On April 7, 2002 at 9:00 pm I walked into the psychiatric hospital the I work for to find the adolescent/children's units in complete uproar. I didn't even have my coat off before hearing my co-workers calling for help.
I took off my coat and jumped into action trying to hep bring these units under control. While one of the nurses and I were escorting a child to a time out room upstairs the child decided he no longer wanted to walk cooperatively. As the nurse and I began to step up this young person dropped down and back causing my arm to be hyperexteneded.This was approximately 9:30-10:00 pm. Because of the nightmare that was going on on the unit I had to continue to work unitl things quieted down. At about 1:00 am I placed ice packs on my wrist trying to calm the swelling that we noticed on my wrist. Three attempts later I finally went to the ER to have a doctor look at it this was around 2:00 am. The diagnosis was sprained wrist.
What happened that night at work, while a major nightmare scene reminiscent of a battle zone, was nothing compared to the nightmare I was about to face compliments of Wyoming Workman's Compensation.
The ER doctor referred me to an orthopedic center in town. At first the doctor appeared to feel that I was wasting his time with a sprained wrist. He examined the x-rays and shuffled me off to physical therapy to see his hand specialist. The PT was a very wonderful woman who took my condition and pain seriously. She really seemed to be competent in her care, notice I said seemed to be. She fashioned a splint for me that would conform to my wrist and hand to imobilize the area in order to reduce pain. I was to wear this at all times while awake, only taking it off at bedtime (if I could sleep without it on) and during the day sporadically to give the area some time to air out. This seemed to be working, the pain was reduced and I was able to keep up with my school work on my 6 week paid vacation from work (LOL) thanks to comp TTD payments.
PT seemed to be progressing well but I kept telling my classmates I thought that I was being kept in the splint far too long. I was using it more than not because it was the only thing that helped the pain to any real degree. Through out this time I had also had pain in my elbow but we concentrated more on the wrist as this was the area of dominate pain. Then one day the elbow pain over powered the pain in the wrist.
The PT began work on the elbow at this point. The therapy, which had been the therapy for the wrist also, was ultrasound and motion therapy. This seemed to be progressing real well, although I continued to use the splint more than I felt I should because of the reduction of pain it provided. Therapy continued to progress well on the elbow and wrist when all of a sudden my shoulder began to hurt. My PT continued on the elbow, the wrist at this time was feeling good and I was able to do without the splint more often, and decided to start therapy on my shoulder because the pain was increasing there.
The first time the PT touched my shoulder with the ultrasound I let out a blood curdling scream. The pain of just having that machine touch my shoulder sent a wave of pain through me that I thought was going to cause me to pass out, in fact I almost did pass out. Therapy was discontinued until the doctor could examine me.
The doctor at this point had become more friendly to me. I'm not sure if this was because he could see that I was working hard, because I wanted to get back to work, or because we had been raised in the same area of Pennsylvania but he was definitely nicer to me. He listened to what my PT told him about what happened when she tried to do ultrasound on my shoulder and listened to me as I told him about the pain. I had been taking percocet for the pain and he continued this treatment and added different PT for the shoulder.
In order to keep this from getting the length of a novel I am going to abbreviate this story at this point. I began therapy with another PT who dealt with this area of the body. Things went along well when bam I had something new going on. I lost feeling in my fingers and had an odd snapping in my shoulder that wasn't there before. The doctor tried a steriod injection in my shoulder, ordered multiple tests including a nerve conduction study (it was negative for significant loss) and did shoulder surgery to remove bone spurrs and drain fluid.
After surgery I was assigned to another therapist for post operative PT. PT went along well when BAM I couldn't lift the arm at all. At this point my doctor gave up and sent me to a pain doctor. He examined me and diagnosed me with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) which is a chronic pain syndrome with no cure only a prayer that we weren't too late to "throw it into remission." The pain doc added methadone to the percocet I was already on.
This doctor refused to listen to me when I told him that the medications were making me too groggy and that it was interfering with work and school because all I wanted to do was sleep. He could have cared less because this was what he wanted me on. He finally began RF stellate ganglion blocks which were performed by another doc. These worked for a short while but began to wear off too quickly. In the mean while the pain spread down into my leg and I could no longer work, I had been working off and on since the initial injury. The first doctor told me that RSD does not spread but by researching I had found out otherwise. Afte some things this doctor had done, including filling out my comp paperwork wrong several time (his patient coordinator would always fix things so I could continue collecting until the last time he screwed them up) and chewing me out, and providing treatment that was contraindicated in my condition, I fired him and hired the second doc to handle my care.
The final paperwork screw up has now caused major problems with my comp. They have denied TTD payments, they have cut off 4 of 7 of the drugs I need to ease the pain (meds they have been paying for for months) and they are refusing to pay my bills now. I have had to hire and attorney to fight comp on these issues but my lawyer tells me I will be lucky to have a hearing before September, it is now April and I have not had an income since February. My employer is now harrassing me for Family Medical Leave paperwork because comp has turned me down for TTD. This paperwork will only give me 12 weeks and I am running short on that time because they are going to run it back to when I started my time off in February. Even though comp says that my doctor has released me to medium duty my employer will not allow me to go back to work because the last doctor's note states I cannot go back until May. I have no money to pay for my medications even though I have prescription coverage for my medications. My copay for this company is $10 + 10% and some of my meds run close to $200. I am on no less than 7 medications.
My current doc wants to do either a spinal cord stimulator or a morphine pump but unless he can get this written up just right comp isn't going to pay for that either. He tried to get my TTD payments back and those were denied.
This is the beginning of my story. It is a year since I got hurt and things are only getting worse. The window of time for remission has long since passed so I am faced with chronic pain for the rest of my life. This story of workman's comp woes I'm sure will continue for a long time to come.