For some people we interviewed, having atrial fibrillation (AF) made little difference to their working lives. In jobs of a more sedentary nature (inactive), or with a degree of flexibility or independence, AF did not need to be an issue with supportive managers and colleagues.
Dave accepted that AF might have had a bigger impact if his job involved more physical labour than “reading off a computer or providing my opinion.”
Others had retired before the onset of AF. Eileen, a former nurse reflected, “It wouldn’t have been compatible with nursing – what would they say on the ward if you said ‘Excuse me, I’ve gone into AF’?”
Work as a finance director has given Geoff structure in his life and helped him psychologically to adapt to AF. His boss has been very supportive.
For some, however, a diagnosis of AF could have a “tremendous impact” on their working lives. James was unable to work for almost a year following a stroke due to undiagnosed AF. When he did return to work, he felt things were different and his company “wrapped him up him in cotton wool” and “never let me get back to where I was.”
Chris Y took early retirement a year after having a TIA (minor stroke) – he felt the stress of his job was not helping his AF.
Though George Y has no regrets, the danger of a stroke, one of the “most debilitating, sudden, life changing disabilities that anyone could be given” was enough to convince him to retire from teaching. (For more see Atrial fibrillation, stroke and blood thinning medication).
In her forties, Ginny spoke of the devastating consequences’ AF had on her career.
Struggling with the effects of AF and hangovers’ from her medication, Gail reluctantly decided to give up her part-time work.
Being self-employed, Suzy had to make changes to her working life as her symptoms worsened. She found it difficult to travel into the city to meet her clients.
AF symptoms can be invisible and not always obvious to employers or colleagues. (For more see First signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation and Diagnosing atrial fibrillation). This can add to the challenges people face. Support and understanding from employers is crucial in helping people return to work after episodes of AF.
Chris X spoke of the difficulty of convincing his employers of the seriousness of his condition.
Gail explained how employers may find it difficult to accommodate the unpredictable nature of AF.
Some people we spoke to also highlighted the difficulties and frustrations associated with managing long term sick leave and correspondence with authorities.
On long term sick leave from his job as a cleaner, Glyn spoke of the difficulties of convincing the authorities that he was unfit for work.
Unable to work for ten years due to his AF, Roger described the impact of changes in government policy designed to get people off benefits.
Having AF has meant a rearrangement of working lives for some people we interviewed. Some have been unable to continue working at all because of symptoms, others have decided to work part-time or to retire. Inevitably this has had an impact on their finances.