Jumping right in here where my post from last week left off, for a refresher, read “From my vantage point – Part 1”
With the wedding behind us, I also left the single cane behind. I’ll be honest, embracing the next level of assistive device has never been, and probably will continue to not be easy for me. Sure, the benefits are pretty clear, but on some level, it feels like I am giving up and am being defeated one more way by this ataxia. Having ataxia, of any kind, is humbling, it’s a pride thing. The forearm crutches were a necessity, and easier to bare when my back stopped hurting as much, as I was able to make it around with greater ease.
We took Kauai by storm, Greta, the sticks, and me. Really, if you’re going to be forced to get use to using something like this more, go somewhere epic, also, where other people don’t know you (I find that last bit makes it easier for me). People stare (mostly kids), but hey, they probably did that even more when I had just a single cane. At some point, I suppose you simply have to adopt the attitude of not caring.
Back to reality in the main land, we settled into the new married business, and life continued. Prior to the motor vehicle accident, despite having ataxia, I still considered myself to be very active with swimming and bicycling. After, well, a year later, I transitioned from my post-surgery laps of walking in the pool, to swimming again, but was only about half capacity without my back hurting more I tried getting back on the road bike with even less success, I could do it, but my back was not happy with those rides. Still, I persisted, not wanting to give up on the fancy road bike I’d purchased about 10 months pre-accident, we even sold Greta’s mountain bike and got her a road bike to cruise along with me, although, apparently it was a bit worrisome to watch me trying to start and stop, clipping in and out of the pedals, with some compromised balance. A year after surgery, it was starting to weigh on me that I very likely would never get back to my pre-accident status. Recovering from a lumbar fusion is tough enough for your average person, add in some unknown neuromuscular ataxia? Well, I kept at it, not wanting to surrender, just yet.
The summer of 2013, Greta and I traveled back to Bethesda, Maryland, for my week of exhaustive medical testing with the Undiagnosed Disease Program (you can read about that visit here: “You are now clear, to hold.“). Amongst the many specialists we visited, the Physiatrist was alarmed to hear that I was still riding a two-wheel bicycle. He flat out told me: “Dude, you gotta protect your melon, and everything else. One spill, and you’re going to to have a whole lot more on your plate than you do now!” I didn’t want to hear this, again, it’s the whole admitting defeat thing. Reluctantly, I agreed to at least look into trikes, which was not exciting, the sound of that sounded slow, and old. Turns out, I was wrong there, I’d say the trike I found has turned out to be every bit as fast, fun, and hip as my fancy Italian roadie was, although, I have to say, what I end up with probably wasn’t exactly the trike the Physiatrist had in mind.
In one of my many scans, it apparently looked like the screws in my lumbar fusion were loose (yes, I have a few screws loose, literally). This wasn’t the focus of the visit, and not too much emphasis was given, I had my one year follow-up with the surgeon coming up in a couple months, so we’d be able to find out more than, however, I began thinking that this might be why my back was feeling so temperamental still.
Sure enough, at my one year, post-surgery follow-up, it was determined that my fusion, had not fully fused, my screws were a little loose and the likelihood of a second surgery being needed, sky rocketed, I left with instruction to contact the surgeons office and start talking about surgery, if/when my pain level increased. Now, in my last post, I mentioned that the other party’s insurance was being extremely agreeable and reassuring about covering me… Well, that ended as soon as I shared with the adjuster the surgeons report from my follow-up, reporting the need for a 2nd surgery. Before I knew it, they had transferred my case to their big-claims department. The new adjuster was nice enough, but started stalling with offering me a settlement in addition to paying for my first back surgery. Excuse this, excuse that, up to this point I had been taking them at their word, reading sincerity in their promises to look out for my best interests. I had never involved an attorney before, and I was hoping not to need one now. So they did their job well, baiting me along without engaging my own legal representation.
We were scheduled to spend Christmas visiting Kate and Martin in Switzerland, with Greta’s parents, and really coming down to a time crunch with my claim, given that once the two year statute of limitations came around the beginning of February, I would be entitled to no claim if we had not reached settlement terms by then, or filed legal action. Insurance companies are not looking out for your best interest, they are a for profit industry, and when choosing between doing the right thing, or keeping those profits if there’s any glimmer of an excuse they can get away with, they will side with the dollar, every time. Still with the stalling, then starting to hint that their independent medical review (I struggle with these being called “independent”, seems like the reports come back in favor of whoever is paying the fee) was reporting that they believed the motor vehicle accident in question was not the cause of my back pain and lumbar fusion. They were basing their case on “previous back issues from my degenerative ataxia” and trying to highlight that my lower back pain was not reported for at least a few weeks after the accident. I tried going over my history, countering their claims, then telling them why the lower back pain was not included in reports at the onset, and tried to explain the entire process, that had to happen to get this officially reported, and treated, after having to schedule and wait for another Dr.’s appointment.
Finally, with the trip right around the corner, and the time ticking by, I gave them a deadline to provide me with a settlement offer, otherwise, they would be hearing from my attorney. I really, really did not want to go this route, but fearing this might be the case, had talked with several friends in the legal world, then, at all of their directions, I talked more seriously with a recommended attorney who would represent me if needed, going over my details and agreeing that we had an extremely strong case. Well, the deadline came, I even gave then a few extra days, then they heard from my attorney and pieces were quickly lined up for proceeding after Christmas.
In preparation for the trip, and knowing that even my forearm crutches were not going to get me very far, I swallowed another milestone and acquired my first wheelchair. I hated it, but went along with its necessity. I was going to enjoy Switzerland, and if this was the only way fir me to get there, then I was going to own it.
To be continued in: From my vantage point – that’s a wrap (I know, these continued stories are evil, but I only have so many hours in a day to write…)