For those who haven’t been following along, let me give you the cliff notes for the past 8 years or so of my life. This is a pretty long post, so I’m putting in a “more” tag (just click it to read the rest of the story).
October, 2000 – I was hired by a fantastic company for even more fantastic pay! They have a fantastic culture, the benefits are amazing, and my position of Senior Applications Engineer is both challenging and rewarding.
June, 2002 – While doing charity work for Habitat for Humanity, I injured my back. Actually, I was shoveling rocks and felt the disk at L4-L5 go crunch. Intense pain began to appear in my left leg.
May, 2003 – After a great many tests and MRI’s, I went in for surgery. They performed a discectomy on the herniated disk, removing the chunk that was pressing up against the nerve that went down my left leg. The surgeon told me there may be complications from the procedure, as he had issues getting the nerve out of the way to cut. I felt pretty damn good… for about 6 months.
May, 2004 – Once again, I went under the knife. I had to have a fusion of the L4-L5 vertebra. The pain is now in both legs, and my back hurts like hell all the time. I finally gave in earlier and accepted the morphine my doctor kept offering me. It makes things tolerable. The surgery went fine, but I had a complication after the fact which kept me in the hospital for an extra 4 days and nearly killed me (literally).
March, 2005 – Yes, I went under the knife again. This time it was to remove the screws and rods from my back, as the muscles were rubbing on them every time I walked (or even moved), causing intense pain. I still have pain in both legs (complications of the prior surgeries that caused scaring on the neural sheaths), but I’m still able to work, so life is good.
December, 2006 – I’m back on morphine and oxycodone again and have been for months now. My back and legs are hurting pretty damn bad and I’ve discovered that I can no longer feel either of my feet (I feel pressure, but can’t feel a pin prick). I’m diagnosed with a case of neuropathy. On the up side, I just transferred departments at work and got my dream job of Senior Web Developer!! Oh… and I had to quit driving my car and started taking the bus (Washington state has very strict DUI laws that include prescription medications… especially the one’s I’m on). I don’t mind, and I’m saving a ton on gas.
October, 2007 – The medications I take to fight the pain have made it impossible for me to do my job anymore. I am in constant pain and live in a foggy cloud. Just taking the bus to work tears my back up so bad that I’m in tears when I arrive at work. I’m forced to go out on long term disability, but I had purchased insurance for that through work. They pay me 70% of my salary until I’m better or until age 65, which ever comes first.
January, 2008 – Dancing through all the burning hoops that Prudential (my disability insurance company) has thrown at me hasn’t been fun, but I’m FINALLY approved for long term disability!! I miss going to work terribly and would do anything to go back, but I’m no better than I was back in October. I try to make the best of it and settle into what life has become.
February, 2008 – I had another surgical procedure, a facet rhizotomy. They go in and basically burn the nerves off in your back to stop the pain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful and actually seems to have made things worse. I’m told that there’s nothing else they can do but keep me on a maintenance plan and medicate me for the long term.
June, 2008 – My insurance company only pays me a small portion of what they’re supposed to. I call them up to find out what the hell is going on and they tell me that my Doctor has released me to work. Um… no, he hasn’t. I call my doctor and we discover a snafu in my medical records. It’s corrected and my doctor immediately forwards that information to Prudential. I call them and they tell me it’s all straightened out and it’s good. My doctor also gives me a permanent handicap permit for parking (to make walking easier).
July, 2008 – I receive a letter from Prudential stating that they’ve canceled my disability insurance, effective June 30, 2008. According to them, I have a sprained back, take morphine and ocycodone, and yet have no back pain. I try to reach my case manager at Prudential, but she doesn’t return my calls until I leave a message for her supervisor. I’m told that I’m pretty much S.O.L., but I have the right to appeal their decision. I immediately send them my letter of appeal.
Today – I talked to my doctor about all the crap I’ve been dealing with and ask him to please send them another letter, using strong language, that explains my situation. He shows me my medical records, the same ones that Prudential has seen, and they clearly state my actual medical issues. There’s no way they could have misinterpreted them in the way that my letter of rejection states unless they ignored the letter my doctor sent. They’re just taking me for a ride.
Without my disability income, I’m screwed. It pays my mortgage and other bills. Our income on my wife’s salary alone won’t cut it. Of course, I could sue them to make them pay… but without my income, how the hell do I hire a lawyer. We had been saving up money for quite a while, but had to pay to put a new roof on the house and other repairs this year, so those savings have dwindled quite a bit. I didn’t know that Prudential would pull the rug out from under me like this.
So… if you’re a lawyer who specializes in cases like this… and you work for pro bono (or at least an amount I can afford) please, I could seriously use your help right about now, before I lose everything.