After my botched surgery in May of 2012, I filled out a claim for Social Security Disability. The claim was mailed off in July of 2012, before I was completely back in touch with reality. I had no idea what to put on the claim where it asks you what is wrong with you that makes you disabled. Even though all this stuff happened to ME, I was unconscious most of the time that it was happening. I knew that things weren’t right, but I did not know what to call my malady. So, when I was filling out the form, I called Social Security and talked to a nice lady on the phone, and she said “Just put whatever you think it is, and we will go from there.” So, I put the diagnosis that was on my hospital discharge summary. Although I was not real clear at that time what all that jargon meant, basically what I wrote was that I was disabled because I had a colostomy. And that is not true.
Over the next several months, I learned more about what had happened to me, from talking to my husband, who was mostly there when all the stuff was happening; from reading my medical records that I ordered from the hospital; and from googling terms I did not understand. I discovered that 1. I could have died on that operating table, 2. In addition to the surgery to install the colostomy, I was operated on five other times to clean out my abdominal cavity from the sepsis I developed because the repair to my intestine ruptured, 3. I developed abdominal compartment syndrome, 4. My abdomen was left open for five days while they worked to get rid of the infection there, 5. My abdomen had swelled so much during this process that the doctor could not reattach my abdominal muscles when they finally did close me up.
All of the things listed above 2-5 have worked together to cause me to have chronic pain in my abdomen, in the area where the incision was made (and we are taking about an incision about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide, not a small opening) and in my back up to my shoulder blade and to my spine on the right side. There is no muscle to support my abdomen and all the stuff that is in there like my stomach and my intestines, and my bladder and stuff like that. Because there is no muscular support, I have to wear a hernia belt 24/7. Even with wearing the hernia belt, the weight of my abdomen pulls on my body, making the pain intensify the longer I sit upright without my feet up, like in a recliner, or the longer I stand or walk. I have been taking 40 mg of percocet a day ever since I got home from Arizona in November 2012 and got to my primary care doctor.
Just for giggles, think about every movement you make during the course of your day that uses your abdominal muscles. Getting out of a chair. getting into bed, getting into and out of a car, sweeping mopping, doing laundry, washing dishes, making up the bed, sewing, gardening, and on and on. All of the things that you think about during the day that uses your abdominal muscles, those are the things that make me hurt more. And that is why I am disabled. I have to be zonked on pain meds to not be in pain just from living my everyday life. I aslo have to take an antidepressant, and a sleeping pill to help me sleep. The sleeping pill makes me sleep too much, but if I don’t take it, I lay in bed with my mind racing and my pain heckling me and I don’t sleep.
But, when I filled out my disability claim, I did not know to write all that down on that little line where they asked me what my disability was. So, three times, they denied my claim because “Having a colostomy is not a disability.” I have waited more than two years for a hearing in front of Social Security Judge. I finally went to that hearing last week. There was me, my attorney, a court reporter, the judge and an occupational therapist in the room. The judge asked me several questions, and I answered them as best I could. I heard myself say “I don’t recall” once and I nearly cringed that I said that.
After the Judge asked me his question, my attorney asked me some questions, and I answered those. Then the judge said to the occupational therapist, “Mrs. Fabgrandma can not bend at the waist, kneel, squat, crawl, walk for longer than 10 minutes, stand for longer than 10 mintues, turn from side to side at the waist, sit upright for longer than an hour, or lift anything over 5 pounds. Are there any jobs in this job market that would be able to accommodate her problems?” And the lady said, “No, your honor, there are not.”
And with that statement from the OT, the judge said he was going to approve my claim, and said he “admired my fighting spirit” which was from things he had read in my medical records from my primary care physician, and my psychiatrist.