By Javier Rodriguez Los Angeles 17 November 2014
For the last 12 months I have lived a ruthless and excruciating experience stemming from a complicated health problem that painfully attacked both of my legs and hips. Initially it began with a bout of bursitis in the left groin where one of the body’s bursa bags was irritated and inflamed 400%. After months of treatment, therapy and medication, the bursitis was resolved, but inexplicably, the problem gradually evolved into several issues, stages and diagnostic confusion, always accompanied by a high level of weakness and pain.
In late September I suffered what in medical terms is known as a “flare up.” A kind of muscle explosion that causes a relentless level of pain every single hour of the day, that is until I medicate and neutralize it. The explosion this time may have been brought on by the chronic fracturing of both of my hips, which astonishingly were just found and diagnosed. Concretely, the trauma has reduced my capacity for physical mobility by a wopping 60%. Essentially I can’t walk, however in this year long world of painful darkness, suddenly I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
On Thursday morning November 6, the brutal pain awakened me once more and I finally had had enough. I told myself “Ya basta maestro” and I headed directly to the Kaiser Sunset Emergency in a desperate search for relief. Unexpectedly however, the move sent me on a 15 hour spiral that would give my life a thousand times more relief than the shot I launched for that morning.
To give you a perspective into this world of chronic pain, which is estimated 100 million people suffer in the U.S., for almost a year every morning, the pain has awaken me and from there on, with every move my body’s muscles make, a turbulence takes over, exploding with sharp radiating force, and many of times is combined with a heavy throbbing pain that pierces through deeply into the bone. Trust me, that anguishing agony overwhelms your mind and body. It’s like riding a roller coaster 7/24, it’s always there, up and down.
When you’re a writer, especially a columnist or a political and media strategist, you have to grasp the moments of creativity that move at times in flash like speed wherever you may be or whatever you may be doing, as you work, read, research or write. Even in this the most difficult period of my life, my favorite creative moments arise in the daily conversations on the ongoing issues, the political events or the daily Op-Ed columns with a circle of intimate political friends, including my family. However the life of severe pain I been living, combined with the medication can take its toll, diminishing intellectual and artistic grasping space, especially in the morning hours.
That morning, as during the rest of the week, the meds had zero curing effect because I was living the worst episode of pain of my 12 month ordeal. The constant and severe attacks on my quadriceps, the hamstring and hip abductors, which initiated with the September flare up seriously incapacitated my mobility and also weakened me like never before. Fortunately, I had enough will power and the mental strength to move ahead to the hospital.
Incredibly though, trough out the 30 minute drive from Boyle Heights to my destination, what concerned me most was, “how was I, the well known immigrant and human rights leading activist,” going to convince the ER Medical Staff that my pain was real and severe and that I needed relief above and beyond the narcotic pills I had in my pocket. Additionally, make them understand that my 2 month adverse medical condition warranted at least a 24 hour period of observation to hopefully bring me out of my misery.
As dramatic and incredible this tale may seem, this is the battle that has been at the heart of my survival against Kaiser Permanente, one of the giants of medical care in America. Additionally, the hostile experiences with Kaiser personnel have not only accompanied my pain but they have also increased it. Here are some examples:
1.) On May 25 of this year, I had a similar major flare up that caused me extreme weakness and pain on my lower limbs to the point that on that day, they dangerously buckled under on more than one occasion. Late that evening I ended up at ER where I made almost the exact demands of the present for relief and to be placed on observation. The response then was humiliation and told “this was not a hotel,” twice, and as that discussion ensued, the staff resorted to threats, called the hospital security and the LA Police Department followed. Assisted by the morphine and the adrenalin in me, at 6 AM, with Security Guards standing by, I actually walked out of Emergency without any Kaiser offered assistance.
2.) Knowing the lack of an existent centralized diagnosis and the confusion on my case, I requested from my primary physician to analyze my medical record and provide the needed direction on my case and it was accepted. But when we met three weeks later, immediately I knew he hadn’t done his homework. He treated the meeting as a regular follow up appointment with no new diagnosis or a new direction on my case. However on my next bash of meds, he restricted me to two pills per day.
3.) Recently, Dr. Christopher Ching, my pain management physician took control of my pain medicine prescription and immediately after cut off the one that I had been effectively using for months.
November 6 Déjà Vu at Kaiser ER
I parked inside the parking lot of the Sports Medicine Clinic located directly across the Sunset Hospital and the plan was to request a Kaiser shuttle to ER. Cane in hand I began the trek, about 20 yards to the Clinic’s front desk. On the way though, I ran into one of the cement parking block and the edge of the patio and I tried to step up, but all I recall is my legs giving out and my body spinning. I tried to hang on, I believe on a tree or a plant, but my strength also gave out and as I spun, I fell flat and hard on my left side and I screamed out in pain.
In seconds civilians came to my aid and with all the strength in my arms and their help I pulled myself and I stood up. As this was happening I felt lightheaded and I felt my mind traveling fast and it felt eerie. I then turned and saw the clinic’s emergency response team of medical staff running towards the me and crowd. I was placed in a wheel chair and was taken inside the clinic while we waited for the transportation to ER.
When we arrived there it was the two African American nurses who accompanied me who spoke to the reception clerks and explained my situation. I was then seen by a female nurse which by coincidence or some kind of spiritual sign, she knew Dr. Ching and had also had unfortunate and bitter medical experiences with him. As she completed the intake and because of the severe fall and the pain, I was given priority and I was officially admitted into Kaiser Emergency.
“Relief arrived and it came wrapped in the morning accident.”
That in itself was a relief and more so when I was given the first Intravenous injections of morphine for the implacable pain. About two hours later on Thursday November 6, 2014, the head ER doctor came in to my room with a smile that said everything. She poignantly informed me and I quote, “we finally know what is wrong with you, you have two broken hip bones.” Then what she added next will stay with me for a long time, “no one can say you’re crazy any more.” I began to tremble and I openly burst out in tears.
The unraveling of my 12 month ordeal had begun. Approximately two hours later I recognized Dr. Hall from Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Departments across the street where I had fallen in the morning. He also came in with a big smile and without a doubt for me, he had some wonderful breaking news. “You’re going to surgery sometime this evening to replace your right hip. The left one will have to wait until you recover and all we need is to wait for an operating room.”
It was impossible to continue repressing my emotions. For the second time that day, I began to tremble and cry. Frack, I couldn’t stop. All I could think about was, “relief had finally arrived and it had come wrapped in the morning accident.” I had Finally been vindicated, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I could now begin to take my life back. The diagnosis/decision given by the Orthopedics Department, that is Dr. Hall and his two other colleagues, in my case, to consecutively replace my hips at first look is a routine one. After all, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 332,000 total hip replacements are performed in the United States each year. However, from my vantage point it is a major qualitative change in direction, to the point, that if the recovery on both hips is successful, I will be walking again without any tools, without the episodes of severe pain and the dangerous medication. Additionally, the eye witnesses to the dangerous fall and the intervention on my behalf by all the Kaiser patient members and the emergency team from Orthopedics was absolutely a blessing and this is irrefutable.
From a Major Kaiser Hospital to a Kaiser Contracted and Operated Nursing and Rehabilitation “Mini Hospital.”
After the successful operation and the rea placement of my right hip with Prosthesis, on Saturday evening November 8, I was transferred to Fountain View Convalescent, a nursing facility in Hollywood that essentially serves as a Mini Hospital for Kaiser. But don’t misunderstand me and trust me, it’s a good paying union shop and relatively speaking it’s a high level patient friendly health provider and a fantastic place for recovery. It provides sufficient supportive services and the professional staff needed for physical recovery. The problem as always is management, so please continue and you’ll understand.
Although the estimated recovery time for hip replacement is placed at 3 to 6 months, the administrators here, headed by a callous Dr. Jeegar Rana and LVN Timmy Nichols and, both Kaiser staffers, on November 11, precisely 52 hours after my admission here, determined the Skilled Nursing Services I have a right to under federal law, were to end on November 13, 2014.
I appealed the case and the Independent Quality Improvement Organization – QIO, the official investigative body for all Medicare appeals against Kaiser, immediately ruled in my favor and against the shabby biased Kaiser argument that I’m disqualified to receive the recovery services at Fountain View. Since Saturday Nov 15, in the vulnerable condition I’m in, I have been the subject of corporate intimidation and was told by Nichols not to get comfortable, because by next Tuesday I will once again receive a Notice of Medicare Non Coverage, that is a Kick Out Notice. I asked him for the medical or legal basis for the upcoming attack and his response was, “that’s my job man.”
Of course the rational here is really political and the decision is probably coming from Corporate Headquarters. So I’m making a call to everyone with a legal mind or to all the blog readers who might have a friend that can assist me pro bono and help me, please do call on them, ZAZ
*Javier Rodriguez is a journalist, a blogger and a media and political strategist. A long time social activist, he founded the Committee to Rescue La Casa del Mexicano; he is also co founder of the Millions of Voices Coalition in LA that on Sept. 22, 2013 organized one of the largest marches with thousands of people in Downtown LA for Immigration Reform; He was also the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 million historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006, as well as the May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott;
Back in 1982-86, he directed the mass street mobilizations in LA that led up to the Amnesty Law IRCA of 1986; a journalist, he traveled for 5 ½ months throughout Mexico in 2012, observing and writing about the country’s political process, the aftermath of a highly questioned presidential election, visited several war zones and his family, as well as the State of Tabasco at the border with Guatemala, where the Central American migrants catch the train they call “La Bestia-The Beast.” Between 1987 and 1996, his son Jesus, his nephew Jaramillo and his brother Jesus all fell victim to neighborhood violence in the area. His blog is Larayueladejavier.wordpress.com; a victim of hacking his old email firstname.lastname@example.org has been recovered.