Another open letter…

I know, I seem to write a lot of “open letters” – but mostly I write them as open letters because I have very low expectations that anyone with any authority in such matters would actually care about what I have to say.  Even so, I still need to try to express it – “get it out of my system” so to speak.

This one is to the judges who decide eligibility for US Social Security Disability programs.

_________________________

Dear Judge,

We’ve talked once, and you’ve been in contact with my lawyer several times, about my pending claim for disability.  The fact that I have a permanent military-service-related disability is well documented and not in dispute.  You do seem to have some issues over what some call my acting “against medical advice” – so I thought some explanation would be called for.

I first had trouble with the leg that is home to my disability one week before I turned 18 years old.  It took the US Army 3 weeks to find the problem, do the biopsy, and give me a diagnosis (bone tumor) and treatment program.  I was in severe pain the entire 3 weeks, and could not walk at all due to not being able to put weight on that leg.  After the biopsy, I was informed that I was permanently disabled.  It took 6 months for me to be willing to believe that – 6 months during which I returned to the hospital over a dozen times for stress fractures around the biopsy site.

Becoming convinced that I actually did have a disability, I then began to follow “medical advice” – to the letter.  I never exceeded the limits the doctors imposed on me, took the pills they gave me for pain, did the physical therapy they assigned me, and 6 months later had recovered enough mobility to walk unassisted for short distances.  The US Army surgeons who worked with me said I would NEVER be able to exceed walking one mile per day – total.  That includes the trip to the shower, trips to the bathroom and coffee pot, going out with my wife – everything.  Not more than a mile.  That was the high end estimate back when I was still young and mostly fit at 155 pounds.

I’m now over 50 years old, and my most recent trip to the bathroom scale put me at 224 pounds.  I have trouble walking around the block.  Still, that isn’t really what this letter is about.  I had my first migraine headache about 20 years after that biopsy.  I had been taking prescription strength pain killers for the pain in my leg for 20 years.  During that entire time, nobody ever once told me that migraine headaches are a known side-effect of long term use of pain killers.  Even after I was diagnosed with migraine headaches by the St. Louis VA hospital, nobody shared that piece of information.  Not once was I told that I was buying 20 years of nearly-normal functionality by sacrificing the rest of my life. I had to find a copy of the Physician’s Desk Reference and learn it on my own.  But, if you look in the fine-print information on every drug I was given for that pain over the previous 20 years, it is there to be found.  Tylenol, 800 mg. Motrin, Tylenol 3 with Codine – and several others that are now over-the-counter – they all state in the fine print that the migraine headache side-effect is a known possibility.

Yet you think I should continue to trust the very same types of people who were never once honest with me about the possible harm their treatment protocols were doing.  Even worse, the ones I work with now won’t discuss the implications of the drugs they want me to take for the migraines, either.  If I were to blindly follow their recommendations, how much worse can I expect to be when I turn 60? Or, fate willing, 70?  Are you honestly suggesting that I throw intelligent caution to the wind and cooperate with their prescriptions that might lead to my early death?

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