Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I've been off-line for a while.

The place I'm living lost its RCN ISP account when someone in management stopped paying the bills and departed and nobody else picked them up. No way that I'm blogging from my job in the State Department. Then, on June 11th, I went in for back surgery.

At least I had the presence of mind to turn on the wireless features on my cell phone before the hospital stay. It was primitive, but I could follow the forums and post, and get gmail while on my back in the hospital bed.

The surgery was due to an accident, last year. I'm sure I've blogged about it before; if not here, then certainly at my blog. Briefly: May of 2006 an aggressive, foreign-born motorist piled into the back of my bike as I was doing a decel looking for an entry into a merge lane to access a freeway on-ramp. I think he came from two lanes out, trying to beat the cars catching up to me after cars between us had peeled off for an East-bound on-ramp, or to beat a red light.

Nationwide accepted fault and had to pay for my emergency room visit, but expenses stopped there. The emergency room failed to do a MRI, despite my complaining of a stiff back and headaches, probably because insurance companies are aggressively denying such expenses to contain costs, prescribed pain killers, and told me to see an Orthopedic specialist.

The specialist office they referred me to never returned my calls. Nationwide refused to pay for the prescriptions for pain killers unless I cam into the office the next week to sign a waiver. Then they would "give me a little money to cover expenses."

I was ticked that they were forcing me to hire a lawyer, and went back to my own company, GEICO. The GEICO rep was very supportive and helpful and offered to let me go through them for better service, but as Nationwide had already admitted fault I was reluctant to incur costs upon my own insurer.

In the end I was fortunate that a friend suggested a good lawyer who was willing to take me on contingency. I got orthopedic and neurological care, but still no MRI. Maryland Orthopedics apparently was willing to wait a year or more to be paid after any settlement. I went to physical therapy for about six weeks and was returned to light duty, whereupon I gave up working for myself and accepted my current full-time position. Six weeks-or-so later they put me on full duty, and I returned to teaching motorcycle safety classes for Maryland MVA at Montgomery Community College. The first day back on that weekend job, after about 80 minutes of walking, standing, and teaching on the blacktop, I doubled over from pain shooting down my left leg.

With these new symptoms, I was able to get a MRI. Apparently, they needed some indicator that the MRI would find something and risked not being reimbursed by a court if it could be construed that the procedure was simply to aid in diagnosis. Maybe this could be construed as an attempt to unethically inflate claims if it were applied to everyone with a stiff back after an accident.

They found a lot of problems on the MRI with discs. Bone fragments were floating in the spinal column, I was told. This caused inflammation of nerves and the sciatica-like symptoms that I was experiencing. New medicine helped, but as I tried to return to my normal life and to "remain active" as the emergency room doctor had instructed me, the problems continued to progress.

My new job turned out to be a major benefit. The employer provided unlimited sick leave and medical benefits that eliminated the financial risk of surgery, should a settlement not go my way. Probably it was the affect of depression that often follows accidents that I remained preoccupied with potential negative outcomes and accepted considerable pain and inconvenience to keep costs down just in case I might someday get the bill, myself. I don't think that this pleased my attorney, particularly.

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