The Pain of No

braindead yodaI have been a wreck for three days now. I’m a little behind on my assignments for Blogging 101, but at this very moment I’m too exhausted to care. Wednesday night I couldn’t sleep at all due to stress and pain. By the time I finally fell asleep around 7:00 a.m. it was a fitful sleep due to weird dreams and pain in my legs. When you have fibromyalgia, too much stress doesn’t help and I’ve had a big dose of it lately. But I can’t just sit and let this fulminate in my mind. So for self-care and stress relief I am writing this post.

The back story began when I decided to take early retirement from the USPS because they were closing the facility in Wichita, Kansas where I was working and I was unwilling to move to Salt Lake City. I simply did not feel up to starting over yet again (it would have been the 7th time), but there was nothing else I was physically able to do within the postal service. Once I separated from the USPS I would be able to draw the funds from my Thrift Savings account and have that to fall back on for a little while. The plan was to move back to Texas and find a part-time job to supplement my social security income. Unfortunately, Murphy’s law struck before that could happen.

On November 6, 2013, after the movers finally finished loading up, I headed for Texas with a planned overnight stay (that turned into two) in Greenville, Texas. In the wee hours of the next morning after I had checked in, I was using my cane due to stiffness when I went to my car to retrieve my medicine bag. I had parked next to the handicap ramp and one moment I was reaching for the car door and the next I was flat on my back and had hit my head. Small town, wee hours, nobody around to help me and my cell phone was in my room [figures!]. It was at least five minutes before I was able to sit up and roll over to crawl up the ramp far enough to get up. As I was crawling up the ramp I came across a piece of concrete that hadn’t been there before but just pushed it out of my way, got up and went inside. I reported the fall to the desk clerk but she didn’t take down any notes, fill out any paperwork, or ask if I needed an ambulance, just simply said she would tell management. No, management never has contacted me to see if I was okay, despite knowing about the ambulance and ER visit. I didn’t even think about taking any pictures because my mind not only doesn’t work in that way, but I also had no idea the injury was as severe as it was. I had never been seriously injured in a fall before, but I had never fallen on my back before, either.

Oh, it gets even better. I figured I would be sore for a couple of days and went to bed. Admittedly, since I have a fair bit of medical knowledge I should have realized I might have a concussion and shouldn’t have gone to sleep, but I was so tired sleep was all I wanted once I got my two cats settled down. A few hours later I woke up in so much pain I could barely move. That’s when I realized I had been hurt worse than I initially realized. I reached for the house phone to call the front desk and ask them to get an ambulance for me; the phone was dead. I eventually was able to get up and put on a robe to very slowly hobble up to the lobby using my cane. The desk clerk called an ambulance and because there was no taxi service she arranged for one of their regular suite tenants (oilfield workers) to pick me up from the hospital afterwards. By the next day I was thinking about the chunk of concrete I had seen on the ramp after my fall and figured that the concrete had broken away from the ramp under my cane. Yet when I went out to the ramp to start loading up to resume my trip, I couldn’t find the chunk of concrete anywhere.

Three days after I got back to Southeast Texas I was back in the ER due to extreme pain in my left shoulder and down my left arm, plus numbness in the fingers of my left hand. For two of those days I hadn’t been able to lean over, stand up and walk, or even simply turn my head without getting very, very dizzy. And all that ER did was say “non-specific vertigo” and sent me home with a prescription that didn’t help at all with the dizziness. Since that time I have had 6 months (3 days a week) of chiropractic treatment and physical rehab, two neck MRIs, another 7-8 months of pain management and several epidurals, and finally had neck surgery this past February. While the surgery gave me immediate relief from the pain in my shoulder and arm I had to spend two months in a neck brace, unable to drive anywhere. I had to rely on others, usually a sister-in-law, to get me to my follow-up appointments and trips to the grocery store or Wal-mart. I was only released in August for returning to work, even though I had already been applying. I had to have the work release before one of the four temp agencies I’m registered with would put me in their system.

A couple of months after I started my chiropractic treatment, the chiropractor referred me to an attorney he had worked with before to help people recover damages. That attorney told me that Texas law required you to have pictures to prove the business had cause to know somebody could be injured. I didn’t have any pictures, and I was unable to make the trip back to Greenville just to take pictures. However, I had a cousin who lived nearby who said she would go and take pictures for me (I told her where she should take them and what to look for). Sadly, despite several reminders, I never received any pictures.

During all the treatment time, I did some research on Texas statutes about personal injury and premises liability lawsuits but could not find anything that mandated pictures for such lawsuits. Because the previous lawyer was not a specialist in personal injury or premises liability law, once I was finally released by my neurosurgeon I decided to seek the help of another lawyer before the two-year statute of limitations hit. Unfortunately, I was also told by that attorney that without any pictures to prove the hotel had cause to know somebody could be injured it just wasn’t possible to recover damages. Although Texas law does not mandate you have pictures, without them it’s too hard to prove a case. [Update: Since this original posting I have seen another attorney who specializes in premises liability lawsuits. He told me that while Texas law doesn’t require pictures and without an incident report, it would be impossible to win a case. So basically I’m shit out of luck.]

But since that fall I have racked up medical bills to the tune of over $240,000. Insurance companies being what they are today, they only paid out $82,000. I’m only on the hook for $8,000, but when you are living on social security alone it’s impossible to pay those bills. Thus my credit rating has tanked, I had to give up my apartment and move in with family when I ran out of savings, and I’ve struggled not to lose my vehicle – which I must have to work as there is no bus service here. For seven months the Treasury Department has garnished my social security check for money the USPS said I owed them. Lord, I hope the garnishment is over now!

Looking for work has been difficult despite all of my years of office experience. Not only do we have a weak job market here, I believe the reason I’m not getting many responses to my applications is because they see the gap in my work experience due to my injury and don’t bother to call or email to ask why. So I’ve not gotten a chance to explain the reason for the gap. I’m physically unable to stand for hours or lift anything over 25 pounds or I would gladly have gone to work at a convenience store or even {shudder!} Wal-Mart to have the income and something to occupy my mind. I swear I’m near brain-dead from boredom. For various reasons associated with where I live, I can’t even do a work-at-home call center job.

*BIG SIGH!* Thanks for letting me vent. Much of the tension is gone now and I feel like I might actually be able to sleep tonight.

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