Should I sue?

January 6, 2016

The accident was totally my fault. I was at home. I was alone. It was my knife. I was the one who knocked it off the counter. It struck my own foot. So I’m at fault. Simple, right?

Maybe that’s why it never occurred to me to sue anyone. It was my fault, 2015-09-05 18.36.09after all. And I incurred almost no expenses. My insurance covered just about everything. And it’s not like I’m very litigious anyway. I’ve never considered suing anyone before, even when I probably had cause.

But ever since someone else suggested it to me, I’ve wondered: maybe I should? Because the doctor really did screw up. Twice. His colleagues also screwed up. This wasn’t complicated. It was actually pretty basic.

A knife cut my foot. There was a lot of blood. An ambulance brought me to the emergency room. They had me move my toes and took x-rays. They said there was no nerve damage. They said my tendons weren’t cut. They said I was lucky.

And they were wrong.

10 days later I got the stitches out. I told the doctor, coincidentally the same one that I’d seen in the ER (he was working in my primary care doctor’s office that day) that something seemed wrong. He said not to worry about it. He said I was fine. He said to give it time. Another doctor was there too.┬áNeither doctor tested my tendons.

They were wrong.

2 tendons were cut completely.

Tendon repair surgery is supposed to be done within 10 days of the injury. 2015-10-17 11.45.26Mine would have been done that soon if it had been caught in time. Instead, it happened 8 weeks later. 8 weeks! In that time the gap in the tendons widened. One tendon began to heal to tissue, so that it had to be surgically cut away and elongated. This meant a more difficult recovery. It meant 2 extra months of dealing with this. It meant a lot of emotional anguish for someone who already has a lot of anxiety when it comes to medical issues. If the surgery had been done when it should have been, and with the shorter recovery, I would have been mostly healed after 8 weeks, instead of just starting with the surgery. Now, more than 4 months after the injury, I’m mostly healed, but not 100% yet.

And I admit, I’m bitter about the way I was treated in the ER. I wasn’t given crutches, painkillers, or even a wheelchair to leave. They were completely dismissive. In the doctor’s office, too, they were dismissive.

My surgeon thinks I will heal completely. So it’s not like there’s permanent damage. Except for the emotional impact, of course. But then, isn’t that what it means to sue for distress?

Suing could be stressful. It could be a huge pain in the ass. I might end up with nothing. And even though this doctor screwed up big time, I don’t want to destroy his career over it. Then again, it was a horrible experience for me. And he screwed up.

So now I’m wondering, should I sue?

What would you do?

Side note: If you’re in Massachusetts and you know of a good attorney for this type of thing, please comment here or email me at I’m hoping an attorney can tell me if it’s worth it (but if they say yes, I’ll still have to decide if I should go forward.)

Putting life on hold

October 17, 2015

Note: I’ve missed writing to you all so much! After you read this, you’ll probably understand why I’ve been MIA lately.

I watch my friends going through surgeries and hospitalizations and I’m always grateful that my illnesses don’t involve either of those. Sure, my illnesses have a ton of other issues, but I try to be grateful for what I can. But now it’s my turn for 2015-09-05 18.36.09surgery. And it has nothing to do with my illnesses.

I had just finished preparing lunch when the phone rang. My parents were updating me on some exciting news. I put them on speakerphone while I went about doing things in the kitchen. It was late, around 1:30, and I was hungry. I was hot. I was distracted. And as I reached for the glass of water, my arm nudged the knife that was sitting on the counter. The knife that I was done using. The knife that fell off the edge of the counter.

Nudging the knife happened in slow motion, but the rest was quick. I felt pain in my foot and immediately grabbed it. I was aware I had screamed – had my parents heard me? Maybe the pain was because the handle of the knife hit the bone. There was pain near the bone. Maybe that was it. It wasn’t the blade, it was the 2015-10-17 11.45.26handle. I still held my foot tight, as you do when something hurts. But it was also fear. I didn’t want to let go. What would I see? But then I saw the blood seeping down my palm. Oh boy. It was the blade.

I hung up the phone and called a friend. I didn’t want to call 911. They would take me to the closest hospital, one that I have very good reason not to trust. He didn’t answer his phone. I called another friend. I knew she wasn’t working that day. She pointed out that she could not possibly get me down the stairs and out of my building, and that I had to call 911. The idea of dialing that number brought up all of my anxieties around medical issues, but what choice did I have? I called. Somewhere in there I pressed a paper towel to my foot. The blood soaked through. I used a second paper towel. The operator got my information. Eventually, there was a knock at the door. I hung up with 911. I held my foot with one hand and hopped to the front door…. I couldn’t walk so I hopped.

On the way to the door I grabbed a small container of cashews from my fridge. After all, I never got to eat that lunch that was not sitting, ready, on my counter. The knife was on the floor. As I passed through the living room I grabbed the novel I’d been reading. I was gross and sweaty. I was wearing lounging clothes. I hadn’t planned to leave the house that day. But the bedroom was on the other side of the apartment. I got to the door and pulled the chain off the lock. It wasn’t the EMTs. It was my neighbor. My parents knew him. They’d heard me scream, then they heard crying. They’d called back, but I’d ignored the call; I was busy talking to my friend and 911. I didn’t listen to that message until I got home 7 hours later – my mother said they wanted to call the police in case I was in trouble but they didn’t know where I was. They called my neighbor and he came to check on me. Luckily he was home, and so was I. He assured them I’d be ok and he stayed with me until the EMTs arrived.

I was bandaged and taken to one of the better Boston hospitals – they said that for penetrating wounds they brought patients to those hospitals. For two and a half hours I sat in the waiting room. I couldn’t read, so I chatted with other patients. Eventually, we were all taken in. My mother arrived just after the doctor’s initial examination. The xrays showed no broken bones. They said my tendons were fine. I got stitches. I was panicked as the doctor did the stitches, certain something would go wrong. I have had so many “easy” medical things go wrong that I can’t help but worry now. There were so many medical people and I didn’t know or trust any of them. But it was finally done. When they first examined me they mentioned they might give me painkillers. After they reviewed my medical records (my doctors are all at this same hospital, so they can see my records through the computer system) they said I should take Tylenol and Motrin. They might has well have offered me a handful of M&Ms. Those wouldn’t help me at all! I asked about painkillers but they said I didn’t need them. More on this later.

I eventually made it home. I couldn’t get up to my apartment. A stranger on the street helped my mom get me to my building’s lobby. I sat on the stairs while my mom took my keys and went up to my apartment for my desk chair. She brought it back down the elevator, then wheeled me to the elevator and down the long hallway. Inside the apartment I had to walk small amounts, and I screamed every time my foot touch the floor. It wasn’t the worst pain I’d ever felt, but it was damn close, and it lasted longer.

The knife was still on the floor, next to bloody paper towels.

We watched a movie, then collapsed into bed. Thank goodness for my mother! The next day she picked up a medication that I needed to get anyway. She got me food from the supermarket. She stopped at the gluten-free bakery and completely spoiled me with goodies. She even brought me a bouquet of flowers. I have the best mom!

For weeks I was in pain and had trouble walking. My foot constantly woke me up at night. I felt my foot wasn’t healing right. My toes were at odd angles. I couldn’t lift or wiggle my big toe. It just hung there. The second toe hung a bit, too. I went to see my rheumatologist. She said it looked ok, but she was a bit doubtful. She said to defer to the doctor who took out the stitches the next day, but to see her again in a month to follow up. When I went to my primary doctor’s office to get the stitches out, I saw the same doctor who put them in. What a coincidence! I pointed out that my toes were at odd angles. He said it was fine, just give it time. I wanted to believe him. I should have pushed harder, but he wasn’t going to listen. I asked why he didn’t prescribe painkillers. He said Tylenol and Motrin were typical for this type of injury. I didn’t believe him.

I tried to wear sneakers, but that foot just hurt too much. I kept wearing the surgical shoe. I shouldn’t still be in pain. It occurred to me to see my podiatrist, but by this point, I’d be seeing my rheumatologist in a few days, so I waited. My rheum didn’t like the look of things, but admitted it was beyond her. (As a side note, that’s why I love her – she’s great at what she knows and readily admits when she doesn’t know something.) She said I should see her colleague in the same office, a podiatrist.

That was a week and a half ago. And now I face surgery. That podiatrist immediately realized at least one, but probably two, of my tendons had been cut. The ER doctors hadn’t checked properly. He didn’t check properly a second time when he took the stitches out. It was obvious. He ordered an MRI, which confirmed it – two cut tendons, one in the big toe and one in the second toe. I brought the MRI to my own podiatrist and she read it the same way.

Tendon repair surgery should be done at the time of the injury. It can still be done now, but the recovery will be longer. And of course, it has already been almost 7 weeks. I’ve put in my time. I should be mostly recovered by now, and instead, it’s all about to start over again! More pain. More sitting.

The surgery will be scheduled on Monday and it will take place some time in the next 2-3 weeks. Maybe sooner. Each doctor I saw was shocked that I wasn’t given painkillers. One asked why they weren’t prescribed so I told him my theory, how they changed their minds when they saw my history of chronic pain (despite the fact that no one had prescribed me painkillers in ages.) He just nodded his head and didn’t dispute it. They were all surprised the tendons weren’t properly checked to begin with. I guess my fears at the hospital weren’t entirely irrational after all.

Until the surgery I’ll be wearing the boot in the photo. After the surgery I’ll be wearing it for another 6-8 weeks. So far it’s been less than 2 days and I hate it already. It’s heavy and exhausting, but what can I do? I need to keep my ankle immobilized to prevent further widening of the tendon gaps.

I am so lucky to have wonderful family and friends. I’ve only mentioned this to a few people so far, and everyone has been so supportive and has offered to help me. Even the people with health problems who can’t run errands have offered to just come by and keep me company, which I know will help a lot. I know more people will offer to help when I tell them about this. It will be tough. It would be months before I’m walking around normally again. And of course, I fear that this could cause permanent problems. On top of that, I haven’t been able to do my physical therapy, so my back and neck have been more painful, and all of this sitting doesn’t help either. But again, what can I do? I’ll just continue to do the best I can.

And I’ll do as much as I can before the surgery. I’m running errands, making calls, preparing my apartment. I want to make sure everything is as ready as possible. Because I won’t be doing much for a while after the surgery.

This sucks. I’m just hoping that the suckiness is temporary!

Side note: Please don’t leave any comments on this post about your own surgical experiences with tendon repairs. I’m managing, barely, to keep an emotional balance. Hearing stories about other people’s similar stories will tip the scales the wrong way. Please feel free to share *other* stories as much as you’d like. In fact, I encourage it! I just don’t want to hear about tendon repairs.

Cutting out the people who don’t care

October 13, 2015

Her: I’d like to invite you to our house for Thanksgiving.

Me: You’ve probably heard that I might need surgery, so I can’t plan anything until that’s figured out.

Her: I’m sorry to hear about the surgery. I had no idea. Just let me know if you’ll be able to make it or not.

On its face, this seemed ok. She was sorry to hear about the surgery. So that was a good response, right? But I felt like something was missing. It nagged at me. I read the message again. Something still nagged at me, but I didn’t know what.

Hours later, it hit me: she didn’t ask why I needed surgery, if it was a big deal, or anything else!

I’ve been one of the lucky ones. Most of my family and friends have been incredibly supportive. A lot of people lose many of their loved ones when they have a chronic illness. It’s an unfortunate side effect that the doctors don’t tell us about. It’s hard and it hurts and it sucks. But it happens.

For me, it was my sister. I’m sure our problems aren’t all because of my health, but they’re a big part of it. Every now and then, I question if things area really that bad. Maybe I should try to make amends? Maybe she really does care? And then something like this happens.

Apparently our parents hadn’t mentioned my possible surgery to her. I guess there wasn’t anything to mention yet. I was pretty sure I’d need surgery, but I hadn’t gotten the MRI results yet (which is why I haven’t mentioned it to you yet – don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about it when it’s official.) Now, if someone I cared about had said, “As you probably know, I might need surgery,” I’d be upset and worried! I’d ask why, when, if I could do anything to help, etc. Actually, that’s how the few friends I told have responded. They’ve been amazing. They’ve been calling and texting and emailing. They’ve asked questions and offered support. Not my sister. Nope. She didn’t even ask why I would need surgery.

It’s hard to accept that sometimes a relationship can’t be salvaged. It’s natural to want to keep people in our lives. It’s especially hard when that relationship isn’t a vague acquaintance or a coworker, but a close friend or a sibling. We don’t have any other siblings. We only have each other. But that doesn’t matter. That’s not enough of a reason to try to be close to someone who obviously doesn’t care about me, or who at the very least tries to distance herself from me.

I know from past experience that I am better off focusing on the positive relationships in my life. So I will go to Thanksgiving dinner to be with other relatives (depending on how I’m feeling,) but until that day, I will put my limited energy into relationships with the people who love me and care about me.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to answer some more of my friends’ emails. They’re worried about me.

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