ASSOCIATES (2010, July, v. 17, no. 1)


Bronchitis, Surgery and the Common Cold, OH MY!

Jill M. Baker
Information Resources Assistant Intermediate
The Law Library, Circulation Department
University of Michigan

The fall of 2009 and the first part of 2010 was a challenging time for me. In November I was quite sick with what I thought was a cold and I missed several days of work at the law library. After five or so nights of endless coughing and very little sleep, I finally ended up in the emergency room at a local hospital on Thanksgiving Day where I was diagnosed with bronchitis. I then missed several more days of work as I continued to recover. My family and I celebrated Thanksgiving Redux on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

Then in early December, still with a bit of a cough, I had foot surgery, finally getting rid of a painful bunion and straightening out the bone in my big toe. Fortunately, The University of Michigan has a generous extended sick policy, so while I was home parked on the couch for seven weeks, I still received my full pay. I read books. I watched movies and the first season of “True Blood”, two seasons of “Weeds” and two seasons of “Dexter” on DVD. Flannel pajamas were my friend. My dog enjoyed me being home with him all day every day. I surfed the internet and played endless games of Farkle on Facebook. I looked at “before” pictures of my foot and marveled at how much better my foot looked now (well, except for the large incision). I took weekly “after” shots of my foot to record the healing that was occurring. I went to bed early.

There were thirteen straight days where I did not leave the house and I was unable to shower for four days (FOUR DAYS!!!) after the surgery. I stared at the walls and tried not to sleep too much because that would have made me feel too slothful. I kept telling my dog to not get too used to me being home all day because I was going to have to go back to work eventually to keep him in kibble, Beggin’ Strips and tennis balls. The cats, Barry and Jinxy, were indifferent about my presence and maintained their schedules of naps and bird watching, though they did get annoyed with me when I needed to move them so I could prop my foot up on the back of the couch. I created a sea of magazines, books, DVDs, blankets, pillows, books, tissues, remote controls and more books around me, scattered about the floor. I am ashamed to confess that I have not broken this habit and a smaller sea of stuff remains on and around the couch.

While I was out on my medical leave, my co-workers rallied to cover my tasks. Tom covered my weekly late shift through the remainder of the Fall semester and then Sandy stepped in when Winter semester commenced in January. Dan took over collecting unbound journals and delivered them to the unit that then processes them for delivery to the bindery. Everyone chipped in to cover my deliveries to faculty offices and pulling patron paging requests. Unfortunately, my absence fell at a time when the library had a large amount of law journals arriving and I’m told that my absence from the serials services unit was particularly lamented.

Though I really wasn’t supposed to, I did occasionally check my work email from my nest on the couch. As a result, I learned that there were a number of changes while I was out, including a new book delivery service through the larger University Libraries system. Now, instead of having to go to other libraries to retrieve non-law books not in our collection, our patrons could request them online and they would be delivered to our library. A new online incident report system was launched that ended up being quite complicated and was changed again, and more receipt printers were introduced. In addition, the book paging process changed slightly. In the end, I was reminded that change is usually good but can be difficult, especially when you’re not there to witness its evolution first hand and only come in at the tail end of it.

I eventually recovered enough to go back to work at the law library on February 1st and was given tasks that would keep me mostly sedentary. It was good to be around people again and I had fun wearing my pink and purple fuzzy socks under my post-op shoe, which I still needed to wear for a few more weeks. It almost felt like I had never been gone; I got myself reoriented to the library world and threw myself back into work, trying to not do too much too soon, but of course I over did it. On February 2nd I called off work with a sore foot. When I went back to work the next day I was given a reduced schedule and I decided to avoid Kik-Step stools; retrieving materials on the high shelves could wait for now. I was ordered to take it easy and I did … for the most part.

The week after my return, I came down with a cold. I figured that I had been isolated from the world, shielded from germs for seven weeks and my immune system was weak. Two more days were spent at home. My dog was confused: First she’s gone all day every day, then she was home all day for seven weeks, then she was gone again all day, and now she’s back again? Crazy human. The cats were once again indifferent.

Finally, I recovered from my cold and went back to work (again). I transitioned from the post-op shoe to colorful Crocs to supportive running shoes. I adjusted to the changes that had occurred at the library while I was out for seven weeks and figured out the new book delivery service. I found my favorite book truck and reclaimed it, loading it back up with my materials for collecting unbound journals. I dusted off my desk and got back to work, settling in and hoping for no more colds.

So far, so good.