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Archive for May, 2007

Slightly High..

I discovered today that if I took a combination of diclofenac (50 mg) and co-cobamol (1000 mg) with a meal then indeed it did quell roughly 80% of the pain. It does of course leave some pain still present, particularly around the lower arm and elbow. I get a odd sensation when I lifted the elbow in line to the shoulder, it’s not painful as such just uncomfortable. I think it is the tablets that has left me with a warm glowing sensation in my arms and palms of my hands seem to be particularly hot. There is some still local numbness on the right-hand below the area where the thumb sits. I do believe also I am feeling a touch high as I feel that I have drank a couple of glasses of wine!

Yesterday, Nottingham city council rang me around lunchtime as they had processed my application to be a Web information management officer and wanted me to go through to the next round. I decided to abort this application as the job appeared to require a much wider knowledge of programming languages, which gives me the impression that the job entails quite a lot of coding. I have decided that I don’t think I’m physically capable at the moment to be able to sit at a keyboard coding eight hours a day, where as at least with writing content you can use ergonomic tools such as speech recognition. As I’ve previously commented on numerous times, it’s not perfect technology and is quite annoying. The alternative of course, is greater discomfort and causing further damage to my body. I think I have gone beyond the point where I can try to ignore the constant problems I have with my upper body, by which I mean I cannot just take pills and pretend everything is going to be okay.

The contract with the police start date has been put back to the fifth of June since the line manager is on holiday for a week. Initially, the employment agency (Reed) was adamant that they wanted me to start on the 29th of May. So when I went to sign on on Monday 21st, I filled the paperwork in that would sign me off on the 29th. On the 23rd (Wednesday) the agency e-mail me to say that they had changed the start date to the fifth, which virtually means that I lose one weeks job seekers allowance since they had already closed my claim and the only way re-opening it was to make a new claim. This would take many days to process and I would actually be signing off again before I got any money. I didn’t fancy all that hassle again for a weeks worth and decided to basically go on holiday for that week. It does give me some time to clear up and perhaps sort out a few things to, so I’m not overly concerned.

I have been spending some time going through my computer removing obsolete material, articles and downloads. I don’t know if you are like me, I seem to download lots of stuff that I never get around to looking at. Looking at it now, I really wonder why I downloaded most of this rubbish as its mostly completely useless. How much time I have wasted looking at this crap when I could have been doing something far more productive! The recycle bin is looking very full at the moment and is getting fuller as we speak.

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More Drugs

I got up at 9:30 this morning, though it does take me a while to get my body to operate properly. Normally when I awake in the morning I can barely move and when I do it hurts like hell. I crack like an old man of 70 most of the time; its very odd actually when I am doing my neck stretches I can hear my neck cracking from the inside if that makes sense. It is quite disturbing!.. Anyway, barely being able to move when i wake up is normal for me.

I went out for abit of a drive in the morning to try to gauge how I was feeling. I discovered I could do about 6 miles before things started hurting and then I had to stop to rest. I had a look in Tesco’s; bought a couple of shirts and a compact umbrella that just fits into my little walking back pack. (I’m not getting that wet again). Tesco’s isn’t that bad and the George cloth sizes i think are rather generous for fat people; like me. I have to wear fairly loose clothing as the amount of stretching requires it. Last week I destroyed one of my more tighter shirts by just stretching it in.. Now you really know you are fat when you clothes start splitting and tearing when you move your arms into admittedly a rather unusual positions.

In the afternoon, I visited my GP/Doctor who advised me to change careers and wasn’t actually over encouraging about taking on a desk bound PC job on again. She perked up abit when I mentioned the employer was going to give me voice recognition, but her overall prognosis wasn’t that good to be honest. She gave me some heavier pain killers, but couldn’t give me anything for the anxiety/stress I have been feeling without clouding my mind and making my world go all fuzzy. Normally, I would deal with it by stopping doing whatever is causing the stress and go outside or for a lay down. Obviously, neither of these are options when in a working environment.

My GP did drop a bomb shell and say to me “Have you ever thought about changing careers”. Of course I have, but when all you know is computers since the age of 13/14 then what else is there? I just don’t have a clue. She said do you really want to spend your whole working life tense like this? I really don’t know.. I don’t know what choice I have, in the same way that my father didn’t have much choice when he started to get musculoskeletal problems related to his occupation, ironically at around my age too.  He was able to continue and only much later he had the problems lifting anything of any weight that I have now.

I came home with some Co-codamol (1000mg) and more diclofenac (50mg) too, but the doctor said I cannot have these every month as long term use isn’t advised. I’m not sure what I am going to do on those months where i am not allowed to have them. <shakes head slowly>

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At weekend I went for a walk in Bestwood Park and surprisingly I found it quite refreshing. I had previously tried to avoid this be taken apart mainly because as a teenager I used to go biking through there quite often and thought the place was just a bit too familiar to be able to enjoy again. I admit I was wrong [Read More]

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At weekend I went for a walk in Bestwood Park and surprisingly I found it quite refreshing. I had previously tried to avoid this be taken apart mainly because as a teenager I used to go biking through there quite often and thought the place was just a bit too familiar to be able to enjoy again. I admit I was wrong, it is actually quite a beautiful park and it has some farmland adjoining it.

I didn’t feel much like taking any pictures this week as I said previously I’ve been in quite a lot of pain and I am out of my prescription medication. Thinking back, when I go again I will certainly be taking the camera as is the back part of the park we you climb to the very top of the hill and you can literally see the 10 miles or so. You can actually see the swing gate water tower near Kimberley and the BBC TV transmitter, and way off into the distance you can just make out the Radcliffe on Trent power station. It always amazes me that despite how many different places we visit on the weekends, more often than not we can still see that bleeding power station! It wasn’t a particularly long walk at the weekend, I was suffering by the end of it — my legs were fine, it’s the arms that were killing me.

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Today’s little march was down vicar’s water near Clipstone in Nottingham. Again, this is an old coal pit site which were re-developed into a number of lakes for fishing and a nature reserve. Its not one of my favourite places as some of the tracks are a death trap thanks largely to illegal motor-bikers churning large holes into the dirt tracks. [Read More]

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Driving Hurts

For the first time in three weeks, I tried to drive a car. I took a short trip to check out the location of a company in Derbyshire. After 20 minutes into the journey, I started to feel uncomfortable, and my arms began to get extremely weak. When I got home I found that there was pain in both arms around and just above the elbow, not too dissimilar to I suspect, the feeling of being stabbed over and over again. This pain lasted the rest of the day and continued over to the next day. I wasn’t able to do anything at all, and certainly not use a computer. I am using voice recognition to type this entry. I only use this software when I really have to as it can be annoying at times. Since I stopped taking long-term medication it appears to have affected my ability to drive to some degree. I am going to test this again tomorrow by going for the same drive but instead have a short break before departing on the return journey. I need to know what I am capable of and what my limits actually are. The thing is, since stopping taking the medication I have no idea and the results from the driving came as the big shock.

Today I have spent mostly trying to relax, recover and contemplating what this all means in terms of everything. My brother thinks that I shouldn’t be returning back to computing, but instead to perhaps retrain or just go into something else. This is easily said than done. I have been interested in computers since the age of 14, and know nothing else. I wouldn’t know where to begin as this few jobs in this world that don’t require your arms or hands. Can you think of anything?

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Reed Review

I thought today was going to be a new start in a job that I really wanted with an organisation that traditionally has good relations with disability organisations. Both I and the employer had our time wasted by an agency who completely failed to communicate my medical condition to them in terms of the tools I need, forwarding me to a completely inappropriate job that I obviously cannot do without causing myself pain. They made the Temporary job offer based upon inaccurate information given to them by the agency.

In todays post, I am going to fully document the events though I’ll remove identifying material such as company and individual names. I will refer the company/employer as “knight” and Reed is the actual Employment agency name.

I was first contacted by Reed about the opportunity at knight by email on the 12th April 2007, that asked if I was interested in a temporary contract as a “Assistant Communications Officer” with a company in Nottingham. At this time I didn’t know the company name. I replied the same day by email as I couldn’t get through to her on the telephone:

“Is this a contract post or is it a temporary post being paid via PAYE on an hourly rate? I am not really looking a contract role where an umbrella company would-be required or I have a freelance type status. I’m purely looking for Paye role whether that’s permanent or temporary on a rolling basis. I just don’t want to have the additional lone contractor costs, stresses and workload associated with my previous freelance lifestyle prior to 2005.” (My old lifestyle was very bad for my health)

I don’t mind working for an agency If the employer cannot be bothered with the Paye stuff and thus this is where I was refer to working on a “Temporary, on a rolling basis”. This not the same as a temporary job that just ends without any prospect of this continuing. As you see I clearly state this as I know full well that an employer offering temporary work isn’t going to want to go through all the trouble of making it accessible to me. Employing a person with a disability isn’t easy or can be done on the cheap without compromising someone’s health.

On the 13th I emailed Reed and asked her to email me a copy of the vetting forms. She replied saying she wasn’t able to do this. I did find this rather odd at the time, as later I noticed that all the job adverts listed on Knights site had an available Vetting form download link, but I assumed that the one I had to fill in was different in some way. What I didn’t know then, for the level of post I was applying for, the vetting form I filled in was the exactly the same as those publicly available on Knights website. With hindsight, it is obvious that Reed was just restricting my access to this information as a bargaining tool so I had to register with them as in her reply she stated:

“Would you be able to come along &amp; register with meearly next week?”

I did go along and registered with her. At the time of registration, she filled in the application forms for me because I am pretty much unable to write neatly. It tends to go all over the place and I have to scribble things out allot to rewrite words that are completely unreadable, even to me!

At the time I did declare my disability as “Repetitive Strain Injury”, which I watched her write down in the appropriate section of the form. Reed then asked me about any special equipment I needed and the very first thing I said was “Voice Recognition Software”, as well as the normal things like a good chair with appropriate lumbar support and I stated at the time that I don’t use mice, other than where i really have to. At home I use the virtual mouse (arrow keys) that comes with windows that comes with the accessibility module. Not all systems have this installed since its an optional extra.

I tried to explain to Reed that I don’t necessarily use Voice Recognition to control the entire computer. Instead I use it with other tools to decrease the amount of typing I need to do. So, for example where as if I type normally without any aids then the maximum I can really do is 2 hours (on a good day!), with the aids it extends what I can do to around 30 hours a week. Reed totally mis-understood the impact of not using these tools would have on me. When I explained the same thing to Knight, he understood perfectly

Using tools and having proper seating etc does have a significant improvement, of course this does change from week to week, even day to day at times. Repetitive Strain by its very nature varies allot as what condition I am in tomorrow is largely dependent on what I did today, yesterday and maybe even last week. The discomfort builds up as my endurance decreases and every day becomes harder and harder.

At this meeting Reed sold me the role by saying the way the knight works, it can’t get funding straight away for a post and so it often employs people on a temporary basis until funding can be secured for a permanent post. Its only on this basis I agreed to move forward with the application, as  I knew the employer would be more willing to purchase the extra equipment needed. However, when when I arrived on my first day I was told that they had already recruited a full time member of staff for the role I am filling in for, who would be starting in early July and that my services would no longer be needed after the 18th July. There was never any intention on Knights part to convert it to a full time role; it was never on the table. Reed had clearly mis-informed me.

I also asked Reed to be completely honest with their client with reference to my condition as I knew the employer needed to be flexible and aware of it. For example, since I wasn’t going to meet the knight prior to starting then how would I know if its an appropriate environment for voice recognition. So, I required the agent to pass on all this information and to be aware that RSI by its very nature changes. On visiting Knight on my first day they didn’t appear to know anything about this.

On the 19th of April I saw the Physiotherapist who assigned me a bunch of exercises and I also past on a suggestion from a third party as an alternative to using a mouse-less keyboard. Quill Mice are suppose to be very good for those with repetitive strain, but a Quill Mouse doesn’t help you with your typing.

On the 27th April 2007, I emailed Reed and asked:

“I’m a bit anxious about having suitable equipment available on the employers premise, as I was told today that a Quill mouse (I suggested previously) could do more more harm than good in my case. I’m be seeing the Physio again on the 4th May, perhaps I can ask her advice with reference to which pieces of kit would best suit. What is the normal procedure when placing someone into a temp position that has a disability in terms of having the right equipment on site?”</blockquote>

Reed replied the same day stating:

“When you start in the position then you will be immediately assessed by Occupational Health at knight who will look at your work station and make any alterations or adjustments necessary.”

The trouble is once I asked Knight about this, they knew nothing about it. They were under the impression that the only piece of equipment I needed was a Quill Mouse. This is just ridiculous. If Knight had been given the full facts then they knew this would be ridiculous too. I don’t blame Knight in any way, they were perfect gentlemen in the entire hour I spent inside the building.

On the 27th April I received an email from Reed saying the was a problem with my application since my regular physiotherapy appointment was on a Friday. I resolved this by moving it to a Thursday afternoon. I only had a choice of Thursday or Friday since that’s the only times she is available at the practise that is providing my treatment. I didn’t want to change Physio’s as she is really good and is helping. Its not an instant fix, but instead it sounds like its going to take many months of hard uncomfortable work.

On the 9th May I recieved the following email from Reed:

“I’ve just had yet another email regarding the comms officer role. They have carefully considered all the information that you’ve supplied to them and have spoken at length with their Occupational Health department, and have decided that they are happy to keep the offer on the table, but want to reduce the hours down from a full 5 day week, to a four day week instead. They have made the decision based upon the fact that you require the Physio appointment, plus the fact that 5 days may be detrimental to your condition. Please could you confirm that you are happy to proceed on this basis?”

I replied on the 10th of May confirming that this was okay with me.

On the 23rd of May I was sent an email with reference to my start date. I have no received anything through the post, but only email communication.

“I have had an email regarding your start date – they would now like you to start on Tuesday 5th June…the reason for this is that the line manager in the dept will be in on Tues 29th May and then off for a week and he doesn’t feel it would be fair to only be in for your first day and then leave you alone for a week after! I have all of the relevant information regarding your start date etc:

Location:  XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,
Nottingham, XXXXX.
Start Date:  5th June 2007
Report to:  Reception at 9.00am – ask for XXXXX.
Dress code:  Smart (no need to wear a tie tho!)

Job Title:  Assistant Communications Officer
Job Description:  Dealing with webpages and internal communications.
Experience req:  DreamWeaver &amp; Cascading Tile Sheets
Pay rate:  £13.00 ph
Duration:  Ongoing – minimum of 3 months.”</blockquote>
Clearly it states on my start email that this is an ongoing contract with a minimum of 3 months. When I arrived at Knight though as I previously mentioned it was not even close to this since the end date was the 18th July ~ 6 weeks work, not 12 weeks and it isn’t on-going either, as the agency clearly states.

On the 24th May I wrote to Reed (the agent), supplying a list of equipment to help the Occupational Health department.

“I did forget to mention, I did talk to the physio about equipment. If you think its appropriate please forward. I think we covered most of them previously, but there was one or two things that I hadn’t thought of:

* Voice Recognition; I use it allot.
* Virtual mice – like the Quill. (suppose be very good)
* A height adjustable chair with good lumbar support; encourage good posture.
* Accompanying foot rest.
* Telephone: Head-sett (if using phone is apart of the job)
* Pens: thick barrels.
* Software Tools: like “slick run” and the accessibility functions in
windows.”

This email was never forwarded to Knight. So with the absence of Reed not passing on my equipment list at the beginning of the application process and now, Knight was completely left in the dark.

Earlier in the process I did ask Reed over the phone if they had been completely candid with Knight as I asked them to be. It was said they she had forwarded every email with reference to my health direct to Knight. If this is so, why didn’t they know anything about my need for voice recognition?

On the 3rd June I emailed Reed to ask her to inform Knight that I am more or less totally reliant on Voice recognition since I was getting concerned that she hadn’t been passing on these details to them. Also as of Friday the 1st June my medical condition had changed since I was effectively ordered to cease taking my regular anti-inflammatory medicine and have an urgent appointment at the hospital next week. This means I am able to do even less.

“Best inform Knight that my condition appears to be changing whereby I am more or less totally reliant on voice recognition. This is partly being caused by the doctor radically cutting my anti-inflammatory medication, and the combination of physiotherapy, increased activity and additional daily exercises which has affected endurance and has seen a heighten increase in fatigue and memory issues. I have seen the doctor recently who offered a sick note and I’ve been referred for further investigation. I am still happy to attend the role on Tuesday and also meet with the Occupational Heath Department, as previously agreed. I feel I would benefit greatly from an occupational health assessment”

This email was never forwarded either. Knight didn’t know anything about Occupation Heath assessment or a ergonomic assessment. Knight thought just purchasing the Quill Mouse would resolve the problem.

Finally on the 2nd of June I emailed Reed:

“As you are probably aware the severity of my condition does change quite a bit and it is seemingly progressive. I am pretty much totally reliant at the moment on voice recognition and am unable to code. This though changes from week to week, as I am able to type a bit in bursts, though not for extended periods. This is a change from a month ago where i was able to type more, if you remember. I am a bit anxious that even though in my head I have all the knowledge (and more) to do the job, I worry I may not be able to physically do tasks and let people down. If I do find myself in a position where despite good intentions I find the work too painful, then what do i do in this situation? If i find i cannot continue, then am I able to stop or do I have to work a notice?”

Again this shows a prior knowledge. Reeds replied:

“In the event of your condition making it impossible for you to continue in the contract then you could just leave – we would usually request 1 weeks notice; however, if you are to ill to continue then that would be fine. Knight have already ordered a quill mouse for you so that should be waiting for you when you start, plus occupational health will be assessing you once you’ve started.”

The Quill mouse hadn’t arrived and no one knew anything about occupational health assessing me at all. It looks like Reed was just hoping I would start quietly so she gets her money from Knight for setting someone on, no matter how inappropriate the job is.. It turned out to be totally inappropriate.

I finally replied again on the 4th June:

“I hope that have voice recognition too as its going to be a very low productive day otherwise as the Quill Mouse just scrolls up and down! It doesn’t help with typing.”

I didn’t get any reply from Reed. It seems like she deliberately avoided answering any questions with reference to voice recognition.

On the morning of the 5th June I got up really early. I woke up at 5:30am all excited and I couldn’t get back to sleep again. After I did my stretching and washing up, I staggered downstairs just before 7. It does take me along time to get down stairs as my body is really stiff in the mornings and really painful. Its most obviously because my body has been in a stationery position for 8 hours (sleeping) and just like when I am in a stationery position whilst typing, it becomes very uncomfortable.

To cut a long story short, I found the place and met what I thought would be my line manager as instructed. It soon became clear that firstly he didn’t know anything about me or my experience. Which was abit of a surprise since Reed said the line manager had specifically picked me for the role after seeing my CV. This was clearly untrue.

After we got past the bit where he knew nothing about me, he also said that the end date of the job was the 18th July. When i mentioned I was told it was for 3 Months, he was genuinely supprised and said “Really?!”. There was clearly no intention of the job converting to a permanent role either since they had just recruited another person that would be starting shortly. My role was merely to fill the gap in between and nothing more.

Then we got talking about my disability and when I mentioned I use voice recognition for doing some of the typing for me. He looked really surprised and said he didn’t know about this requirement. In fact I got him to scribble out a note on a EMCC (East Midland Conference Center) pad which he signed and dated for me. It read

“We will require (my name) to work with us up to and including Wednesday 18th July 2007. I was unaware, until (my name) arrival this morning, that he needs Voice Recognition Software to enable him to do computer work. I understood a quill mouse would be acceptable, but this is not the case. ” He signed this and dated it 05/06/07

Knight did say they would need to do a feasibility study to see if its practical to offer me voice recognition and that they would be in contact within the next couple of days.  They sent me home.

I left the building and went back to the car. Before starting off I called home to tell them about the cock up. I was really annoyed and I suppose I just needed a friendly ear before driving home. Again, I want to re-iterate I do not blame Knight in any way since it was Reed that was controlling the flow of information. If Reed, let me have an interview or initial meeting with Knight instead of playing this cloak and dagger game then all of this mess could had been avoided.

Financially I have lost out too as obviously I spent a bit on clothing, lost a couple of weeks of benefits and national insurance credits. But, what’s more important is that I have lost some hope and the excitement I was feeling only a few hours ago.

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