North Texan football coach Sam Harrell was 55-years-old and at the prime of his life and career as a high school football coach when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Harrell went from coaching a team to 4A state championships (in 2000, 2001 and 2004) to walking with a limp to having to use a golf cart when he coached .
"It went really fast. [From] 2005 to 2010, I went from 'you can’t tell anything, but you have it' to 'now you can't even walk," he told NBCDF.com.
By 2010, five years after his diagnosis, Harrell was forced to retire.
What followed next was a series of tests, weighing of options and finally a decision: a stem cell therapy that had yet to be approved by the FDA but was available in the Stem Cell Institute Panama. With a GoFundMe campaign set up, Harrell was able to afford the procedure, and after two failed attempts, a third finally provided the relief he was looking for.
Following the procedure, Harrell was able to "[lift] his leg. Then he could keep himself from falling. Then he could walk to the mailbox."
And finally, Harrell was able to return to work as the offensive coordinator at Fort Worth Christian School. Not only did he return to work, but in 2015, he helped his team to the first state championship in more than 20 years.
Stem Cell Therapy: Is It Right For You?
4 Things To Consider Before Going Back To Work After Your MS Diagnosis
Whether you've opted for a stem cell treatment, or you've simply taken time off to regain your composure following your MS diagnosis, returning to work is a decision that may not come lightly.
Read on to learn the 5 things you should consider before returning to work following your MS diagnosis or treatment.
1. Self-Assessment: Can You Handle Going Back?
Take a deep breath and prepare to take an honest assessment of your condition. Make a list of symptoms and how they affect you (and your performance) at work. According to the MS Society, you should "[i]dentify your knowledge, skills, abilities, personal characteristics — overall competencies," to evaluate the "big picture."
To assist in your personal and professional assessment, check out the Self-Assessment Resources provided by the National MS Society.
2. Your Career Options
Do you plan on returning to a previous job or do you wish to get a new job more suitable for your abilities?
Whichever course of action you plan to take, be aware there are employment opportunities for people with disabilities. To learn more, click here to see the available jobs.
3. Disclosure: Do You Share And With Whom Do You Share?
Whether you disclose your personal health with an employer is your decision and one that must not be taken lightly. While The Americans with Disabilities Act made it illegal to discriminate against people with a disability such as multiple sclerosis, sharing your diagnosis may still be a challenge.
To determine whether you will disclose your diagnosis and with whom, you can fill out this Disclosure Disclosure Worksheet to have a better understanding of your feeling and options.
Click here to explore more about your disclosure options.
4. Your Legal Rights
The following resources will assist you in your journey towards returning to work following your multiple sclerosis diagnoses.
The following links will provide you with the necessary legal recommendations when planning your return to the office.
Americans with Disabilities Act Information Line
Family and Medical Leave Act
Job Accommodation Network
Social Security Online
U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Vocational Education (Department of Education)
Have you returned to work following an MS diagnosis? Share your experience below in the comments section or log in to MyCounterpane.com/MS.