Friday, May 16, 2008

Right thru my fingers...

So I got my so-called settlement. To get this, I had to agree (my lawyer rather forced me into it, but that's a whole 'nuther blog!) to drop any further claim to any other long term disability through December, 2007. (I'm pretty sure that if my attorney would have pursued it, I could have sued them for the "mistake" in their paperwork for quite a bit more, since their paperwork, i.e. my paystubs, said they had withheld over $111,000, and I was only overpaid $66,280!)

To complicate things, I now have to live off of $230 a week till January 2011, then I have nothing, and I'm not sure what I'll do. There isn't a job around who will hire someone in my condition, needing an hour long break every 15 minutes! I don't qualify for social security, and my doctor says I can go back to work "with restrictions", one of which is nothing repetitive, like the typing I'm doing right now. The diff between here and SDGE is that here I can stop and save this every few minutes for a break, then come back to it. And at SDGE if I stopped to rest, I'd get a phone call, "Why are you offline?? Get back to work!" (My daughter actually got fired from her job for bringing in a doctor's note saying she needed to take breaks every 2 hours. Totally illegal, but they suddenly came up w some other bogus reason.) Lucky for her, she's married to an Army officer and they just got transferred, so she'd be moving anyway.)

Ok, to further complicate things, my doctor hasn't been sending in my long term disability restrictions, so SDGE has now "terminated my employment", so now I won't ever get any more LTD plus I lost my medical and dental benefits. PLUS on the work comp side, since SDGE has been denying any medical treatments, like physical therapy, medication and my muscle stimulator supplies, they are now saying that since I "didn't need anything" for the past few years, I don't need them! So even tho part of the settlement is open medical, they are still denying me any medical and GETTING AWAY WITH IT! My doctor asked for physical therapy and they agreed to it, but cut it in half. Thanks a lot, guys. I totally understand the whole "disgruntled employee" thing! LOL (Don't worry, I'm getting it out of my system in other ways!)

I used the lump portion of my settlement to pay off the credit cards I've been living off of for 3 years, and invested in a Canon XLH1 and MacPro with Final Cut Studio Pro. And I found a student filmmaker who is helping me make a feature film about my experience. (No acting experience needed on my part!) And I can take as long as I need to make it. (the beauty of being an independant filmmaker and producer working on a "no-budget" film. I don't have a timeline!) But I know my daughter and I are not the only employees who have been screwed by the company or the whole work comp system. And I'm tired of keeping quiet. Hence... The Princess in the Dragon's Lair...

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Well, it's been 2 years since I've been able to see a doctor, and that was only because the company insisted that I see their doctor so they could say I didn't need any further care. However, that isn't what happened. Not that it did me any good. Since I no longer live in California because I couldn't afford it when they stopped paying me, I can't find anyone who will take out-of-state work comp, and can't afford to pay anyone, so I haven't been able to see anyone. And my health has gone downhill fast.

Two movies come to mind in describing a couple of my big problems. Remember Preditor? When the alien rips the skull and spine from his victim? Yes, that is what my neck and back feel like. As for my feet... Well, remember Misery? The block of wood and the sledge hammer... sometimes I can barely walk. It's like that mostly at night and morning. Not quite that bad in the afternoon, although I do walk like I've got stones in my shoes for several hours of the day, and I haven't been able to wear heels for several years now.

And sleep... what is that, anyway? I don't even remember anymore. I don't think I've slept more than 4-5 hours a night since 1999. It started with my hands and arms being in so much pain that it kept me awake. But after the spinal fusion, a bigger problem arose. No matter how much I try to make sure my neck and back are perfectly aligned, within 3-5 minutes, a growing burning pain tells me to try again. And well, the rest of me is so sensitive to touch that every place I am making contact with aches. I daydream of floating a big soft fluffy cloud, or suspended in air with zero gravity! No matter what I do, I feel like I'm sleeping on cement! However, I did go try out a Select Comfort Sleep Number bed just to see what it was like. (My sleep number is 25 or lower.) It was great; about as close to floating on a soft fluffy cloud as you can get! Too bad I don't have a spare $5000; I might actually get some sleep!

As for the financial end of this mess, the last time I received a single dime from the company was 2 years and 2 months ago. Keeping track of the pay stubs, which showed that the amount they withheld had recovered the entire overpayment was in February 2007, (because, you guessed it, they were withholding the incorrect amount; can they get anything right???) But apparently the paystubs don't matter, at least to my attorney, who is sick of this matter and just want it to end. However, the paystubs match the amount that they said they had already recovered when this whole mess started, so when did they suddenly become meaningless?

I finally signed a paper that I really wasn't happy signing. The company has said that they will give me a big check for the back pay of the permanent disability that they have refused me for 2 years, which means that the amount that had been recovered, is no longer recovered! BUT... they will be so wonderful as to waive that amount, and I, in return will not seek penalties for their refusal to pay me benefits. Am I the only one who smells something foul in the air?? Why would the same people who allowed my son & I to live in a shack with no heat or A/C, nothing but a bare concrete floor, with raw sewage leaks, infested with mice and spiders for a year and a half, suddenly waive $24,000? The money they are giving me is simply part of my settlement. They are not doing me any favors; this is in thier own best interest. I can only wonder what the penalty for failure to pay out permanent disability and long term disability would have been.

My attorney says I need to take this and pay a doctor to see me and make a report, then turn in the receit to be reimbursed. But seeing that they have refused any request that any doctors have made for medication, physical therapy and counceling, I do not think they will reimburse it. So... how do I get the care I desperately need?? Ideas?... Anyone?...

Well, it's taken me days to write this & I'm dying now. But I do feel much better venting! Ha!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Finally received doctor's report 9 1/2 months later!

Today I finally got the report from a doctor that describes my condition; it was from a doctor visit on December 7, 2005 with a doctor representing the company that I work(ed) for.

Here is a brief section of one of the pages in his 21 page report;

1. Cervical spondylolysis/herniated disc, status post fusion, C4 through C7 (September 18, 2003)

2. Bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, status post bilateral carpal tunnel release surgery (Right, July 2, 2001, left September 24, 2001.)

3. Bilateral upper extremity pain; history of complex regional pain syndrome, post bilateral carpal tunnel release and fibromyalgia/myofascial pain, bilateral upper extremities.

Based on the current history and examination, the patient is considered totally disabled from any and all occupations due to injury to the bilateral upper extremities and cervical spine and subsequent bilateral upper extremity surgery and cervical spine surgery with postoperative flare of myofascial and complex regional pain syndromes. This period of total disability my be considered for 24 months from December, 2005, after which the employee may be reevaluated for return to work with work restrictions based on subjective and objective factors. The patient's bilateral upper extremity carpal tunnel release surgery and cervical spine fusion with significant and well documented post surgical pain syndrome precludes the patient from returning to employment and could be reevaluated regarding return to employment for 24 months starting from today's evaluation.

This doctor's credentials include
Diplomate, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery,
Fellow, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons,
Certificate of Added Qualifications in Hand Surgery

I'm guessing they didn't want me to see this, so they downplayed it. (Possily hoping that my attorney wouldn't read the entire report?) My attorney called when she got this report a few months ago, saying she was shocked since the company's attorney was trying to settle saying that their doctor said that I was 59% disabled or something like that. (She had to turn my case over to another attorney because she was closing her office, and it was obvious that this case will take more time than she had thought.)

This part isn't pain related, but it is related to my disability case.
In September, 2005, I got 2 checks for less than $200. I knew there had been an overpayment from December, 2001 through May, 2004, and I had made at least 3 calls to them during that time to ask about those payments, and was told, "Oh, that's your long term disability; you're supposed to be getting it, don't worry about it." There were also 3-4 other times where I saw on my paystub that they had made adjustments, so I figured they had already done periodic "thorough reviews" (apparently not thorough enough -- or maybe they just plain shouldn't be working in payroll.)... and in May, 2004, they suddenly, and very quietly, started withholding 1/3 of my check. They gave no explaination, no mention, nothing. However, I did know that it was to recover the overpayment.

But when I got those low checks, I called and was told that the company [suddenly] has a 30 day policy that an employee has 30 days to repay any overpayment of benefits or their disability benefits would be terminated. I asked why there was a 30 day policy when they had already been taking it out for a year and a half, so they obviously knew of the overpayment for a heck of a lot longer than 30 days!

She kept repeating, "There is a 30 day policy..." I asked why they couldn't just collect it the way they were collecting it. "There is a 30 day policy..."

Then she decided they could give me "a little extra" on my work comp portion, which would extend my $250 every 2 weeks from December through March 10, 2006.

Shortly after that phone call, I received a letter stating, "I performed a thorough review of your claim and have found a large overpayment resulting from a daily rate error (being paid my normal wages rather than the $10 less an hour they paid for disability benefits,) paid from December 19, 2001 through May 20, 2004 (You mean, like I was trying to tell you 3 years ago?) in the amount of $67,037.36, less $14,994.00 already recovered...As stated in earlier correspondence, (meaning when I again called them, this time being the 4th time) this overpayment must be repaid either in a lump sum or suspension of Long Term disability benefits. If the overpayment amount is not repaid within 30 days, I will proceed with suspension of your long term disability benefits until the overpayment is recovered." During this time, they scheduled a court ordered doctor appointment.

November 4, 2005 was the last time I received a disability check from them. Shortly after that, they received their doctor's report that says I am "totally disabled from any and all occupations". I then received my last work comp check on March 10, 2006. (The last time I got anything from them at all.) I just want to know... how do they expect me to survive?

Monday, February 20, 2006

What the heck is Myofascial Pain, Fibromyalgia and RSD??

If you are experiencing pain all the time but can't figure out what is causing it, you just might have one (or more) of these, like I do. I was told in December, 2005, (after having carpal tunnel surgery on both hands in 2001, a spinal fusion in my neck in 2003, and almost 5 years of going through excruciating pain), that I have "some type of myofascial pain", and that there's no cure for it.

These are extremely painful and sometimes disabling disorders, and are almost impossible to detect because it seems there aren't very many doctors who know how to diagnose them! (I guess the "scientist" in them wants to see concrete proof of someting wrong.) Then again, if it seems they are testing you for everything under the sun, it's because they have to rule everything else out first, just to be sure it's not a symptom of something that could be life-threatening. You can expect to see several different doctors before getting a correct diagnosis and any treatment that gives you any kind of relief.

It's also difficult to tell these three conditions apart since they have so many similarities. (Google any of these three disorders and you will find all three mentioned in most of the sites listed.)

They can all be caused by repetitive motion, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery, physical trauma, as well as other causes specific to each.

Some of the similar symptoms that are common to all three disorders are pain, numbness, migraine headaches, fatigue, stiffness, weakness, sensitivity to touch, and of course depression.

Here is what I've been learning. If it can help anyone else, I'd like to share it, and I'd also like to hear from anyone else who might have any of these.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS) is a painful musculoskeletal (soft tissue) disorder. The fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds every tissue, muscle, bone, nerve ending, blood vessel and organ in your body. It is usually centered in one area of the body, and has "myofascial trigger points", which are hypersensitive areas of skeletal muscle fibers, that when pressed on causes pain and tenderness in other areas. (The trigger points on your neck can "refer" pain to your head, and trigger points in your lower back can "refer" pain to your legs.)
It can be irritated by stress and tension, as it causes muscle tension which irritates the trigger points, causing pain thru the whole body. It can also be inflammed by sudden coldness, like entering an air conditioned building, weather changes, high humidity, extreme dryness and physical activity. (Like doing laundry or grocery shopping.)

Fibromyalgia. I've heard two different things about this one. First,that it is a chronic musculoskeletal condition (muscle sensitivity), and second, that FMS is not musculoskeletal, but a neurological disease. Either way, it has widespread pain, achiness, tenderness, and stiffness in the muscle tissue, ligaments, and tendons. It usually involves more generalized muscle tenderness in all four quadrants of the body, with sleep and gastrointestinal problems, and all of that of course, leads to depression and anxiety. It can be irritated by the time of day, (really bad in mornings, easing up during the day and worse again in the evening.) And like MPS, it can also be irritated by stress, weather, and physical activity. A heck of a lot of people have this, and about 80% of those are women. You can get fibromyalgia at any age, but it seems to be in women 20 to 40 years old most often, and there have even been reports of fibromyalgia in children. (What used to be called "growing pains" might actually be fibromyalgia, especially if the child complains of having trouble sleeping.) There is also a possibility that it is hereditary. You can also get something that I've heard called "Fibro Fog" -- you think you're going crazy or getting alzheimers... I have found myself that I will suddenly be aware of where I am & what I'm doing, and not remember how I got there. (Really scary when you're driving!!)

RSD, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), is a chronic, painful, and progressive neurological condition that affects skin, muscles, joints, and bones. It ususlly starts after an injury or surgery, but not always. It can be irritated by -- well, it's pretty much always irritated. People who have CRPS/RSD can develop myofascial pain when normal pain mechanisms aren't working right. Certain changes, such as being inflammation at the injured area cause significant changes at the spinal cord and brain which amplify the pain and dysfunction. Compensating for an injured area (like your hand) over time causes long-term maladaptive changes in your body, (like weakness or tightening in the supporting muscles of the shoulder and neck, from trying to protect your hand!) These overused and deconditioned muscle groups are more likely to develop myofascial pain. (Sometimes it seems like the RSD is spreading, when it's actually the Myofascial trigger points that is causing pain to radiate to other parts of your body.)

The causes of MPS and RSD/CRPS that are similar are heart attacks and heart disease. MPS and FMS share stress and repetitive motion injuries. The causes of FMS and RSD/CRPS that are similar are viral or bacterial infection and
spinal cord disorders. (Where MPS can be caused by injury to intervertebrael discs, but not the cord.) This also might make it difficult to diagnose. But there are causes and symptoms that are specific to each disorder.

You can get myofascial pain if you have fibromyalgia, trauma to muscles tendons, etc, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes like PMS or menopause, frquent exposure to cold, such as sitting under an A/C duct or sleeping by the A/C, poor posture, lack of activity, as when in a cast or sling, and compensating for an injured limb and overusing the other limb.

Causes specific to fibromyalgia are sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, and disturbed sleep, immune or indrocine system dysfunction, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, and also if others in your family have it. Also, the causes are just plain unknown.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome can be caused by radiation therapy, cerebral lesions and 10-20% of cases have no direct cause.

This is what I've been experiencing...

Loud noises are now deafening, you freeze in the winter and sweat all summer! (More than before, I mean!) And going from season to season is a killer, too. You never get to adjust! And get out your sunglasses, cuz every time you go outside, even if it's cloudy, your eyes will burn like a vampire's! You have worse menstrual periods and painful sex. You've seen that commercial where the woman is singing, "Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now..." Yep, you get your exercise running to the bathroom all the time.

Sometimes it's impossible to get through normal daily activities since the pain, which can be aching, throbbing, burning, move from one part of your body to another and muscle spams, is usually worse in the morning, and you feel like you're swelling, even tho' you're not. You get short of breath and your heart races and pounds doing the slightest thing. It can improve a little throughout the day, but just about the time you start to feel half-way decent it starts getting worse again in the evening! (For me, that's usually about 3-5 PM.) (Doesn't leave much time to get things done!)

This is also a chronic condition and you can expect to suffer from these symptoms for the rest of your life or -- if you get lucky, it will come & go. You get little to no sympathy (or empathy) from the doctors, who say, "You'll just have to learn to live with it." That frustration, of course, causes your stress level to go up, and here you go again!

There are a ton of symptons for these three medical conditions. (I'm putting the ones I have first.)

Childhood growing pains, "Traveling" nocturnal sinus stuffiness, post nasal drip, runny nose, sore throat, swollen glands, dry cough, allergies, mold/yeast sensitivity, TMJ symptoms, stiff neck, dizziness when turning head or changing field of view, difficulty swallowing, reflux problems, thick secretions, (eeewwwwww)headaches/migraines, drooling in sleep, disturbed sleep pattern with unrefreshing sleep, fatigue, morning stiffness, sweats, shortness of breath, painful weak grip that may let go, (invest in a nice set of Tupperware glasses and dishes), loss of sex drive, low back pain, fingernails that curve under and splitting cuticles, double or blurry vision, visual perception problems, "night blindness" (really hard to drive when it gets dark,) red & watery eyes, drooping of eyelids, (I thought my age was catching up to me -- but only on one side??), depression, irritability for no reason, trouble concentrating, difficulty putting your thoughts into words, times where you stare into space waiting for your brain to catch up to you, you get disoriented and confused, short-term memory impairment, sometimes you don't recognize your surroundings, panic attacks, carbohydrate & chocolate cravings, (which explains a lot), weight gain/loss, (I've gained 40 pounds since I first went out on disability, 20 of that was after my spinal fusion), soft spongy tummy/abdomen, visual and audio effects/falling sensations before sleep (it's called "sleep starts",) earaches and ringing or itchy ears, unexplained toothaches, rapid irregular heartbeat, sometimes fluttering, heart attack-like pain,
bloating/nausea/abdominal cramps, appendicitis-like pains, hyper-sensitive to odors, touch, even light wind, hot & cold, humidity & weather changes, blotchy skin, thumb pain and tingling numbness, urine retention or (frequent), tendency to cry easily, weak ankles, leg cramps, tight Achilles tendons, groin pain, sciatic nerve pain, muscle twitching, shin splint-type pain, heel pain, restless leg syndrome, (hate that! that's when the muscles in your legs jerk & twitch at night), non-specific swelling, buckling knees, problems going up and down stairs,
handwriting difficulties, sore spot on top of your head, problems raising arms and holding them up for any amount of time, carpal tunnel-like pain in your writsts, tight hamstrings, numbness/tingling on the outer thigh, trouble keeping your balance, after you get out of the car you still feel like your moving, you feel like your car is going to roll when turning corners, when you get up in the morning, it's incredibly painful for your feet to have contact with the floor for awhile, (for me it's anywhere from 1-3 hours), the pressure of eyeglasses on your face is painful,
you get bruises and scars easily, you get dizzy when looking at certain patterns, you grind your teeth, delayed reactions to "overdoing it" (and believe me, you'll pay for it!) and other members of my family have it. Yep, I got all of those. Now here are a few more that aren't affecting me right now.

Ingrown hairs, loss of ability to distinguish some shades of colors, abdominal cramps, colic, irritable bowel, PMS, menstrual problems and/or pelvic pain, impotence, stress incontinence, pelvic pain, painful sex, and the mitral valve (in your heart) that regulates the flow of blood between two of the chambers is "leaking", (if I understand that correctly.)

hhh More to come later!! My microphone isn't working! hhh