A response to a reader


It seems to me that one feature of this column is that I respond to readers’ comments and questions either in print or directly to the individual.

I pay particular notice to requests I follow up on a subject I’ve written about in the past because I figure if one reader is interested there are likely more. And so when Doris, a long-time reader with an excellent memory, buttonholed me recently with a request I update a story from some months ago I just couldn’t resist — so let’s get started.

This tale is about Louise who started her career in nursing as a nurse’s aide, upgraded her status by becoming a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), and then, after considerable effort, became a Registered Nurse (RN). She got a job as an RN in an area she preferred and life was going along quite nicely — until disaster struck.

About 17 months ago she was assisting some colleagues in shifting a very heavy patient from a gurney to a bed when she felt something “pop” in her right shoulder and felt pain. She went to a hospital emergency room where she was diagnosed with either a muscle strain or something more severe. Louise returned to work and with her employers’s assistance, started a claim with the state Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) program for a workplace injury. A physician specializing in shoulder injuries confirmed she had two tears in her rotator cuff area that would require surgery with about five months recovery time before she could return to work. Shortly thereafter, her employer abruptly “let her go” for unspecified reasons and suddenly Louise was without an income or health insurance — and she was not eligible for unemployment benefits.

Three months after her injury, in desperation after an almost unbelievable series of “you gotta be kidding me” mishaps, she contacted a lawyer who agreed to take her case. Well, that move apparently jump-started her claim and she got approval for the corrective surgery — to be done almost exactly five months to the day after she was injured.

The surgery revealed the time lapse since her injury had caused her shoulder muscle to shrink which required a complicated procedure involving a much larger incision than anticipated. Regardless, the surgery was successful and she was discharged after a night in the hospital.

Louise then encountered another series of those “you gotta be kidding me” events with her medication authorization, post-operation procedures, and claim for compensation. When I last reported, a little more than six months had gone by since Louise was injured. She was still awaiting her surgeon’s approval to commence rehab; had limited use of her arm; couldn’t drive or do many common household chores; required occasional pain pills; had no compensation or income; and relied on family and friends for food, shelter, transportation, and financial support.

Well, Louise finally got approval for physical rehab and underwent months of increasingly strenuous exercises but with limited success. While this medical stuff was going on, her legal counsel was pursuing the compensation question. She got a relatively modest lump “catch up” payment and a “temporary disability” weekly award while her case was still under review. Several “lump sum” offers to settle her claim were floated but went nowhere as the parties couldn’t agree. Not long ago a panel of physicians determined she has a permanent partial disability — she has no rotator cuff in her right shoulder and therefore has diminished use of her right arm. This finding has resulted in a weekly compensation being determined at a rate well under minimum wage.

In the meantime, the BWC folks were assisting Louise in reentering the work force but — now get this — required her to submit 15 applications/resumes a week — and do five weekly “walk-in” visits to possible employers. Her case officer also requested she keep her LPN credentials up to date so she could revert to working as an LPN despite her being a qualified Registered Nurse. How about them apples?

Ok, so what’s the current status? Louise has very recently found an RN job. It’s part time at around 30 hours a week, but it’s in her preferred area of nursing and the somewhat limited use of her right arm is apparently no problem. I’m sure she will have difficulty jumping into 12-hour shifts after having been out of the work force for so long, but she’s a pretty resilient — and determined — woman.

Well, Doris, there’s your update, but I wouldn’t be surprised if more twists and turns materialize so I’ll continue to track this. You know, when you come to think of it, these real-life tales are a lot more intriguing than fiction — you can’t make this stuff up. At least that’s how it seems to me.


By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected].

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