Changing jobs after heart surgery: Roy's story

Roy Truett was working as a baggage engineer at Gatwick Airport when a trip to the doctor revealed a problem with his heart rhythm. He talks to Katherine Woods about how his work life changed after he recovered from heart surgery.

Roy speaking to colleagues at work

Roy’s story: a change of role after surgery 

Roy, who was 55 and living with his wife Anne, in Crawley, West Sussex, was diagnosed with a leaking aortic heart valve in February 2016. Roy was advised to cut down on running but continued working until October, when he had open heart surgery to replace his heart valve.

Following the surgery, he developed an irregular heart rhythm and needed a pacemaker fitted.

Roy attended cardiac rehabilitation and by February 2017 felt ready to discuss returning to work.

Request reduced hours or light duties

Roy planned to ask for a phased return, starting with reduced hours or light duties.

“It was a technical and physical job, working nights and weekends,” he says. “If there was a problem, I wouldn’t stop until it was sorted.”

If your job is physically demanding or involves travelling, ‘lighter duties’ could mean more office-based work, which can help you build back up to your previous work. But when Roy met with his employer to discuss his return, something unexpected came up.

Roy at work at Heathrow express

“Some equipment in the airport’s non-public areas emit electromagnetic radiation, which can interfere with pacemakers,” he explains. “If you’re more than a metre away there’s hardly any risk, but I’d often be closer.”

Roy’s employer concluded it wasn’t safe for him to return to his job. Disappointed, Roy entered a redeployment process, allowing him three months to find another job within the company.

He found a temporary role, but when that ended there were no other suitable openings and Roy was dismissed in June 2018.

“It was frustrating,” he admits, “but I’d seen it coming.” Roy took some time out to think about what to do next, wanting to make use of his engineering background and have a better work-life balance.

Full time or part time

A few months later, he was offered a job in the control room for Heathrow Express, with the choice of working full or part time. “It was shift work and I’d have to commute on the motorway,” explains Roy, “so part time suited me best.”

Roy at work

Roy began his new job in January and is happy to be taking on a new challenge.

Working part time also allows him to run and socialise more, sometimes spending his days off in London or at the coast.

Now 58, Roy is grateful that his surgery made him reassess his priorities. “If this hadn’t happened, I’d have carried on doing the same full-on work. I’m much happier now.” 

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