Tuesday, December 23, 2008

S.O.S....Send Food/Water/Medicine Please!...

Yeah, I know I haven't posted anything in a week...thanks for all of the emails, well wishes, AND the notes wondering, "Where the *heck* is BRAINCHEESE?!?"

I'm here...it's just been an incredibly BAD week with MS issues, over a foot of snow in my city and being locked out of any type of transportation due to inadequate bus service/extremely POOR emergency weather planning by local officials (yes, I DO mean you Seattle mayor, Greg Nichols, AND County Executive, Ron Sims!!!)...it's as if we are living a SNOW WHITE KATRINA situation over here in my neighborhood with absolutely NO BUS/TAXI/TRAIN/SNOW PLOW services whatsoever for the past 6 days. I'm starting to stare at my own flesh, wondering how a slab of my forearm might taste roasted over open fire. There is currently no way even 911 could get to my house if I needed them...thank goodness I currently DON'T need them! But that could change...

I've developed the Mother of all Bronchitis...running fever, chest congestion, cough, malaise, headache, stopped up sinuses, and an irritable attitude that makes Vice President, Dickey Chaney, look like a cuddly kitten. Again, GOOD THING I DON'T NEED 911 SERVICES AT THE MOMENT!!!

I did NOT do the IV Soly treatments prescribed by Dr. SWWNBN...good thing, too. I couldn't have gotten to the hospital the past 6 days to DO them! I tried some new medication instead, only to discover I was developing some kind of funky rash on my legs...so, of course, I stopped the med...typical. My feet remain on "fire", but I don't care so much because I'm mostly lying down. The *best* treatment I have found thus far for paresthesias in the feet is something I'd like to call, "Ignorant Near Frostbite"...yes, that's right. I stood out in sub-freezing weather/blowing snow, trying to get to work on Thursday, while waiting for a bus/walking nearly 1 1/2 miles from bus stop to bus stop, for almost 2 hours, only to discover MY area of the city had been forgotten by city/county planners because "we" (myself and hundreds of other Seattle residents who live in what is called "the hood") don't need access to our jobs, groceries, medications, frickin' 911 service because our per capita income in this area is FAR less than other *important* areas of the city! But I'm NOT bitter...no sir-eee.

Anywhozit...I'd best get out of bed now (typing on laptop, which is heaven) before I begin to develop bed sores (or worse yet, WET my bed!)...sorry I'm just not in the mood to find an appropriate picture for this post. Frankly, I'm surprised my Internet service hasn't gone down (still fortunately have electricity here).

I'll leave you with an article I discovered today, which pi$$ed me off even more than my current weather/cabin fever - REAL fever issues. It's from a site called "VA Watchdog.org". Yes, I plagiarized it...SUE ME!:

Was nurse with MS fit to work? VA said no

By William R. Levesque
Times Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — Patricia A. Price's supervisors said they watched in sadness as multiple sclerosis eroded the registered nurse's job performance.

Lapses in memory. Mistakes. Confusion.

Price disputed that, insisting she was just fatigued and could still do her job at the Bay Pines VA Medical Center.

When Bay Pines disagreed, Price filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Two weeks ago, a judge ruled against her claim of discrimination.

"I really can't believe they're doing this to me," said Price, 50.

What came to pass during 2007 in one of the nation's busiest veterans hospitals is the complicated story of one nurse's fight to save her career and the hospital that says her disease endangered patient safety.

The case is documented in the dry language of employment law and the Byzantine rules of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

But like any workplace dispute, the truth is never as straightforward as a lawyer's brief. It's wrapped in emotion. It can emerge without obvious villains.

And often, it pleases no one.

• • •

The VA hired Price to work at Bay Pines in January 2005 after she spent over 13 years in the Army. She worked in the Congestive Heart Failure Clinic.

She loved the work. And the enthusiasm showed in her performance evaluations. Her supervisors praised her. On Jan. 31, 2007, her boss rated her "high satisfactory," the second-highest rating on an evaluation scale.

Within months, Price became concerned by persistent fatigue and weight loss. She visited a doctor. The news stunned her.

She suffered from MS.

MS is a neurological disease whose symptoms vary greatly. It's incurable, though those who suffer from it typically live normal life spans.

It can cause fatigue, muscle spasms, speech problems, difficulty with balance, pain and restrictions in movement.

And in up to 60 percent of MS cases, cognitive problems of varying degree occur, from memory issues to the processing speed of the brain.

Legions of Americans function normally with MS; many of their co-workers are unaware they suffer from the disease. Others aren't so lucky.

Price said she told her supervisors at Bay Pines that she had MS.

"Bay Pines was okay about it," Price said. "It was as if I were telling friends. They offered support."

In the spring of 2007, Price said that changed.

Price didn't want to "float," or move around the hospital, treating patients. A doctor had told her to avoid infection, which might worsen her MS. Moving around the hospital would expose her to more germs than necessary, she said.

"Ms. Price needs reasonable accommodation to prevent exacerbation of her MS," said a doctor's note Price gave to her boss.

Federal law requires employers to make accommodations to eligible workers unless doing so puts others at risk or poses an undue economic burden.

Bay Pines rejected an accommodation for Price.

A nurse supervisor wrote in a memo that Price's request that she not float "is not acceptable to me as all my staff float as needed to assure timely and safe patient care."

The supervisor said in her opinion Price did not meet the definition of a "qualified individual with a disability" because her problems were "cognitive in nature" and make her unable to work as an RN.

A note in Price's personnel file concluded that a transfer to another nursing position wasn't possible "due to the severity" of Price's MS.

Price was furious. She acknowledged that her MS caused her depression and mental lapses at its worst. But MS is typified by periods of remission when the disease's symptoms lessen.

And she insisted that her MS didn't cause her cognitive problems. "I was fully capable of performing my duties," she said.

Her medical records in this same time frame show that Price complained to her doctors about fatigue and difficulty concentrating. A July 2007 physician's note said, Price "is having difficulty accepting her medical condition and its limitations."

Price, however, said she was under stress from supervisors concerned about her MS, something that worsened her concentration.

Price's supervisors, meantime, told her she had made several mistakes in the job and they were concerned. They ultimately pulled her from having any contact with patients.

Once an accommodation was refused, Price filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

That, said Price, angered the VA and resulted in things really falling apart with her job.

Not long afterward, Bay Pines insisted that Price be given a "fit-for-duty" physical. A neurologist examined her and said she could not perform all the essential duties of a nurse.

"I was just wanting them to leave me alone," Price said. "I wanted them to let me do my job."

Price said she had investigated a disability retirement and filled out paperwork for one. But she said she stopped the process, deciding she would fight to save her job.

For a time, Bay Pines allowed her to work at jobs that would accommodate her condition.

But Bay Pines, she said, finally forced her to accept the disability retirement in early November 2007. It provides her up to $20,000 annually, or 40 percent of her full salary.

Price, a single mother of three whose son is in the Army and was recently sent to Iraq, said she can barely subsist on the money.

John Pickens, a regional spokesman for the VA, denied that the agency forced her to retire and said others at Bay Pines with less-severe MS work at the hospital.

"We basically watched this disease take over her," Lawrence Diehl, chief nurse of primary care at Bay Pines, testified as part of Price's discrimination case. "And it's been very tough to watch. ... Nurses can't be cognitively impaired and take care of patients."

Diehl didn't think Price had come to terms with her MS.

"I don't believe she fully accepted her diagnosis," he said. "And I think she's had a real tough time. We're just hoping for the best for her."

Price said her bosses are exaggerating her problems and just tried to get rid of someone making waves. She still hoped to work as an RN.

"They have no compassion," Price said. "They don't care. I know I can't get my job back. But I don't want them to do this to somebody else. This isn't fair."

William R. Levesque can be reached at (813) 269-5306 or levesque@sptimes.com.


Tricia said...

While I feel bad for the woman in your article who was forced to retire, I also live with someone who has severe memory lapses and severe judgment issues (he makes ridiculous decisions that seen okay to him) and I would not want a person with this type of issue in charge of my medical care.

Of course she could be no where near as bad as my husband. BUT if she is it might not have been completely unjustified.

Denver Refashionista said...

OMG, I am outraged by your story about lack of services. When I hear these stories I am scared. I am glad you still have power. I am in MN right now and if the power went out here I think we might not survive.

Miss Chris said...

I've been thinking of you wondering how you were doing with all that terrible weather you guys have been getting. I hope things turn around soon and you get a chance to thaw.

Kelley said...

Dear God! I, too, have been worrying about you, thinking your "silence" was due to lack of electricity. I would be on the phone to city officials numerous times a day!

The story about the nurse just made me sad. My mom was an RN and was basically forced out of her job, too. We didn't fight at the time because we felt her cognitive impairment was evident. This case sounds more like retaliation. I hope she tries to appeal!

Seriously, if you need anything let us know! I could make threatening phone calls to city officials, if necessary! ;)



If I could, I'd airlift some food and supplies in to you. Hope you can knock this bronchitis out of that chest soon.

The story about the nurse just doesn't make complete sense. The chain of explanations is too jumpy. And how many neurologists are still advising to specifically avoid infection.

My neuro emphasizes that infection WILL NOT make your MS worse. Sure, you will feel really lousy, but it doesn't cause more damage. Maybe I'm wrong....what do you think, miss guru?

Bubbie said...

Now I'm feelin' badly about posting my last 3 days at the beach on FB. But on the bright side you have a friend in Florida. We're a blue one now!

harkoo said...

Everything you write about today is terrible. The situation in Seattle is making the news here several times/day. We are in a blizzard situation here in New England but it sounds like you are totally shut down where you are--is it true they don't have enough snow plows? And your lack of transportation services is horrendous. And your bronchitis and your health and the nurse fighting for her job is awful. I quit my last nursing job because I was afraid I was going to hurt someone--I didn't know the problems I was having were MS yet but I knew something was terribly wrong--I had developed a limp and was cognitively unable to react quickly in a crisis situation which my nurses aides observed....it was either kill someone or be fired so I quit. I feel awful for someone with MS who CAN perform still and yet they won't let her work...

Pedestrian Crossing said...

Are your city services poor because they are not used to that kind of cold/snow?

My "aha" moment was in September after Hurricane Ike in Houston. We were without electricity for 12 DAYS. In a big city like Houston. Schools and businesses were closed for a long time. Although it wasn't the cold we had to worry about, it was the heat and humidty (September in Houston!). My wonderful husband would remind me and put me in the parked air conditioned car from time to time to cool off.

But you have to wonder what the heck is up with this country's infrastructure.

Merelyme said...

oh my! so much going on and for the holidays...I am so sorry. wish i could say or do something to make things better. life seems terribly unfair to you at the moment.

know that i am thinking of you and i do wish you a happy holiday despite all the chaos and craziness going on.

Jen said...

Hang in there, ma'am.....

Here's a good "cryptic word pattern" I had to type out recently to post a comment somewhere:

wounded pub

Really. I know about 20 people offhand who could take over and run that place...

...Peaceful holiday acknowledgement to you and yours....

Creating Wealth said...

Yes, we've been royally dumped with snow this week as well. So I know how you feel. This article does not suprise me what so ever. My wife owns a childcare center and every once in a while I watch the kids at the end of the day. Very few kids I will remind you of. We recieved a complaint from a parent who said "Your husband is legally blind and in not capable of watching our child". I was ticked off !! I'm NOT legally blind. Get your facts straight before you judge me. Ugh!!

Robert Groth
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Tippy Topple said...

Brain Cheese:

I too live in Seattle and I have to say I'm pretty offended by your post. Yes the weather here sucks right now, but I don't think it is reasonable to say that your lack of services are because of your "hood". The whole area sucks from within Seattle city limits and not. Specifically Seattle City has said they all along they are capable of doing nothing more than keeping major arterials open. I am lucky enough to live in one of the better neighborhoods, and you know what...I haven't been out of my house in over a week, our van is stuck in the driveway too and our street hasn't been plowed or sanded and is one big sheet of ice. This is because we don't get weather like this normally. I personally would rather see the city spend money on services that are used regularly then on things that might be used once every 8-10 years.

As far as could 911 get to you...yes. No matter how bad the area you are in is they are getting to people. My partner works for the services in the area and my understanding is they have yet had to refuse a call. They have had to have paramedics and firefighters walk in to some of the calls from a block or two out, but they can get to everyone who needs services.

As far as a white katrina....this is far from that situation in my opinion. There have been very few deaths, there has been little loss of homes or material possessions or for that matter much of a loss of essential services (power, gas service, etc).

Can you get out of your home, maybe not? But someone in your area probably can or there are services that are assisting those who need it. If you still haven't gotten groceries and medicine you need post something here again and I will get you a list of services that are doing delivery of vital necessities. They will help even if it means people have to walk it into you.

I'm not trying to start an argument with you, but I am trying to give you another perspective too.

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