I had an appointment today with a doctor that I had never been to and had never heard of before, for the purpose of a "Worker's Compensation Second Opinion Evaluation." The translation for that in English is: I don't believe we want to pay for this treatment that you need and are entitled to, so if we jerk you around and stall long enough, maybe you'll give up, right? Wrong!
For those of you who don't know my background, I'll try to give you as condensed a version as I can. My first injury at work was during our annual inventory in the year of 1992. I hurt my left shoulder moving heavy price catalogs on to a shelf high above my head. Then during our next inventory in 1993, I reinjured my left shoulder lifting car brake rotors and I missed approximately 6 weeks of work, plus I had to work half days, wear a sling, go to physical therapy and really nurse it for months after I went back to work. I went to a hearing, they gave me a settlement, said I had some permanent loss of use of the shoulder and that if I ever hurt that shoulder again, no matter where I was or what I was doing, worker's compensation would cover the expenses as part of the settlement. I can't remember what term they used for that, though.
In March of 1995, I discovered that I had bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. I had carpal tunnel release surgery on my right wrist in September of that same year and I have never been back to work since. The night of the surgery I had to sleep with my arm almost straight up in the air. It was absolutely purple! I told the nurses at the hospital that it was wrapped too tight and they wouldn't loosen the bandages; it throbbed and I was in agony because of it. I asked them to call my doctor and they said they couldn't get ahold of him and that they were sure the problem would resolve itself once I went home. Uh-huh...they wanted me out of their face!
When I got home, my roommate, Penny (she was later a bridesmaid in my wedding!) tried to locate my doctor, and then she called the hospital emergency room for advice. The ER told her that we would have to wait until morning and make an appointment with my doctor, which we did, but in the meantime, I was to sleep with my arm as highly elevated as possible.
Penny actually went out and constructed a platform with 2 slats on the sides for my arm to slide in between so I could fall asleep and not worry about my arm sliding down. I didn't get much sleep because of the throbbing and the pain, but I was able to use that device that she made later, when I got home from the doctor. The physician's assistant, who was actually there to assist in the surgery, was not happy with the nurses at the hospital at all! He took my bandages off and massaged my surgery area and then reapplied the bandages. It was so weird to look at the incision so soon after surgery. The way the skin opened up and looked like you could look right through to my bones without any blood showing--it was so cool!
Anyway, I have always had my suspicions that that was the reason or at least a major contributing factor to my getting RSD (reflex sympathetic dystrophy) or CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome), which are both basically just chronic pain syndromes that resulted from trauma to the body, such as surgery, injury or illness, and are characterized by severe pain, swelling and changes in the skin with additional evidence of obvious nerve damage.
At any rate, because I have been suffering from the RSD/CRPS since 1995 and have not been able to go back to work, the Worker's Compensation Insurance Company has not been very happy with me. They have sent me for several "second opinion evaluations" about my RSD/CRPS and the most recent one was last year (2007). Can you imagine that? At that point it had been twelve years and at least that many doctors had all confirmed that diagnosis.
My most recent injury was a reinjury to my left shoulder that happened in December of 2007 while I was lifting the corner of our mattress, trying to slip the fitted sheet over the edge. I don't normally attempt anything near that heavy in the line of housework because I'm not really able to do those things anymore, but I wanted to surprise my husband and get that done for him. What a mistake! It cost him plenty; because of my stupidity, (which he calls sweetness) he has had to do even more work than usual. This is the injury that necessitated the second opinion evaluation, which was accomplished today.
Finally...what I didn't tell you was that I have had the audacity to tell my Worker's Compensation Insurance Company "No Thankyou" when they had asked me just a few weeks prior to their scheduling this "second opinion evaluation" appointment, to please consider taking an early settlement on my case. When that happens, they give you a lump sum of the monthly cash payments that you receive from them, for a total period of five years. In other words, they give you a check for 60 months worth of your payments, all at one time. If they had been paying for your medications and office visits as well, you would no longer receive those benefits. They have been trying to get me to settle for about 10 years and at one point, one of the adjusters actually discussed it with me on the phone.
"Are you sure you don't want to settle now? That's quite a chunk of change all at once. I'm sure you and your husband could think of something to use it for," he said. I know he must have thought I would jump at the chance and that maybe I was one of those dumb bimbos that would fall for it, but he didn't know me...at all.
"You're kidding, right?" I asked him sarcastically. I didn't like his condescending tone and I decided I would let him know I wasn't as stupid as he thought I was.
"Excuse me?" was his haughty reply.
"Well, I was sure you must be joking. You were, weren't you?" I asked. No reply. "I mean, after all, you're offering a settlement for five years and I've probably got thirty or even forty years left. I'd be crazy to accept that, right?" Still no answer. I was enjoying this. "Not to mention the cost of my monthly office visits...and those medication! The cost of my medications is astronomical! Well, you already know that, right?" Still no answer. I smiled. "Are you still there?"
"Yes, I'm here," he answered curtly.
"Oh, I was worried for a second there. Did you hear what I said?" I asked him, knowing full well he heard every word, but I was enjoying rubbing it in.
"I heard you!" he snapped.
"Oh dear. Have I said something that has offended you?" I asked in my sweetest, most innocent voice.
"No. I'll let the office know that you don't want to settle."
"Ever," I said, firmly.
"What?" he asked.
"I said, ever. Tell them that I don't want to settle, ever. That way they won't have to waste your time or mine again."
"Got it. Bye." And that was that. Until next time, that is.