I was diagnosed with psoriasis in 1972 while I was in law school and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) in 1976 during my third year of practice.
I practiced law for 45 years and never encountered any work-related issues relative to my psoriasis. It is important to emphasize that although I initially had scalp psoriasis, I never had psoriatic lesions on my face or hands. I did not have any visible psoriasis plaques because for many years, I was wearing suits and ties every day, so plaques on my arms and legs were covered up.
In 2003, I became active as a board member of the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). Every year, the NPF would sponsor a walk in Santa Monica, and I would ask my law firm to sponsor a team. My practice group partners and associates were the most responsive, but the team also attracted administrators and secretaries. I would conduct an information session at a breakfast meeting, and I was heartened to see the level of support that it generated, both via contributions and participation in the walks.
Oddly enough, one of my partners who had psoriasis was not at all interested in the NPF events, even though the medications he was taking were directly the result of research grants made earlier by the NPF. He would shun me in the hallways.
Starting in 1996, when I was serving on the Management Committee of the firm and as managing partner of the California offices, I had a series of total joint replacements of my knees, then my hips, then my shoulders. My first surgery was for both knees, and my in-hospital rehabilitation took 22 days. My practice group rose to the occasion and monitored and maintained my client relationships in my absence. Being out of the office for so long was quite noticeable, given my administrative roles. However, the firm was incredibly supportive during that period and beyond. I did my best to maintain contact from the hospital via cell phone and tablet when I was not in physical therapy.
One evening, after most of the others had left the office, I reached down to pick up a pen from the floor and fell off my office chair. I was unable to stand up, so I called out for help, and two attorneys arrived quickly. Unfortunately, one was pregnant and the other had a bad back, but they managed to give me enough lift to return me to my chair.
Shortly after I returned to the office, a senior partner asked me to substitute for him as the primary instructor for a health law course at a local university. We taught a seminar that involved a series of classes by my partners with subject-matter expertise. I really enjoyed the educator experience because it mirrored my favorite aspect of practicing law: mentoring young associates. It also allowed me to ease myself back into the practice.
My hip surgeries were 1-2 days in hospital and then recovery at home with physical therapy. They were not nearly as incapacitating as the double knee surgery had been. The office administrative and secretarial staff went out of their ways to be helpful, bringing me lunch and arranging for a close-in parking place, or having neighbor lawyers drive me to and from work.
My shoulder replacement surgeries were performed one at a time, about two years apart (2016 and 2018). I did not realize how difficult it would be to continue to work with my arm immobilized in a sling. The firm was kind enough to arrange for a car service to take me to and from work for about 4 weeks after each surgery, and I worked 6-hour days. I had to perfect one-hand typing, which was more challenging than I had imagined and slowed me down considerably. I ended up dictating to my secretary on occasion, which I had never done before.
All in all, I could not be more appreciative for the amazing support that I received from my firm throughout the trials and tribulations of multiple hospitalizations and physical therapy sessions. Finally, the firm always had excellent health insurance, so the cost of my care was not an undue burden. I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to have been: 1) unemployed, 2) uninsured or under-insured, or 3) less supported by my firm during any of my surgeries or rehabilitations.
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