Standing on the deck of the Titanic

Lately I’ve had a tough run of luck.Standing on the deck of the Titanic

I’m thinking that ticking off a list of my biggest troubles might comfort others going through a hard time. Need a little cheering up? Read about someone else’s troubles. It isn’t exactly a feel-good activity, but sometimes commiserating makes your life feel more manageable. So in case you’re going through a rough patch (and who isn’t?), I’d like to lay out my life of late. Misery loves company, right?

1. Health problems

Xmas 2011 in Las Vegas

The author (pre-injury) with her parents in Vegas for the holidays, 2011. As a former Nevadan, I have friends and family there, so I visit when I can.

I had an accident that tore my rotator cuff Dec. 31. It was New Year’s Eve, I was at the MGM Grand in Vegas (see image, right). My sister is an executive there. Lucky me! Around 3 am, a 23-year-old guy I just met asked me to dance. I was enjoying his attention. He was cute. Tall. Nearly half my age. So I said yes. He had been drinking (of course) and I thought it was a good idea to remove him to the dance floor, a few steps from his bottle of champagne. But on the way, he playfully tried to pick me up and carry me in his arms. I backed off a step and tried to hold him off, but I couldn’t prevent him from sweeping up my legs. He took about two stumbling steps and dumped me–quite an effective body slam, actually–onto the cement floor. My outstretched left arm was the only thing that caught both our falls, jamming my shoulder, and then he fell on me, causing an additional impact on the outside of my left shoulder against the floor. Nobody saw us. I actually continued to the dance floor but very shortly ran off to the bathroom to ditch the guy and take stock of my injury. I didn’t go to the hospital that night, but the next day, my shoulder was “crunchy” when I moved it. I knew something was wrong.

A few doctor’s visits and one MRI later, I was diagnosed with a rotator-cuff injury. The protocol was a month of physical therapy (PT) to see if the injury would improve. I was not allowed to ski or really do much of anything over the winter. But the PT didn’t help, so I required a surgical procedure, during which, the tear was found to be worse than originally detected, so they actually had to stitch the tendon through little holes drilled in my shoulder bone. Recovery was expected to be 100% after perhaps four months of physical therapy. But shortly after surgery, a rather unusual condition developed called adhesive capsulitis, where the planes of the muscle get stuck and won’t slide over each other. In my case, I have limited external rotation. In July, I’ll find out whether I need another procedure done under anesthesia to rip through the scar tissue. Ouch. The prognosis is still optimistic that I’ll recover 100%, but it may take a total of 12 months. I can see progress and a reduction in pain month over month, but in the mean time, my daily PT is tortuously painful.

So blah, blah, blah, I have a temporary condition affecting my mobility. It could be worse, and I’ll be okay. Whatever. It’s not the end of the world. Grab a life vest.

2. Insurance issues

Massachusetts has a state-subsidized health-insurance plan that is affordable, called Commonwealth Care. Thanks to “RomneyCare” and my low income, the office visits, lab fees, hospital fees, physical therapy, and medications since my injury have all been low cost–in most cases, free! Thank goodness, because I have no idea how to contact the young man who caused the accident to see if he had insurance. He has no idea what he did to me.

But on Wednesday, May 30, I received a notice that my son and I would no longer be covered on Commonwealth Care. After the annual review of my income, and with the increase in my unemployment benefits (I finally began to receive the full benefit amount in MA in January), we were ineligible. Our health-insurance benefits would be ending in three business days: Monday, June 4. We had to reapply for a different health insurance: the Medical Security Program for unemployed people in MA (and we are fortunate to have that option). But the application process takes 4 – 6 weeks! I require PT every week, twice a week for many more months; I had a follow-up surgeon’s appointment scheduled the next week for June 6–none of which I could afford without insurance (and my existing providers might not be covered). I was told with a letter from my doctor, I could rush the application process for the new plan. I found out that although my doctor was a provider on my new plan, I would have to find a new PT. I immediately got the required letter from my provider, and faxed in the application marked “RUSH.” On Friday, June 1, I hugged my physical therapist, thanked her for her care over the past six months, and said goodbye. And I made a new appointment with a PT who was covered under (what would soon be, hopefully) my new insurance plan.

Meh, so you move onto the deck with your children and wait for instructions.

3. Didn’t get the jobs

I had been really hopeful about two jobs I recently interviewed for. On Wednesday, May 30, I found out I was no longer a candidate for the first one. But I was 90% certain of the other offer; they valued my experience. I had worked for the competitor! They had even called my references! But on Friday June 1, they revealed I was not the only candidate, and they were offering a pitifully low salary–below entry level. Non-negotiable. The hope dissipated.

At least I still have unemployment benefits, I thought. There are lifeboats, after all.

4. Jury duty

I had put off jury duty last year when I was working as a temp under high-pressure deadlines. It was time to pay the piper and attend jury duty on June 5, without further delay. June 5 was a Tuesday.

Okay, no big deal. Wait, is the deck of the ship listing?

5. Schedule conflict

On June 2, my regular 26 weeks of MA unemployment benefits came to an end. The last check was only half of the usual full benefit amount for the week, which is nail biting. I had to file for a federal extension to continue to receive benefits, but as I mentioned in a previous blog, this can only be done in person or by phone, on a Tuesday, thanks to my social security number ending in “2.” As it happened, it had to be done on the Tuesday I had jury duty. June 5.

Is that water around my ankles?

Funny story. It’s coming. Wait for it.

6. Hope sinks

While in the juror pool that day, I was allowed an extra-long break outside the juror room to wait on hold with the unemployment office. I finally got a person on the phone after half an hour, who told me I had a previous federal extended benefit claim, and she would transfer me to …where ever…someplace else. This made me very nervous. The courthouse juror-pool guard waited patiently for me as I continued on hold.

I finally reached a person after another ten minutes, who led me through a familiar series of questions and answers, and informed me that due to my previous claim from the place I worked for two months in 2010, the federal extension would be picking up where that claim left off. I had exhausted 26 weeks of benefits at the end of last year (at $216/week, not very beneficial), as I described in a previous blog, which was the toughest four months of my life. I have been collecting a full amount since January ($678/week). But apparently, when you file for a FEDERAL extension, an earlier claim takes precedence.

This news effectively sank me into extreme poverty again, and effectively, sank me onto the tile floor right there in the courthouse vestibule. This time, it won’t be just for four months. I don’t even want to know how many months I’ll be “able” (able?) to collect that pathetic amount for my son and I to live on. I can’t get by on that amount of income for even another month, much less month upon month through three tiers of federal benefits. It’s barely enough for food (even after the food pantry), much less my mortgage. And last time I checked, that amount was TOO MUCH to qualify us for food stamps or welfare. The juror guard stared at me as I dropped my head, hung up the phone, and pretty much started balling my eyes out.

I had officially entered Crisis Mode. We’re standing on the deck of the Titanic in our life vests. The lifeboats are full. No rescue is coming. And the rising water is cold. VERY cold.

Feeling any better about your life yet? Well, if not, situations change rapidly, especially if you make use of my secret (not the Secret you may know as “The Law of Attraction”), which you can read about in my next blog post.


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