Communication is Key in Preventing Injury, Illness, and Loss of Productivity

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

August 15th, 2010 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

A recent series of events has inspired me to write a series of blog posts about the importance of communication in the prevention of injury, illness, and loss of productivity. In this post, I focus on the first of three incidents that happened at my apartment building over the past few months.

A few months ago, my doorbell rang shortly after I’d crawled out of bed. The painter for my apartment building was at my door, informing me that he was about to paint the staircase leading up to my apartment – the only way in and out of my apartment. He “asked” if I could stay in my apartment for the next hour or two until the paint dried. Given that he was standing there with his paintbrush in hand, ready to go, it wasn’t as much a question as a notice.

Regardless, always eager to accommodate where possible, I decided to rearrange my plans for the morning and stay inside until the painting was complete. So I smiled and said OK. As soon as the painter began painting, however, a pungent, noxious odor filled up my entire apartment, despite the door being shut. I felt sick and could not escape the odor or sensation.

I ran downstairs and told the painter he needed to stop until I could get out of the apartment. Advising him that I would leave ASAP, I asked him to create a pathway down the stairs, so that I would not get paint on my shoes. The painter was clearly pissed.

“But you agreed that I could paint,” he complained. “Yes, but you gave me one minute notice, and I didn’t know the paint would make me sick,” I replied. “I was happy to accommodate, but I literally can’t stay inside with these fumes.” I think I may have put in a call to the apartment management office as well; I’m a bit fuzzy on that detail. Regardless, I fled from my space as quickly as possible, with the painter giving me dirty looks as I left.

Over the next three days, I felt very ill every time I was in the apartment. I ended having to stay away all day, every day, except when I came home to sleep.

For most people, the temporary banishment may not have been a big deal. But as someone managing chronic pain and the fatigue that often accompanies that pain, it is key that I have access to a safe space where I feel comfortable and can rest at any time. Natural pain management is akin to a house of cards. Take any one of the cards away, and the house can come crashing down.

Had the management company given me advance notice, and had they informed me that the paint is known to have a noxious odor (which I found out recently they are well aware of), I could have made arrangements not only to be out of my apartment during the day of painting, but to take a mini vacation for a couple of days whlie the painting fumes aired out.

In other words, I am more than happy to work my life around the apartment management company’s needs. Not only am I generally happy to oblige people, but this company happens to be terrific. They are super responsive to tenant needs, and in addition, they went out of their way to accommodate me through a rough financial spot, so that I didn’t have to move out before getting back on my feet.

But honest, in order to take action, I need a heads-up. Had I gotten it in this case, I would have avoided getting sick, and the painter would have avoided losing time  — both waiting for me and having to redo the work he’d just done. It’s the simple things, like a phone call 24 hours or more ahead of time, that make all the difference.

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