1200 Miles For a Doctors Visit!
This post is going to be about my daily life because something really big just happened and it is going to set several balls into motion that can change my life. I just drove 1200 miles to go to a Doctors visit! To understand it all we have to go back to August 4, 2011. For the fourth year I was a campground host in National Forest Campgrounds. I had worked at this same campground for the same company for the last 3 years in the Sierra National Forest above Fresno, CA. I had 4 small campgrounds scattered across the Forest. I drove my own vehicle between them and the company I worked for reimbursed me for mileage. To save money on gas, that year I had bought a motorcycle and was riding it back and forth between campgrounds. On August 4, I was riding between campgrounds and had an accident that severely broke my wrist and shattered the elbow of my right arm—of course I am right handed. My boss took me to the hospital and I had my first surgery that night. A week later I had a second surgery, three weeks later I had a third and in May of 2012 I had my fourth and final surgery. Because I was on the job, all of my medical expenses were covered by Workman’s Compensation.
Because the damage was so severe, recovery was very, very slow. For 2 months all I did was lay flat on my back in my campground with my arm elevated. I had zero use of my arm and fingers, none of them could move. In October I began to go to physical therapy for just my fingers. At that time I could not move them even the tiniest amount, they were locked solid. It took over a month of painful therapy for me to be able to move my thumb an inch and touch my forefinger. It wasn’t until December that I could squeeze my hand and make a fist. All along my Doctor kept telling me that it was all up to me. If I worked really hard I could regain most of the use of my fingers and wrist, and if I did not I could lose it all. I worked hard!! Today I have regained nearly all use of my fingers and probably 70% of my wrist.
Three months after the accident, we started working on the elbow in physical therapy. We worked hard and it was very painful, but we made almost no progress. I’ll never forget the day the therapist told me that we probably would never see any improvement. Fortunately, he was wrong and we suddenly had a breakthrough and it did make a very slight improvement. While it wasn’t much, it did allow me to start feeding myself with my right hand, for which I am very grateful! The range of motion in that arm is pretty restricted. If you let your arm hang straight down and then lift it up to touch your shoulder, you have a range of motion of almost 180 degrees. I have about ½ of that or about 90 degrees. My Doctor discharged me last July of 2012 and said there was nothing more medicine could do for me.
Workmans Comp is obligated to make a settlement with it’s clients to make a cash reimbursement for loss of future wages. So if I am unable to work again, or will earn less because of the accident, then they must pay me for my future lost wages. That is all determined by one last visit to a specialist who determines my ability to work. He writes the final report that becomes the basis of that settlement. It’s been a long time coming, but I just had that final Doctors visit. Because all this happened in Fresno, CA. I had to drive back over to Fresno for the visit. The Doctors appointment was at 3:30 PM on Wednesday April 10. Because it was a 600 mile drive back from Prescott to Fresno, there was no way I was going to make it in 2 days and so I made it a three day trip. I left Tuesday, April 9 and spent the night in the desert outside of Mojave, Ca. The next morning I drove in Fresno, went to the appointment and then drove back to Mojave to camp in the same spot. Thursday I drove back to camp just north of Prescott: 1200 miles in three days. Fortunately, it was a totally uneventful trip!
The Doctors visit was surprisingly short and simple. He basically just went over my history, measured my range of motion and tested my grip strength. Not much to it! He also got new X-Rays in order to check for arthritis. That is one thing I have to worry about, trauma to a joint like this often leads to early and severe arthritis. He seemed very sympathetic toward me as the patient. He said that I would not be able to go back to work as a campground host because I had lost too much strength, range of motion and endurance. That answered a lot of questions for me. I really liked being a campground host and actually miss it. I liked the people I worked with and nearly all the campers I met. And of course, the money was good! So I have been torn about it and part of me wanted to try to go back to work. But this settled it once and for all; it simply is not an option.
We could be talking about a fairly large chunk of money in the Settlement, so I had already gotten an attorney. The next step is for my attorney and the Insurance Company to haggle out a Settlement. While I have no idea what it will be, $20,000 is a number that gets thrown around a lot. The attorney will get 15% of whatever it is.
Something else I need to do now is apply for Social Security Disability. I needed this final Doctors Report to apply, so now I can do that. From my research it seems like I have a very good chance of getting it. I have only had blue collar jobs, and of all of them campground host was the easiest. If I can’t work at that job, there is no job I have ever done that I could do now. I’ll be 58 soon and it is much too late to try to re-train me in a whole new field.
This isn’t the end of the saga of my broken arm, but it brings the end much, much closer; and as far as I am concerned, it can’t come soon enough!
Bob, I’ve heard and read about your accident and knew that it was really bad but I had no idea that the damage was so extensive. You must have worked extremely hard to get everything back to the condition that it is today.
Everything sounds good for you to qualify for a settlement and disability. I hope that it all works out. Waiting and not knowing what the future holds is too stressful. Good luck with it all!
Karen, the last thing I could ever do is complain to you about a disability! You two are the worlds champions with coping with disabilities. There are few people I admire more than you and Tony!
I was very fortunate, I couldn’t have gotten a better doctor or physical therapist. To my dying breath, I will them a deep debt. I owe an even greater debt to my boss and his wife, who are much more than a boss, they are some of my best friends. They took care of me like I was kin, I owe them so much!
I did work very hard and I am quite pleased with the results. I can easily do the great majority of my normal activities. A few things are difficult or impossible, but they are just minor irritations. I have lost a lot of strength and especially endurance from it, but most normal activities don’t require that much of either.
I went ahead and applied online for disability, so the ball is in motion.
I wish you and tony the very best!!
Bob, I feel your pain. I shattered my wrist in a motorcycle accident a few years ago. The loss of motion is truly a loss! I totaled a Chevy Suburban with my Harley. The Harley was also totaled. You and I are still here so a happy ending in my eyes!
You are so right Greg. As the bush pilots in Alaska say, “Any landing you walk away from is a good one!”
I’m glad that you will at least be getting a nice lump sum. You have gone through enough pain and effort for it.
This post gives me food for thought. I just bought a moped as my only (current) vehicle. The reminder to be careful and keep in touch with Greater Powers (aka hope for luck) is timely. I pride myself and my Greater Powers for over forty years of riding the roads on bicycles without colliding with a car, which gives me hope for good outcomes with the moped. You remind me that I could go down by other means. Caution without overwhelming fear has served me well so far.
Also, I hadn’t realized that camp hosting paid more than minimum wage. Of course, with no rent, etc., to pay that would stretch much further. More research is called for.
My wife went through the process of winning a Workers Comp claim and getting a disability (SSI) here in Ohio. Sad to say two years is probably about average for a Comp claim. I’m glad the end is in sight for you.
Beware the decision-makers at Social Security. They want to believe you can work, and they have fertile imaginations. They have their own doctors, too, who make their money by doubting your disability. People do eventually get the disability but the process is intentionally stressful for the claimant. You’ll be ok in the long run, but take care of yourself. Keep your friends close and get a good attorney.
Calvin, all my life I have loved motorcycles-up till now! I have been very torn about getting another one. At this point I am pretty sure I am going to get an electric bicycle instead. The technology has really improved and they are a viable alternative transportation for short runs. I have the solar to charge it then transportation literally will be free! When the settlement comes through I will get one for sure and possibly sooner.
I put in my application for SSD and now all I can do is put one foot in front of the other and leave the results up to Higher Power.
The company I worked for started you at $8.50 an hour in CA and increased with service. I would have been about $10 had I gone back this year. But you get a free campsite and there is NOWHERE to spend your money! I literally was deep in the middle of the Sierra NF. So at the end of the summer, I walked away with a bunch of money in the bank.
I’d be mainly afraid of going down because of a wheel refusing to climb out of a rut, and I’m wary of that even on my bicycle. An electric bike ups the speed, though you can’t beat the freedom from carrying gasoline. About the only motorcycle I’d consider is any year of Yamaha TW200, a smallish bike with incredibly fat tires and four-cycle engine. It ain’t fast, but ruts and deep sand are a non-issue.
The road we are on is posted with a warning that it is not passable when wet. Many roads in the Southwest are like that, they turn into gumbo that only the very best 4x4s can get through. The road we are on has several big ruts in it. All the vans have gotten through it in problems. I didn’t have any problems with my 6×10 trailer and Charlene didn’t have any problems with her 7×12 trailer. Getting a bike through them would be no problem.
But, if it rains or snows much we won’t be able to leave until it dries, so we all came with enough food and water to last us through a long time.
Hope you join us!
Bob, heres hoping that you get the settlement you’re entitled to plus the SS Disability! The SS Disability can be tough to get, but it sounds like you have the proof you will need to satisfy the government!
John, I believe I am in pretty good shape to get it, but you never know until the first deposit goes in the bank!
Bob-Again, thanks for the direct, personal background. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and understand its ability to hinder ordinary life, RE:feeding/cleaning yourself. I always read your posts with my own “arthritis filter” in mind. I am always inspired by the ability to adapt and trive despite regular and routine adversity. You, sir, have sand.
As to SSI Disability: Get a specialty atty.. Not all attys specialize in Disability. I paid my family atty. a $100 consult fee to research (ask collegues) for a good Disability Atty.. It was worth every penny!! All the work can be done via mail/phone, so location is not that important. It’s a LONG process. Expect to be turned down the 1st time through the application process. It’s procedure. You’ll likely be approved on appeal. Your atty earns his/her money by telling you how NOT to answer the questions. Most folks talk themselves out of coverage!
If you have any questions about SSI Disability, feel free to email. I do have a few really good resources. It can be a daunting ordeal, but ultimately worth the 1.5 to 3 year process.
I’m really sorry to see you in this place, physically limited due to an accident is not a good thing… getting the money help for down the road is the only bright spot to this.
Good luck with you’re negotiations!
Rob, I certainly did not do it on purpose! But, I have to be honest and say in retrospect I am glad it did happen. The settlement and the Disability are going to change my life and I am delighted. I know how politically incorrect that statement is, but it is the truth! Again, I would never do it on purpose, but now that is is done I’m glad.
In Minnesota Worker’s Comp payouts are not negotiable. There’s a chart for each limb against which your percentage of disability is calculated. So the hard part for me was hearing the word “permanent” as in “permanent partial disability”. I remember saying, “Permanent as in always, forever, the rest of my life?” And the doctor saying, “Yes, that’s what permanent means.” Mine was only 15% so I feel very fortunate indeed. And I now have no funny bone in my right elbow. Life goes on.
Linda, my claim is in California, so no telling how different it may be. But I think it is basically the same. The AMA has a book of standards that all doctors use to determine disability so that is the same everywhere. He said all he had to do is plug in the numbers of my range of motion and the chart would spit out a percentage of loss. He also warned me that I would think whatever the number was was much too low. But he also warned me that the Insurance Company would offer more if I would give up my future right to medical coverage on the injured limb. I think that is where the negotiating comes in.
To be honest right now I would be willing to do that for more money. There is nothing on the horizon that medical science can do for elbows, they are just too complicated and I am quite satified with my wrist and hand. There are elbow replacements, but the result is usually to make it worse instead of better. However, my one big concern is future arthritis in the joints. But my doctor doesn’t think that is likely, he says the my main problem is soft tissue damage, not bone damage.
But you are quite right, life does go on, and in both of our cases, life goes on extremely well!!
Be sure and check the amounts receivable for your final SS payments after retirement age…I have a friend whose final payments were “frozen” at her SSDI amount which was less than she would have had given her figures for regular SS. May or may not be applicable in your case; I’ve not a clue how these things work but she does (now!) and I just called her to check–she gets $238. less per month than she would have had on her regular SS. She was married (husband dead now) and it just occurs to me now (I didn’t think to ask her) that part of the regular SS benefit may have been figured from his SS but I’d think in any case it would be worth getting it straight because once you make the choice/go to the effort it’s done and you don’t want to box yourself info the wrong corner.
Thanks for that info Sarah, I will remember that. Back before I retired I used to get yearly statements telling me my estimated amount of SSI and SSD. My Disability was more than regular SS so I don’t think that will apply to me. But, you never know, it’s something to be aware of.
Bob, thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m so very sorry you’ve had to endure all of this. Please, please do as one other reader suggested and get at attorney that specializes in SSI. Being denied the first time is almost a rite of passage.
Also, check with your local AARP office and Area Agency on Aging. I know you’re not old (I’ll be 50 in a few days, so I know of what I speak 😉 ), but they can help you with other types of assistance for which you may qualify.
You’ve been a hard worker all your life, and you’ve earned everything you receive! Good luck to you, and keep us posted.
Naomi, you are just a kid, I’m an old man of 57!! Just kidding we are both still young with lots of good, good life ahead of us!! That’s all good advice and I will take it. Thanks!
Wow, that IS a long drive for a doctors appointment! Years ago I was struck by a hit and run driver on my way home from work, and almost lost my right leg. The pain in rehab was pretty shocking. I never knew what real pain was until then. They gave me the standard warning about arthritis in that joint (my knee) but as far as I can tell it has held up about as well as the other one, and that was 30 years ago. Glad you came through all that relatively well. Good luck, and keep up the good work!
Jon, I’m sorry to hear about your accident and all you went through. I have a fairly high tolerance to pain and as odd as it sounds this really was never all that excruciatingly painful. Good to hear that you didn’t get arthritis, that is encouraging for me!
Well Bob, at least you’ve still got your good looks! What an ordeal. How fortunate at least that you were on the job when you spilled, or it would have been a very, very different story.
Lest anyone read into your post that crippling one’s body is a great way to cash in on some kind of financial bonanza, I’m reminded of the movie “Office Space” where Tom, an older office worker who just talked himself out of a job with head-cutter “consultants”, gets depressed and tries unsuccessfully to asphyxiate himself on exhaust fumes. Surprised by his wife, he pretends nothing is wrong and then backs out into the street, only to be T-boned by a fast-moving truck. He survives, and returns home in a wheelchair with multiple limb casts, body braces, a neck brace, head brace, and oxygen tank. His lawyer has managed to wangle a large settlement out of the insurance company, and Tom is delighted and is hosting a celebration party. He advises the main character, “Just remember, if you hang in there long enough, good things can happen in this world… I mean, look at me!” He chuckles with delight, but suddenly stops, wincing and groaning from the pain of moving slightly.
You have my admiration, sir.
You’r right Doug, my good looks are everything!!! Boy are your right about being lucky I was on the job. Had it been my day off and I was out for a drive I don’t know what I would have done. I’m sure the medical costs were at least $250,000 and I don’t have insurance. I’m sure it would have meant loosing total use of the arm. There are laws requiring hospitals to give urgent care, so the first week in the hospital and the those two surgeries would not have changed. But I doubt if everything that came after would have happened.
Does it make me an awful person that I am like Tom and I am actually celebrating that it happened? Maybe I am going to lose your admiration!
There’s nothing wrong with appreciating the silver lining around the cloud.
Thanks Naomi, that makes me feel better!
Nyah. My admiration is for your persistence in rehab and the paperwork. The thing to note here is that the character Tom did have a celebration party, and everyone understood very well why he was celebrating and happy, but at the same time he convinced no one that, given a choice, that it was worth it. They appreciated the “seven-figure settlement”, but weren’t jealous because their perception of what he lost didn’t make his gain appealing enough. They were happy that he was happy, and that’s about it.
You think that you’re glad it happened. I think that you’re glad it happened the way it did. Big difference. Obviously, you weren’t celebrating two months into it. Was it “worth it” in the end? Well, in a way, looking at it right now, yes! I’m happy for you! It worked out well, considering you’re now facing “the autumn of your life” with a pretty gimpy arm. What you’re actually doing is making the best of a bad situation and looking at the plus side with some thanksgiving, an admirable trait.
You haven’t yet convinced me to get a job and wreck my vehicle and be seriously injured while doing that job, so maybe I can get a settlement too, for not being able to work any more because I’ll be permanently disabled. I know that the income will help you tremendously, but what you gave up to get what you got, well… just doesn’t appeal. Maybe that’s just me. Am I glad that it worked out for you as it has, considering? You betcha.
If I’m misreading you, ready to have another go? I’ve got my mountain bike here, and there’s a great 100-foot drop into the wash down over those rocks… Boy, I’d REALLY admire you then!
Doug, you are so right, if the outcome was no improvement from the first few months when I lost 100% use of the arm and hand, I would have been devastated. There is much more to this story than I will ever say in print, but had it been a 100% loss, I would have taken my life. I’m certain of that. As bad as the broken arm was, it was a minor annoyance compared to the other things going on in my life.
My doctor never once gave me any indication of how it might turn out, and I never once asked. For some reason it never occurred to me that it might be permanent. The day the physical therapist told me the elbow was permanent, was a horrible day and I cried the whole way home back to camp. I was already deeply depressed from other situations in my life and after he told me that I was genuinely suicidal. It could have gone either way, I honestly could find very few reasons to keep on living. Homer was number 1 on the list.
Had my doctor been totally honest from the beginning, I am fairly confident I would not have lived through the ordeal. In October I went to physical therapy 3 days a week the whole month and each was 120 miles round trip of difficult mountain roads. The majority of those trips were spent with me in tears. So, would I go back and do it all over again; NEVER!
How about that for a side-trip into the morbid! But it is all true and I really am committed to being as transparent as I can here. I guess if I am going to say how glad I am for the final outcome, I should be as just as honest about how bad it got for awhile.
Doug, you will probably feel bad at bringing all that out of me, but don’t!!! I love your humor and very much appreciate it. Keep it coming!
Heh…I don’t think it makes you bad at all. As I said to you last year, in a sick and twisted way, it’s a really good thing to have happened. 😉
I didn’t realize how much you’d gone through, though–I admire you even more now I have a sense of it, though it sure makes me wince on your behalf and feel squeamish.
Linda, it was a horrible emotional ordeal, probably worse than I’m able to describe. But really the physical pain was not that bad. I think I have a high tolerance to pain because I never used all the pain pills he prescribed. In fact I have more than a full bottle of leftovers I carry around just in case I may need it someday.
One of the hidden blessings was that the pain pills totally took away my appetite for food (the depression probably contributed as well). I could NOT eat. I had to force myself to put every bite in my mouth. I lost at least 20 lbs. I guess that is not uncommon and is one reason why Medical Marijuana is so valuable because it not only takes away the pain, but increases your appetite. I never took any though!
I am new to this blog and appreciate your details, Bob, and your spunk which includes a great attitude! In a previous life when I was in my 50’s I motorcycled throughout the U.S./Canada.
Probably not the best option now that I am 69+, but oh…such freedom in the wind….we will see….temptations avail themselves!
Joan, there is nothing like the joy and freedom of riding a motorcycle! I also have driven them all over the USA. One Summer I flew down to Seattle and bought a brand new full-dress Suzuki 850 and drove it all over the Western United States, camping along the way. At the end of the summer I drove it back up the Alcan (Alaska-Canada Highway) to Anchorage. It was October by the time I got home and I rode the last 50 miles through a snowstorm. This was in the 80s when driving the Alcan was still an accomplishment. Now it is essentially paved.
I’d sure like to meet you one of these days Joan, you sound like quite the adventurer!
Just gotta’ tell you, Bob, that my Suzuki 850 is sitting in my son’s garage all “gunked” up from years of disuse, but if I wanted it fixed he would help me. I did much of my travels on a Honda Pacific Coast – you know, the “motorcycle on steroids.” 🙂 Anyway, I loved the Suzuki because it was just enough lower to give me more stability. Although I have a little R-pod now to pull with my 4 cylinder Toyota I am thinking about going the Class C route and put a little Honda scooter on the back. That is why I found your comments about the electric bike interesting.
I will be in Idaho in July for a few months just hanging out in my R-pod and thinking about my future as I finish this Peace Corps stint here in Mongolia in June 2013.
Bring on the adventure….za!
Joan, I’ve never owned a Pacific Coast, but I have often drooled over them! I took a very long trip on a full-dress Goldwing and love them!! But the pacific Coast seems like a much better compromise.
I am still open to a scooter but I’m leaning towards the electric bike. They are both illegal on freeways and not safe on fast roads. So my current thinking is why not get the one that doesn’t have a gas motor and requires no fossil fuel. I have plenty of solar to charge it. Carry a spare battery and you get an easy 30-40 mile range at 15-20 mph. There are even several very nice fold-up electric bikes!
I agree with getting a lawyer, but if you wait until the turn you down the first time, then get a lawyer, they get paid out of the “settlement” they get from SSD, but it takes a long time because the longer they wait, the more your initial settlement it since it reverts back to when they first turned you down. Typically I have heard times of like 14 months or so. If they take 30%, at least you get 70% and then 100% thereafter. Anyway, perhaps the lawyer you have can give you some advice as to a lawyer who can help you when/if you need it. It is VERY COMMON to be turned down the first time you apply for SSD….
Dave (and Marcia and Bubba and Skruffy)
Thanks for that advice Dave, it seems like almost everyone things getting a lawyer is a good idea. I will probably go ahead and do that. I appreciate your input!
I don’t know, Bob…Isn’t there an upper cap on income for vandwellers? You might be disqualifying yourself. You might have to stay in rv parks now.
Mary Ann, if there is I’m afraid I will be close to hitting it! Are you all going to kick me out of the club!! Please let me stay!!!!!!
I think you can stay. Just don’t get too uppity!
A coup would not be entirely out of the question.
The vandwellers I’ve met seem to be generally up for a group activity…
Mary Ann, I’ll try to be good!
I can attest to arthritis being severe from trauma. When I was a teenager I raced motocross bikes and had some very nasty crashes. Fast forward to my 52nd birthday where I am getting both hips replaced because of advanced and severe arthritis.
Good silver lining for you as earning any kind of money in the new America is getting to be somewhat rare and even more rare for those of us over 50.
CAE, well, now that is a scary story! But it verifies what I often hear that in the long run trauma to joints often leads to arthritis. I’m 58 and who knows how long I have left. I tend to live more in the moment than in the future so I’m not going to let it be too much of a factor in my life.
So sorry about your pain. Never give up. SSI takes a long time, took me 3 yrs, hated to apply as I had worked all my life. The difference between SSI and SS retirement (at least in my case) was “0”. Now at 69 yrs young I have had a knee replaced and now know what pain is! Keep pluging and have a SSI lawyer follow the case all the way.
Ed, I’m sorry for the pain you are going through now, but from what I hear knee replacements are often a miracle in the long run. I hope this one turns into that for you!!
What really surprises me about your situation is that your company allowed you to transport yourself on the job on a motorcycle in the first place, given their inherent danger factor. I find it hard to believe that no lawyer or anyone who looked at your case hasn’t tried to deny you based on your choice to use the motorcycle. Seems your van or a company-supplied golf cart should have been in order. Hope that doesn’t become a factor.
Poorplayer, riding motorcycles on the job was common. My boss rode his scooters on the job as did other employees. He knew from the very beginning that I would be as well. belive me, as soon as I had the accident the company made it a universal policy of not allowing motorcycles. I think it is a battle they knew they could not win. Bob
Years ago I had an on-the-job-injury as well. You are still healing physically, emotionally and intellectually. And it will take time. But know this…the body is its own physician and can do wonders if you think that. If you have faith and confidence in your body and spirit, and keep exercising your elbow (and wrist), given time, there will be much healing. Don’t forget healthy diet and caring for supporting muscles as well. So keep up the good work.
Things happen in life, don’t they?
Just FYI–there are retraining programs out there for “seniors” of all ages. Here in Eugene OR, Goodwill has a free one for ages 50+ call for center work. As one “matures”, box-busting jobs don’t work well for the body. Amazon has advertised here on craigslist for call center Christmas work from the home. REI in Seattle adds seasonal to their call center.
Best wishes to you as you move through this chapter of your life. Thanks for sharing.
Sheryl, thanks for the very encouraging words, they are very helpful. Those are some great ideas for work, but I am hoping my working days are finally behind me!! (By the way, we really dicourage use of that 4-Letter work starting with “W” around here! No obscenities please!!)
Bob, here’s wanting everything to go ok all thru this process. I to went thru this looong trip. Got the ok from SS disability the 1st time. That was good. When i got the setlement, 3 years later, the amount i got would have been what i would have earned if i had of worked those 3 years. Seems to be a large sum. And is in a way. The lawyer said i could go to court, but wanted to get on with my life. If you feel the amount is not enough, go to court. If you can wait. Good luck going foward.
Thanks Roy, it’s good to hear a success story about SSDI. Makes me feel better!
Hey there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after checking
through some of the post I realized it’s new to me.
Nonetheless, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be
bookmarking and checking back often!