From the Patients Point of View by goodbaby


									                   From the Patients Point of View
Accommodating Life

“Life doesn‟t accommodate you. You have to accommodate life. You do what you have
to do to get by in life.” Those were the words that my father spoke to me one Sunday
morning as he was driving both of us to work. I was 14 years old then. I had been
working for my father for nearly four years. My father was 55 and he had worked
everyday of his life since he was 8. He was still doing that--working 7 days a week, 15
hours a day, 365 days a year. He owned his own business--a local drug store with a
soda fountain. I worked the fountain and my father handled everything else.
My dad was responding to a question I had just asked him. “Dad”, I asked, “don‟t you
ever get tired of doing the same thing day after day? How can you stand it? You never
take a break. How can you stand doing the same thing, everyday, all year long? Year
after year? Don‟t you ever get tired of it all?”
To my young mind, my father‟s answer to me was unthinkable--almost unconscionable.
He was spending his life in a routine, humdrum existence, doing what he had to do „just
to get by‟. He was forsaking everything else in life in order to do what was needed—
„just to get by‟. To me the mere idea of that kind of lifestyle was abhorrent. “Not me, by
God!” I thought. “No way! I may be my fathers son, but I wasn‟t his shadow!” My father
eventually died, believing that he did what he had to do in life. He never broke any
laws. He never hurt anyone with his actions, he just worked as hard as he could to earn
a living. He made no apology for it either. His sole purpose in life, he believed, was to
provide for his family as best as he could. If that meant working long hours, seven days
a week, then so be it.
He wasn‟t concerned about an exciting, challenging career. All he wanted to do was
“just keep his head above water” so he could provide for his family. I, on the other
hand, was going to live my life differently. I was going to do what I wanted to do, not
what I needed to do just to get by. I was going to live my life as I wanted to live it.
Maybe it won‟t be the most exciting life in the world, but it‟ll be quite rewarding to me
As I matured, I set out to pursue my life‟s ambitions. I wanted to teach Ethics at a
college level. At first I met with a good deal of success and received great faculty
assessments in graduate school for my studies. Because of that I was offered a few
teaching positions that worked out quite well. During that time, I received highly
favorable faculty and student evaluations of my teaching skills. I was even offered a
promise of a fellowship if I continued with my graduate studies. All this only served to
strengthen my resolve to continue my personal quest.
However, after a while, I began to realize that my hopes were only pipe dreams. Ethics
wasn‟t an “in demand” subject. So, I changed my course. I earned an MBA in another
field. Soon, I was off pursuing another set of dreams. I became a Systems Analyst and
successfully designed four computer systems that other groups of systems analysts
who had preceded me were unable to design. I also taught a series of four classes
during my lunch hour for my co-workers to help them pass professional accrediting

examinations. I held the classes free of charge to my employer because I loved to
teach. My students had a 97% pass rate on those exams. The national average pass
rate for those exams was about 70%. I was really proud of that. I wasn‟t finished there;
in the evenings I became a part-time law student. I was working hard, but I was truly
enjoying myself. All I needed was for someone to figure out how I could get more than
24 hours into my days.
Even thought I was cramped for time, I was doing well. I wasn‟t sleeping much
however. But who cared about that? There was always coffee, and I drank a lot of it. I
was having the time of my life. One evening, after a heated debate during a class
lecture, one of my Law professors suggested I consider entering the Moot Court
Competition. I was flattered—although bewildered as how I was going to fit such an
event into my already packed schedule.
Life seemed to be going my way, just as I always knew it would. I had no idea that my
“glory days” were numbered. Shortly thereafter the pounding headaches that I had
been getting everyday, and trying to ignore, got worse; much worse. Sometime after
that, I lost my equilibrium; and a short time after that I completely lost the hearing in my
left ear. It was 1987 and I had used all my vacation days from work to see countless
specialists from whom I had received countless misdiagnoses of inner ear infection. I
had been taking antibiotics for over six months but nothing seemed to help. Finally, in
desperation, I came across a doctor who wasn‟t so quick to jump to an obvious answer.
After an MRI, he determined that I had a brain tumor--an Acoustic Neuroma--a tumor on
the left occipital (rear) lobe of my brain. I needed to have a neurosurgeon remove that
tumor. I was told that I‟d be in the hospital for ten days, and at home for a month. After
that, I could get back to life as I knew it--and all would be well again.
As it turned out, all didn‟t go well. I found a neurosurgeon with enough experience to
perform the type of operation I required, and checked into a respected hospital for my
surgery, and two days after the surgery when I had been joking with my wife about what
a cinch this whole episode had been, all hell broke loose.
Although the surgery removed a tumor from the left occipital lobe of my brain I
mysteriously began to bleed in my right frontal lobe. That bleeding soon became a full-
fledged hemorrhage. A day or so after I was stabilized from that medical crisis, I
hemorrhaged there again. As a reaction to the hemorrhage injury, my brain began to
secrete fluid onto the hemorrhage site, so as to „cushion‟ the injured portion of my brain.
But, as often happens, it secreted so much fluid that I became profoundly
hydrocephalic. They had to install a shunt in my skull to siphon off the excess cerebral
fluid building up inside my head. That fluid was about to literally crush my brain against
the inner wall of my skull.
After that crisis had been resolved, the blood vessels in my brain began to spasm. This
condition known as „vasospasms‟, typically leaves its victims completely debilitated—
usually blind, and unable to move or speak. I was lucky though, for some reason, I was
spared that fate--almost. After the vasospasm incident I fell into a semi-comatose state
for a month and a half. When I slowly came out of it, I found that I was, in fact, blind,
unable to speak and unable to move. I was told that, were it not for the magnificent
efforts of my doctors, I‟d be dead. All I knew was, I wanted to commit suicide. I had a
traumatic brain injury. I refused to accept life on such terms. Life as I knew it, life as I
wanted it to be, was now forever denied to me. It didn‟t take long to concoct a neat little

scheme on just how to kill myself. I had to be sedated so as to prevent me from
carrying out my macabre plan.
Time went on, my vision returned slowly—but only in my left eye. My speech and bodily
movements returned as well. I was given an IQ test during my stay at the rehabilitation
hospital. I had been given an IQ test 10 years earlier at a nearby high school. My IQ
was 170 on that test, which astounded me; I had no idea my IQ was so high. I was
shocked, therefore, at the news from the therapist who graded my IQ test at the
hospital; my IQ had been determined to be 88. I was advised that my brain injury was
so severe that I would never have an IQ much above 100--if I were even able to reach
that plateau.
Just about that time my wife took me for an afternoon drive on a Sunday in December of
1989. As we drove, I noticed that it was dark, and that it was only 4:30pm. I knew that
only a few weeks earlier it wasn‟t dark at that time of day. But on this Sunday, it was
very dark. I asked my wife what was going on. “I know that it wasn‟t this dark a few
weeks ago at this time.” I fully expected to hear a story about some impending cosmic
cataclysms. I completely forgot about the daylight hours getting shorter during the fall
and winter months. My injury had caused me to forget such a basic portion of my
experiential knowledge.
A few years after that, in an effort to measure my recovery, a licensed Doctor of
Psychology administered another IQ test to me. Enough time had passed since my
injury that the test was now a meaningful assessment of my recovery. This time I
scored 155. Were I to take another IQ test a few years later I was told I would likely
score even higher. To be honest, I don‟t see the necessity to pursue that issue, I‟m
exceedingly happy with 155, thank you.
With the ever-present love and support of my family, particularly my wife, and the wise
perspicacious insight of a very gifted psychologist, I started working my way through the
anger that raged inside me about what happened to my life. I‟m not finished yet, not by
any means. But I am making my way down that long dismal path.
I finally went back to work. I was made the sole underwriter for N.J. Workers‟
Compensation Assigned Risk Unit. I took over a book of business that had a 178% loss
ratio (that is losses to be paid/earned premium). I was given the task of dropping the
loss ratio at least 20 points. As it turned out, I dropped it 80 points to about 98%. It was
the best loss ratio in the State of New Jersey. I was truly proud of that accomplishment.
I really enjoyed what I was doing. I was making a difference where no one else could. I
was doing something I wanted to do and I was quite happy with my job. All was going
well until an individual in supreme authority in the management of the New Jersey
branch office where I worked decided that, if I could train others how to do what I did, I
would become expendable.
To that end, my manager and supervisor ordered me to write a manual of how to do
what I did and to design computer programs and reports that would enable others to
perform my daily tasks more easily. All the while, my supervisor kept tempting me with
promises of a promotion to another position. “You‟ll be promoted and receive a larger
salary” I was told. All I had to do was give away my secrets on how to achieve the best
Workers‟ Assigned Risk Loss ratio.
At that time, I caught an error the office‟s Managing Attorney made in analyzing a New
Jersey Superior Courts decision in the case of Bright v. T.W. Suffold and Liberty Mutual.

The attorney had completely misunderstood the ramifications of the decision. She
issued an advisory to the Claims Department instructing them to settle claims they were
not legally obligated to settle. I explained my disagreement with her advisory to the
Claims Manager who relayed my observations to the Managing Attorney. After listening
to the rationale of my argument, she retracted her advisory. I was told that, if my
employer had settled their existing cases as the attorney had recommended, the
company would have been on the hook for at least $1 million. What‟s more, they would
have had to settle all future cases in like manner. None of this was mentioned on my
annual performance evaluation. I was told that my greatly reduced loss ratio and my
saving the company over $1 million were all inconsequential.
I nevertheless proceeded to do what I was ordered to do at my job--like a fool. I „spilled
my guts‟ and wrote a‟ How-to‟ manual regarding New Jersey Workers‟ Compensation
Assigned Risk. I also worked hard to get all the computer systems up and running. I
didn‟t imagine that I was digging my own grave. I didn‟t want to believe that the
individual‟s for whom I worked all had dark motivations. After I accomplished what I
was instructed to do, and as the reward for all my hard work, I was summarily laid off,
after the system I designed and „debugged‟ was put into place.
So, I‟m back at square one again. I have to start my career all over again somewhere,
doing something else. That is not easy for me though. My brain injury makes it
exceedingly difficult for me to learn new things. But, my injury hasn‟t hampered me
from learning a valuable lesson from this experience.
I‟ve learned to be much more wary of people. I‟ve learned that people often have
ulterior motives and that those motivations are often sinister. I‟m filled with rage again,
not only because of what happened to me regarding my health, but also because of
what happened at my job. But I know that I have to move onward. I also know that I
have to give whatever I do next, my very best efforts.
Through my rage, I attempt to take stock of my life. Because of my cerebral
hemorrhages, I now have cognitive deficits. Trying to compensate for them is difficult
and aggravating. There are times when I curse my fate and those who have brought
this current state upon me. In my more reflective moments though, I know that I have
much to be thankful for.
I have a wonderful family. I have a beautiful and wonderful wife, I have a daughter and
a son who are the only people on this earth who can rival their mother‟s incredible
attributes. In my heart, I know that they are all that matters in life. I love them more
than I can say. They are the loves of my life, the hearts of my heart, and the soul of my
soul. So I push ever forward. But as I do, I still can‟t help but think back to my father‟s
sagacious words of advice to me. “Life doesn‟t accommodate you. You have to
accommodate life”.
God help me. I‟m doing my best, Dad. It‟s not easy sometimes but I really am doing my


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