Repetitive Stress Injury Causing CTS and Focal Dystonia
I have been employed in the clerical field at our local hospital for 17 years. In August of 2001, following bilateral EMG/NCS, I was diagnosed with bilateral Carpal Tunnel and Focal Dystonia (writers cramp), in my right arm and hand as well. Initially I was given a cortizone injection in the left hand with a 2 week relief of the carpal tunnel symptoms.
Then in October 2001 I had to undergo another bilateral EMG/NCS. One week after that I received a call from my primary care doctor advising that the results of the second battery of tests showed the disease progressing at an alarming rate. I was advised that I would require bilateral carpal tunnel releases asap to preserve the use of my hands.
I was told that there would be approximately a 6-8 week recovery period for each hand, and since I am the main bread winner, and was rated with a 70% apportionment (I get 1/2 my normal salary for workers comp pay), I needed to get back to work fulltime asap. After discussion with my husband and children, I decided to have both hands done at once and virtually cut the recovery time in half. That was quite a challenge, I ended up going back 1/2 days 9 weeks later and continued therapy for a couple months. I continued to have the spasms and cramping in the right hand, and persistent pain and swelling in the left palm.
Finally, in April 2002, my orthopedic surgeon decided that my Hook of Hamate bone in my left hand was the source of the continued pain. He explained that "occasionally" in the healing process that bone can act as a bone spur. I had been caught off guard the first time, so this time I asked if I could work one more month with out causing any further damage, that I would prefer to do that so we could save a little money for what was suppose to be an 8 week recovery period.
At this point I really got depressed, and my physiatrist that I see for the dystonia prescribed a mild antidepressant.
I had my second surgery in May 2002 to remove the Hook of Hamate, my Ulnar nerve and artery were caught on that bone, hence all the pain and swelling. The week after that I had 8 injections of Botox under EMG guidance, into my right arm and hand for the dystonia.
Following those procedures, I have been advised that I will never be able to do the type of work I have done all my adult life. I am devastated. I was really looking forward to meeting with the VocRehab counselor the Work Comp carrier set me up with. That turned out to be a nightmare experience. I have been limited to finding a career where I use my hands only 30% of the time. The counselor was rude, condescending, and I actually felt worse after meeting with him.
Because I work in a hospital, I have been advised that there is little chance of them finding a suitable position for me. It has been a month and 1/2 since I heard from my case worker, or the VocRehab counselor. My family continues to suffer the consequences of the financial burden, as well as my depression, inability to work and do all the activities I normally do with my kids, like playing catch, riding bikes, and rollerblading. I have worked fulltime since I was 16 years old, it has been incredibly hard to do nothing for the last 3 months. I feel completely at the mercy of the work comp system.
My husband works for the same employer, so when my Family Medical Leave ran out 3 weeks after my second surgery, so did my benefits. We had to switch the coverage over to his. They take an extra $205 p/m out of his check to continue our health, dental and life insurance, plus I have to pay an additional $22.30 a month to continue my long term disability coverage. If they find me eligible, I would be able to collect the minimum benefit starting in Dec 2002, that is 40% of my salary, but they subtract the work comp pay, so I am left with nothing from that.
And by the way, I have pain and suffering everyday of my life, and will continue to do so until the day I die. I feel like this country has done nothing to protect the rights of legitimately injured workers, simply because of those who have abused the system. I don't think it's fair. If I had a dime for every time someone told me to hire an attorney in the last 8 months, I wouldn't be worried about how we will pay the bills at the end of the month. I have resisted doing this because I keep trying to have faith in the employer that I have been loyal and hard working for, for the last 17 years, but is getting more and more difficult as I feel like I am going nowhere.
Feels good to get this off my chest, even if it did take 1/2 hour to type! Thanks for listening.