Sunday, March 28, 2010

good people dealing with bullshit ... why is life so damn unfair?

I had dinner with a dear friend on Thursday night. This woman is one of the kindest, most honest people I know. She loves her job and never loses sight that her job is in the service of college students, no matter how frustrating their behavior may be sometimes!

She is having trouble at work thanks to a supervisor who is clueless about the job she does, but he's throwing his weight around as an "office manager." She's been at the job four years longer than he has ... I think the only reason she was not/can not be promoted to a position of authority is the fact her college degree was not earned on U.S. soil and although it's called a B.S. or B.A., it's really not in the eyes of the college she works for,

For as long as she's held the job, her start time and hours were from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. That *hour* for lunch she seldom took in its entirety; the students needed her and she is pretty much always available. She never leaves work at 5:30. I can't think of a single time she's met me in the parking lot at 5:30 ... if she's working with a student, she finishes that exchange.

Her new boss, on the job for a year, has never said anything to her about her work hours being any different. But last month, he wrote her up for being "late" and deducted time from her timesheet. She was always careful to make up that missed time: if she came in ten minutes late, she stayed ten minutes later.

His main bitch: She was consistently 30 minutes late from her start time of 8 a.m.! She had no idea she was supposed to be at work at 8—AND said supervisor never verbally counseled her, but rather kept notes and confronted her with a written warning about tardiness.

This woman does not deserve such treatment!

Why is it when small insecure people get into "power" they do stuff like this? I have a feeling he's trying to look *tough* and protective toward the college, making sure every employee gives good value for their wage. Nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is forgetting you are dealing with human beings ... and how important it is to foster a sense of teamwork and openness at work.

My friend has yet to pull her union into this. I am not a fan of unions but this is why people pay dues: when they are treated unfairly, the union is supposed to be her advocate. I also told her that if her hours are 8 to 5, then she needs to start work at 8 and walk out the door at 5:01. Never mind if there are students waiting for her assistance. Let her boss deal with the students' complaints. Maybe he will be forced to learn her job ... maybe he will understand the nature of working for a college. It's there for education and not pissing matches.

Obviously doing a good job and caring about said job is really not important anymore.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Musings on What’s Wrong with the World

It’s tough to be positive sometimes the way things work in the early 21st century. I really try to live the motto “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” I smile at cops. I hold my tongue when people I know and care about do silly, selfish things. I try very hard to keep my promises, even pushing my poor crippled back past its point of tolerance.

Which brings me to today’s bitchfest. I’ve been waiting for THREE months for approval on a procedure on my back which will allow me to walk more than half a block and not have to take pain medication every six hours (needing it more often than that, but ever-mindful of my family’s history of drug abuse). A couple of weeks ago, I received a denial notice in the mail. Why was the procedure denied? Because my doctor, a man with 30 years of experience in delicate spinal surgery, did not chart the specifics of how improved I was after the procedure. Nope, it’s not enough for him to say “She’s better and has less pain” after the rhizotomy. He’s supposed to go into a narration of specifics—for example, “When her back doesn’t hurt so bad, she can drive or sit in a car for more than five minutes without pain,” or “When her back doesn’t hurt so bad, she prefers to take the light rail to work and walk a couple of blocks to the office” or “When her back is better, she can go for 12 to 16 hours without needing pain medication.”

Because he failed to do that, some physician who has never met me has ruled I don’t need the procedure. Furthermore, this same god has ruled that narcotics for pain is bad, bad, bad, and that I should not take them, and that I need to be drug tested to make sure I’m not buying anything on the street or having multiple doctors write multiple prescriptions, or using multiple pharmacies.

This crap is a result of new worker’s compensation law here in California, something I voted for and still am in favor of. There was so much abuse in worker’s comp when I was hurt and worked in the industry in the mid-1990s. But taking a case that has been settled since 1996 and deciding someone with a back that’s been cut on three times is NOT in need of treatment or medication is taking things a bit far.

I have not yet had the energy to fight back yet.

Bitchfest #2: attorneys. They are all that is wrong with the world.

Don’t get me wrong. Some perform very necessary functions, like estate planning or prosecutors or defense attorneys to protect the public or wrongly accused individuals. Imagine this: what if everyone managed to live by “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you,” and we were kind and honest and ethical toward each other? And by “ethical” I don’t mean lawyer ethics, because those aren’t anything close to the ethics I believe are in the Bible. I guess if lawyers went by biblical ethics, defense attorneys could not defend their clients by shifting blame to others.

Attorneys run around wielding power and threatening action against people who have different beliefs than they do. There are some who choose to blog and share their own rants and irrational thoughts, and go on to read other people’s blogs and threaten the writer if they write something the attorney disagrees with. Many love to toss the terms “libel” and “slander” about to silence people who disagree with them.

I guess what ties these two thoughts together is truthfulness. Just be truthful … treat people the way you want them to treat you. If you disagree strongly with someone’s opinion, don’t threaten to hurt them physically or legally. Unless it’s life or death (and it seldom is, really), just shrug and forget about it. Don’t lie about the person whose opinion you disagree with to make yourself feel superior. Throwing around terms like “You are an uneducated trailer trash bitch,” or “You are stupid and delusional” are childlike and show a lack of rational thought.

Chose your battles carefully. And let people fight their own battles.

And to end this with something positive: in the race for California senator, a fiscal conservative, Tom Campbell, is polling ahead of the incumbent Barbara Boxer. I pray there are enough intelligent Californians who understand that today’s fragile economy is the most important thing we are dealing with, and that the democrat’s answer of “tax and spend” simply doesn’t work. It’s time government enjoyed some serious belt-tightening, and that elected officials start living like “regular” people and not elected royalty with bottomless pockets!

Monday, March 1, 2010

So frustrating ...

For a brief period of time in the mid-1990s, when my surgically-repaired back was as good as it was ever going to be, I worked as a worker's compensation case management nurse for nearly two years. I was hired because I myself was an injured worker, having been injured on April 25, 1989 at Soledad Prison. I destroyed my back one night while keeping an inmate from flopping off a gurney onto the floor. I should have let him flop—when we arrived at the hospital, the ER physician quickly determined the inmate had been faking his seizures. I'd just completed an 8-hour shift with two inmates having uncontrolled seizures. Part of the treatment standard was to put their mattresses on the floor so they couldn't hurt themselves. But I'd have to squat or kneel every time I needed to re-medicate one of those men. At the end of my shift, and as the medical crew declined into a skeleton crew consisting of LVNs only, it was decided to transfer the seizing inmates to Salinas. I took what was thought to be the most unstable one.

Long story short, by the end of that 14-hour workday, my back was destroyed and my career as a bedside nurse was over.
It took eight months (and three physicians) to get a proper diagnosis and 10 months to have the first surgery. From April 1989 to early 1995, my life was consumed by surgeries, recoveries from surgeries, physical therapy. I honestly don't have a good sense of what was happening in the world at that time.
While I was working in worker's comp case management, I came to a conclusion about injured workers. They either are or they are not, and the ones who are not injured are the most troublesome. I had several clients who just did not act right, who claimed they were unable to do certain things after their "accident." We had a plague of deli workers at Nob Hill grocery store who "fell" and injured their backs. It was nearly impossible to get those people back to work. I had another client who claimed he could not raise his arm over his head following a shoulder dislocation and repair by a physician in Santa Cruz. I talked the carrier into a repeat surgery, this time by a doctor associated with the SF 49ers, thinking this injured worker would be impressed by this doctor's results with football players. Well, the guy had the surgery and claimed he was no better. I felt he was bogus, and he was surveilled and found to be repairing cars while drawing temporary total disability pay.
My back injury is long settled, and I am supposed to have lifetime care on my back. Sounds good, and when I get that treatment, it's great because I don't see a bill. But every since the worker's compensation overhaul we've had here in California—something I supported and voted for—it's been hell to get treatment.
Right now what is happening to me is a consequence of a two-level low lumbar fusion. The vertebra immediately above the fusion are not designed to bear the weight they do, nor are they designed to function like the lowest two vertebra. I'm having what is called facet disease, and according to my doctor, it's coming right on time, 15+ years after the fusion (fusion was in 1992). The treatment is pain medication and something called a rhizotomy, which is simply locating the offending nerves that are causing the pain and zapping them with an electrical current. Then I'm good to go, the pain is less, and I don't need to take as much pain medication orally.
After waiting three months for approval, I got a notice in the mail that the procedure was denied because my doctor had failed to document in specific ways how I improve after a procedure. It's not enough that he says it's so anymore. So I dashed off an e-mail and described what I do when a rhizotomy is working, and how I feel when it's not working, and the impact on my life.
And for some reason, the worker's comp carrier thinks I should not be having narcotic medications to treat pain. Huh? It's prehistoric thinking like that which will drive patients to do maladaptive things ... drink, acquire and abuse street drugs. I honestly don't know what to do if my doctor stops prescribing pain meds for me. I am very responsible with them; I don't mix alcohol with them, and I take them when I need them, or try to put off taking them.
So in a nutshell, when a neurotomy is on board and working, I can walk up to a mile and sit at my desk for hours, working. I can take the light rail to work and enjoy the three-block walk from the station to the job. I can do light housework and not be in immediate pain.
The consequences of not having the procedure: I do not sleep well, I wake in the middle of the night in severe pain and it takes up to two hours for the medication to work. I have my daughter drive me to work on those days I need to work onsite. I cannot work more than 4 hours, and need to take a pain med while at work because the chairs are so crummy.
I need an attorney to take on the fight and remind State Fund that we agreed on this years ago and they need to hold up their end of the bargain.
If I have to wait another three months for this, I may well be driven to drink.

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