticia learned the Family Medical Leave Act could help ease some of her concerns.

Growing up as a kid and even teen with CHD, I didn’t really stop and think a lot about my diagnosis and condition or how it would necessarily affect what I wanted to do with my life moving forward. When I first went to college, I had picked a major that was more medically and hospital oriented. However, when going through my internship and just aging in general, I realized that being a technician in the hospital – though it was something I enjoyed – may not be something that I could physically handle day in and day out. After I started my family and had taken a break from both college and the workforce, I was able to re-assess my wants and needs. Returning to college and obtaining a degree more geared towards social services kept me close to the medical field but also gave me the physical leeway that I needed – or so I thought. 

I started to work in the field with my patients daily, and it began to take a lot out of me. I realized that switching between the various patients that my job catered to and the needs I had to fill for them during my shifts started to outweigh what my body could take. I had noticed coming home some days and just being so utterly exhausted. I had gone in for my semi-annual appointment and my Cardiologist had suggested that I participate in Cardiac Rehab, in the hopes that by participating in structured, supervised exercise I could improve my levels – not only my stats but also my energy levels. However, due to the hours of the Cardiac Rehabilitation program and the unknown way my system would react to participating 2-3x a week, I spoke with my supervisor regarding FMLA.

Although I went to Cardiac Rehab early in the mornings before my shift, the Family Medical Leave ACT (FMLA) allowed me to write in specifics that would assist me when necessary while participating in rehab. For example, I was with my patients for 5-6 hours of the day straight and then the remaining time of my shift was spent writing case reports. The way my boss and I were able to write up my FMLA, allowed me to go home after serving my patients and writing my case reports remotely – this was all pre-Covid – allowing me to go strictly home after working with my patients and not having to commute to and from the office and work there. Another factor of it, allowed for me to be able to have all the documentation that was originally only on the main server to be uploaded to a cloud – which isn’t a big deal now but, it was amazing back in 2016. It allowed me to do my mileage and pay reports from home, something that back then was only accessible from the office with pen and paper signatures.

I’ve moved from being a Job Coach, to Team Facilitator to Service Coordinator/Social Worker in the field of Adults with Developmental Disabilities over the last six years. This shifted my workload from “field work” to more “desk work” which, to be honest, assists a lot in my day to day handling. However, it doesn’t necessarily negate the need of FMLA from time to time. 

People don’t always realize that FMLA is there FOR US. It’s not only there because companies and corporations don’t want to pay for long extensions of leave or anything like that. FMLA is also there to work in tandem with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to make our workplaces more accessible to our needs, whatever those ever-changing needs may be.

What I want others to recognize is that, while it may not seem like your needs would generally fall under FMLA, they still might. Honestly, I didn’t even think about it until my supervisor mentioned it first – and I worked in direct patient care. There are so many gray areas that many people overlook, and, due to that, the program isn’t utilized to its full capabilities by those it would most benefit. Many believe that because the program is called “Family Medical Leave Act” it can only be utilized when taking leave and you no longer have sick or vacation hours available to you. However, that is not the case. It is first and foremost job protection and job assistance for the employee. I definitely suggest anyone who is having a hard time managing their work-life balance to speak with their supervisor or HR about FMLA and how it can possibly help them.

For more information on the Family Medical Leave Act, visit the US Department of Labor Website

Leticia (Ticia) Wong grew up in Sacramento, CA and currently lives in Marysville. She and her husband of 19 years have a 16 year old son and 13 year old daughter. Leticia is a Service Coordinator for the Regional Center, essentially working as a social worker for people with developmental disabilities. She has had four open heart surgeries for a Ventricular Septal Defect,  Coarctation of the Aorta, and  Patent Ductus Arteriosis. She has been diagnosed twice with congestive heart failure, most recently when she was pregnant with her daughter, and has a Biventricular CRT-P pacemaker. Leticia loves to read – she’s obsessed with Harry Potter – and watches shows regarding magic, mystery, and paranormal or period pieces – such as The Magicians and Outlander.

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