Accident Disabled Cauda Equina Sufferer Seeks Grant Help For Independence
by Frank Piatt
(Warren, Michigan, USA)
Back in March of 2009, I was a Branch Manager for a company called Production Tool Supply and they fired me. I was 51 years old and in a job market that had no jobs.
They called me a week later and asked me to come back to work for them, but in a different position. I had to drive farther and work as an hourly paid (instead of salaried) employee.
It meant taking a 40% cut in my pay, but my wife and I both thought we needed the insurance, so I took the downgraded position.
A few months later, my wife came to me and said her brakes were making a noise. We took the car to a shop that wanted $465 to fix the problem.
With my cut in pay, we didn't feel we could afford that much for the repairs, so we took the car home and decided to put it in the garage where I could fix it at my leisure.
There was already a truck in there that we needed to get out. When I went to push the truck out so it could be jumpstarted, I felt a little "pop" in my lower back.
I knew my pushing was through for the day but carried I batteries over and continued to work on it without too much discomfort.
The next day was Monday morning and I could not stand long enough to take a shower. My back and legs were burning badly. It felt like they were on fire.
I called my regular doctor. He prescribed Vicodin and told me to come see him in a couple of days, when I could.
The pain Monday night kept getting worse and worse. Finally, about midnight I told my wife to call an ambulance. They took me to Henry Ford Bi-County Hospital in Warren Michigan on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 right after midnight.
I went to emergency where they x-rayed my back and gave me three or four shots and my walking papers telling me I was free to go home.
I took one step off the bed and went right on the floor. My legs were numb.
I remember giving them my BCBS (Blue Cross Blue Shield) card when they asked about insurance. I told them I had been hurt by pushing a truck out of my garage, never knowing that meant it was a "Automotive" type claim. Never once did anyone explain to me that this might be auto insurance related.
They put me back in the bed and took me to get cat-scanned. I lay there all day Tuesday and didn't even see a doctor.
I called my patient's advocate and finally Wednesday had an Orthopedic Surgeon tell me that he needed better pictures.
Wednesday afternoon they loaded me on an ambulance for a trip to Henry Ford Dearborn and their wide open MRI machine. While getting my first MRI, I could feel slight pain under my arms, but it would come and go.
Well when I got back on the ambulance, the driver noticed the burn marks on my arms and reported it to the staff at Henry Ford.
I had 10 doctors then all coming in telling me how I got them, but not from the MRI.
They were third degree burns for which U of M hospital later had me in their Wound Trauma Therapy Center to try and help them heal. Henry Ford never said a word.
Thursday May 14th I was under the knife for five hours getting a laminectomy, diffusion, five broken fragments removed, and a titanium cage with six screws added near the bottom part of my spine.
I had what is now diagnosed as "Cauda Equina." They put me on a general floor and said they had a rehabilitation floor at that hospital and they would give me both physical and occupational therapies.
Now I had Blue Cross And Blue Shield Insurance through my workplace. They told me they were required to keep my job open for me for 13 weeks (FMLA) but after that they would have to terminate me.
I worked hard trying to understand my brain and my new disconnection to my body. It was all so strange and foreign to me.
I found I could not stand or walk anymore. I had no control over my bladder and bowels. I was suddenly an invalid trapped in a bed. It was so horrible.
I stayed at their rehab floor until they came to me and said I must go. I had two choices: (1) go home (a small 2 bedroom 1000 square foot totally "un" accessible home) or (2) go to a nursing home.
My wife said no way is he going to a nursing home so I came home. But I wasn't ready to go back to the home I had always walked around in. I could only get my wheelchair into the living room and the kitchen.
We rented a ramp from Binson's for $120 a month that left a 5-inch bump step for me to try and get over. I had to hire a medical transport service to come get me out of the house.
They charged $60 each way and $5 a mile costing me $140 just to go see my doctor less than two miles away.
They sent a Home Health Care Agency to my home (I still had the BCBS insurance at the time and what a joke it was). I called and tried to find out as much as I could about getting more help.
I tried to get a ramp built too so I could get in and out of the house by myself. What if a fire broke out I always wondered?
Finally after fighting and spending about $500 more in transportation fees I got a spinal cord doctor at University Of Michigan Hospital to get me into their Spinal Cord Rehab Facility in Ann Arbor.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield did not want to do it because they said I was already through a rehab program. That is true, but it's mostly for stroke patients though, not for spinal cord injury patients.
I came into U of M Hospital July 16, 2009 with what they called a raging UTI (Urinary Tract Infection) with 103 temperature from cathing myself, which I knew very little about and is something I still have to do every 4 hours today.
I worked hard with the team there at U of M Rehab program. They all knew how badly I wanted to walk again. They agreed to my request for double physical therapy sessions everyday, even on weekends!
I took every class and outing that they offered to learn independence and more about seeing things from a wheelchair.
While at the U of M hospital I met a lady and she brought me an application for a physical therapy grant from a place called the Recovery Project.
I filled out all the paperwork, including forms and letters of recommendations from both doctors and physical therapists.
I was let go at the U of M hospital rehab floor Aug 28 and my BCBS insurance was to end August 31. I had been fired from my job August 10 while at the rehab facility.
My 13 weeks were up. My BCBS insurance ended the end of August, something they asked frequently about while I was receiving their care.
Home again I went this time with a wheelchair ramp up to the door though. Now I could get myself in and out of the house at least.
I was awarded a grant for physical therapy in October of 2009 and found that Smartbus would come to my curb and take me to the physical therapy location and their curb in my wheelchair for $1.
God Bless Smartbus! I would not have been able to get back and forth any other way that I know of.
They first gave me six weeks of physical therapy three times a week for two hours. After the six weeks ended and they could see how hard I was trying, they gave me eight more weeks of therapy, but that ended February of 2010.
I was awarded Social Security Disability too in December of 2009 and had to wait for Medicare to kick in 24 months later.
I have to use a catheter every four hours. Who provides those to me? No one. I pay for them out of my pocket.
A few days after my BCBS ran out, I got a call that the wheelchair and the hospital bed they had been renting for me had to be collected.
I said I was still using them. They said sorry but they would be out to pick them both up.
Where is the help? Where is the assistance? I have worked since I was 14 years old and contributed to the system every year.
Why do others that are hurt in an automobile qualify for things I can not? I want to live well and prosper just as they do. I am a person too!
So here I sit trying to find someone to help me walk again. That is all I really ask for… just a little help.
I can't believe our system just turns its back on individuals and takes such good care of others. Is this not the ultimate form of discrimination and maybe a criminal act?
Foundations like the Christopher Reeves Foundation say they are here to improve the lives of spinal cord injury suffers. Hello! Here I am. At least throw me a bone or something, please!
I could tell you more about this life and this world being suddenly disabled and my eyes went bad in March of 2010. I went almost blind and owe close to $50,000 for that. I really don't think anybody cares!
I have been begging the Michigan Rehabilitation service for help in getting a part time job.
I have also enrolled and been accepted into the "Bond" project for the Social Security office.
My only source of income right now is my SSDI check every month. I appreciate that but want to pay off the many medical bills and get my home accessible for me.
Now I find out that I may have qualified for an Automobile Insurance claim if I would have filed within a year. I guess I am at fault there too.
I moved to Michigan in 1998 and have never experienced the No-fault Automobile Insurance laws we have.
How sad to know I have lived as I have lived for three years now and now find out I "could" have gotten the help I may have needed to be able to walk again today.
I still sit in my wheelchair that I bought off eBay for $139.90, needing help and wanting desperately want to walk again.
Everybody tells me what I "should" have done, but I have received no help other than from friends.
How could I have fallen through the cracks so easily? If "help" is out there for me, please let me know I still do not know what to do or how to do it.
Please feel free to contact me if you want to know or hear more or if you can help me. Thank you and God Bless YOU!