I've worked at a warehouse for a couple of years. In December 2019, after 9 months at the job, I started having random autonomic dysfunction symptoms that no doctor or specialist could pin a disease or condition to. Basically on and off malfunctions of getting stuck in the "fight or flight" mode of the body, which causes symptoms fluctuating symptoms similar to a panic attack. I also started having things like exercise intolerance. In my upper 30's, in good muscular shape and I've been active for all of my life. I've had gradual back pain on and off that has crept up over the time that I have worked there. Realistically, I've lifted somewhere around 150,000 30-pound packages of product over that 2 years. So over that 9 months before those symptoms, I had lifted well over 50,000 packages at that point. Their shelving is too tall (top shelf is about 7 feet) and also too low with a bottom shelf near the floor. Lots of stacking of 30-pound trays onto floor-level pallets, as well.
In November 2020, I hurt my lumbar at work. It hurt to walk with my back straight and hurt to bend left, right, back or forward with my back straight. I had to hunch over forward to walk properly. Stabbing lumbar pain that feels like it pinches a nerve. Work sent me to their panel doctor. Had nearly 2 months of physical therapy, cold laser and TENS treatments to no avail. I was in just as much pain as before. My personal neurologist (I already had a visit with him) documented Sciatica and looked at MRI disc that I brought. The Sciatica runs all the way down to my right foot when I stand straight and bend to the right. I have erectile dysfunction, my colon has stopped working properly and can average up to 3-4 days between bowel movements, my bladder doesn't empty properly and malfunctions. I have to sit down to urinate now and it can sometimes take a few minutes to go a little at a time. Usually followed by pain after trying to empty it all the way. I've urinated on myself a number of times because one minute I don't have to go and then a minute later I instantly feel like I'm about to urinate on myself. My groin area is not as sensitive, particularly the penis shaft/tip. Whether sitting, standing or lying down, most of the time now both of my legs feel weak, tingle or burn at the same time. I have also fainted twice at home and hit my head, causing a wound both times. I took photos the second time and sent them to my lawyer. I sleep horribly due to back pain and my bladder and intestines hurting all night. My energy has disappeared completely since this injury. I have days where I can't get up from sleep until 2pm or later because I'm just so exhausted. I believe that my autonomic symptoms are being caused by whatever is going on with my back and the bladder and colon. I can feel the pain in my lumbar radiating through my lower abdomen and into the bladder and colon. My gastro doc told me last year that a paralyzed colon could cause the lightheadedness and autonomic symptoms that I was having even back then.
The worker's comp doctor wrote my employer a letter saying the dates that I had been treated for a back injury and blaming the continuing pain on my autonomic symptoms. My personal doctor wrote a letter to clarify that the autonomic dysfunction has no bearing on my back injury or recovery from it and that the back injury should be treated separately. When my employer got the letter, they applied for FMLA for me for a "serious medical condition" and wanted me to see my neurologist (referenced in the letter by the worker's comp doctor) before I could return to work. I was under 10 pounds or less restrictions while getting treatments. When she discharged me, she discharged me with 10 pounds and under plus limited bending; both ongoing even after discharge. She claimed in the letter to my employer that she did that because of my autonomic symptoms for them to "accommodate" them...but it is unrelated. I had already seen my neurologist. He documented Sciatica when he looked at my MRI disc from worker's comp. I told that worker's comp doctor that and she scoffed at it. Worker's comp cut all benefits. I haven't worked since February. My days are awful and symptoms are nearly unbearable sometimes. I fear that I may be in the stages of Cauda Equina Syndrome.
I do have a worker's comp lawyer with considerable experience with both the insurance company defense and defending patients. They're fighting to get me seen by a spine doc. The second doctor that I had requested...they finally were about to approve him and when he say that the worker's comp doctor also wrote in her notes (unknown to me) that I "failed to attend pain management", he refused to see me. The insurance company/employer have a lawyer and he notified my lawyer that the second opinion spine doctor refused to see me because the worker's comp doctor lied about me not attending pain management. They cut my benefits right after, so who was going to pay for it? No documented referral or anything. They never told me to go anywhere, she simply discharged me and said, "I can't do anything for you." I'm awaiting deposition later this month and a court hearing next month.
I haven't had a dime of worker's comp checks. Adjuster told my lawyer that had the insurance already sent me checks (which they refused to do as the catch-22), then I could have seen a second opinion doctor. But since they refused to send any checks and now owe me about $4K+ back to February, they said I can't see the doctor. My lawyer is pushing for me to see another spine doctor that is less employer and insurance company focused and more for the patient. Insurance company is dragging their feet. The doctor that my lawyer wants me to see for my increasing symptoms...they've already notified him. He's just waiting to hear from the insurance company, who even my lawyer has had trouble getting communication with. If I end up with permanent damage, can my lawyer ask for a larger settlement amount? No more warehouse jobs for me when this is done. But it will be hard to find a job that will accommodate my bathroom issues if it doesn't get corrected with surgery.
Thoughts on this case? Yes, I do ask my lawyer plenty of questions, by the way. I'm aware that they know best. I'm more so trying to understand the insurance company's reasoning. Back in February, 10 days after the adjuster promised me via email that I could see another panel doctor...she controverted and never responded after I told her the doctor that I wanted to see. They claimed that "compensable medical benefits are being provided"...but they had cut them at the time of her controvert form. Meanwhile, I'm worried about my symptoms getting worse and I walk with an odd gait now because my leg muscles aren't always doing what I want them to. My colon also decides, "Hey, we're going to the bathroom RIGHT NOW!" at random times with short notice to the point where there have been intermittent times when I didn't make it to the bathroom.