Following on from 1990 – The First Car Accident
Just to recap, I was involved in a car accident on the 13th of March 1990 in which I was stationary at the red light of a T junction when I was rear ended by a car traveling at approximately 60km/h (37mph).
The injuries sustained in the accident were … Significant Whiplash – Neck, Shoulder & Upper Back Pain – Lower Back Pain – Constant Headache.
Due to the fact I was travelling to work my accident automatically became a Work Cover Matter (Work Cover being a Work Place Accident Insurer in Australia).
I had NO option as to whether I sought compensation or not.
Furthermore, I must say that NO AMOUNT of monetary compensation could ever be worth the amount of damage that was done to me by the Work Cover system and the associated medical and legal practitioners involved.
I cannot stress the later two points strongly enough!
Any person who seeks to defraud Work Cover and the like are either intrinsically unscrupulous in nature or have such little self worth that they do not realise just how much they are undervaluing themselves for such a pittance.
During the first 2 months following the accident I was prescribed Valium (Diazepam). Prescribed this medication on the day of the accident by a doctor at the local doctor’s clinic that my family had attended since before my birth. Then when I began attending consultations with the doctor of my appointed lawyer’s choosing, just days after the accident itself, he had me continued on Valium for those two months.
In addition to the medication I was instructed by my physiotherapist to wear a foam neck brace throughout those two months and continued with ultrasound physiotherapy and rehabilitation exercises as I took time off of work to recover.
After the initial couple of months I gradually returned to work, taking time off as needed. Then the time came that I was no longer required to wear the foam neck brace for the length of time I was initially instructed to wear it, but I was still encouraged to wear it when my neck felt sore and also when going for walks.
However, as time went on the pain persisted throughout my neck, shoulders and back, along with the headaches, then questions began to be raised within the Work Cover system about the validity of my reported levels of pain.
The truth is that, I was trying to get back to work on a full time bases as fast as I could to get out of the Work Cover system but the harder I pushed myself the more setbacks I had.
While at work I was working as hard and fast as I could but I could tell my manager was irritated by my inability to keep up with my work load. Added to the issue of my physical lack of speed, I was emotionally beginning to fall to pieces under the strain of the physical pain I was silently enduring throughout each work day.
My supervisor had spoken to my manager about my poor performance on many occasions and as a result I could feel the growing hostility toward me, hostility and irritation that was becoming intolerable.
My manager’s irritation with me was so clear, that one morning when my car broke down on the way to work, my manager drove right past me as I was walking a short distance home. My reason for walking home? So I could call work to let them know I would be late and organise a ride into work.
When I arrived at work my manager scoffed at me, “Yeah, I saw you walking with your neck brace on and assumed you would just be having another day off!”
Every part of me wanted to scream back at him about his appalling lack of compassion. That and the fact that if he had actually stopped to see if I was okay I would not have been two hours late for work because I obviously could have gotten in his car to go to work with him and sorted out my car after work.
If it was not for the Work Cover involvement I could have simply left my place of employment, but as a 17 year old teenager with the weight of all the legal players forcing me down I felt I had no option but to play the game.
At this time I began to have panic attacks due to the pressure I was under at work, the question of validity in relation to my pain and being stuck in a system that I just wanted to get out of.
It was then decided by those within the system that I had “Functional Overlay” and “Subjective Pain”.
Even as a trusting and naive teenager I knew they were treating me like all the pain I felt was made up in my head….. Especially because I was a Work Cover Patient.
I was viewed as a Malingerer…. A Money Hungry Compensation Fraud!
And of course, this perception of me ushered in a Medical and Legal Campaign against me to prove me to be the fraud Work Cover employees saw me to be.
The legal team “For Me” were not For ME at all, they were “For Themselves”, their love and excitement of the power games, their lust of monetary reward at the conclusion of the game. I was nothing but a piece on a game board, to be used at will in a legal and financial battle that I wanted no part of, yet had no escape from.
During this time period a number of alternative therapies where engaged on my behalf and Cognitive Therapy was a treatment insisted upon by my own lawyer during this next phase.
The chosen cognitive therapist was a man I was very uncomfortable with, he was a man in at least his late fifties, maybe early sixties. His demeanor was quite aggressive and not someone you could say was approachable at all in any regard.
My lawyer had stressed very strongly that I MUST follow ALL of this therapist’s instructions, one of which was for me to call the therapist himself during times of difficulties when I felt under significant stress and not to call anyone else, including my parents. I was instructed that he was the only person I could call!
One day I was having an incredibly difficult time at work and in the midst of a panic attack, during my lunch break, I called the therapist as instructed to do. I was immediately told in an extremely curt manner that he did not have time to talk to me and that I would have to call back later.
As any young person in my position would, I then called my parents very upset. Now not only by the fact I was struggling at work, but also because I was doing what I was instructed to do by the therapist, along with my lawyer having told me to follow all the therapist’s instructions to the letter.
Being dismissed so aggressively, undoubtedly I was going to call my parents for moral support during all this emotional distress.
My parents had watched on from the day of the accident as I slowly changed from their carefree teenage girl to a young woman battling within a system they could not help me escape from.
My Dad was so concerned about this situation with the therapist that he called the therapist to discuss those concerns. He too was also very rudely dismissed, to which he responded, “That is bloody ridiculous!” … Followed by a statement of something along the lines, “You told her to call no one but you and then you treat her like that!”
I went to my next appointment with the therapist who then aggressively threatened to terminate treatment, as he insisted my father was abusive and threatening simply because he used the word “bloody”.
I was then told sternly NEVER to discuss my situation or appointments with my family again and informed that he had tapped the entire conversation with my father, as he does ALL his phone calls (without any disclosure), and he would be holding onto the tape for future record.
I felt hemmed in and unable to even walk out on the appointment.
I battled my way through the rest of the allocated appointment time with a lump in my throat choking back tears and left absolutely shaken by my ordeal with this arrogantly aggressive man who held himself out to be A Therapist of all things.
At my next appointment with my doctor I spoke with him about the issue because I was so upset and frustrated that I could not simply end my sessions with this therapist due to the legal players involved….. My conversation with the doctor in turn got back to the therapist.
Within a week or two my lawyer contacted me, the therapist was furious with me for discussing the matter with my doctor and he had made a formal complaint to my lawyer along with formally cancelling me as a client. Which in turn made my lawyer furious with me and added yet another burden upon me in this system that was supposedly in place for my benefit.
This therapist’s final act toward me, as a patient suffering debilitating episodes of anxiety….. THREATENING ME Legally, with a deformation suite should I ever mention the incident to another medical professional again.
Next I was sent to a pain clinic at a hospital, in which I was required to stay a number of nights. During my stay all manner of psychological testing was done rather than much of any physical testing and I was instructed to have therapy with yet another alternative practitioner. One who was going to help me with “Positive Thinking.”
The work books this man suggested were full of strong profanity and quite frankly nothing but psychobabble….. Yet I kept my mouth shut and persisted silently as I had now learnt to do, to avoid bringing attention to myself….. I was locked in a system I had no way out of until THEY decided I was free to leave.
As a result of the Pain Clinic I was teamed up with another physiotherapist, she was a lovely lady whose empathy and compassion illuminated her beautiful spirit from the inside out. She was my only positive experience in this entire sorry saga.
It was this lady that taught me the only worthwhile lesson I had during this time, which was how to use Feldenkrais Physiotherapy in my daily life. Techniques which I continue to use until this very day.
I also began hydrotherapy, however between work, doctors appointments, physiotherapy and enduring unending pain I was exhausted and far from helping me hydrotherapy was simply draining me.
Finally during late 1991 / early 1992 I felt I would be heard as I had an appointment with a surgeon that had operated on one of my knees when I was about 12 years old. He was a kind doctor and I felt confident about seeing him.
However, what I neglected to realise….. He was working for Work Cover, not me….. His demeanor was very different than I had remembered and as I sat in his office he told me how little time he had for Work Cover patients and how little respect he had for them.
How little respect he had for me, the patient sitting before him.
This doctor I had found so kind previously as a child, who obviously would never have recognised me from 5 or 6 years prior, preceded to tell me he thought there was nothing wrong with me and that I was just seeking compensation!
He insinuated my pain was all in my head, sternly told me to stop saying my pain was as bad as I was saying it was and to get back to work and do my job.
I will never forget that day. I was married to my first husband by this time, but as my husband was at work I went to my parent’s home needing to find comfort and support.
Mum was at work so it was just Dad and I who sat and talked. Holding back the tears I told my dad what had occurred, he too had seen the kindness of the doctor I saw when I was 12. Keeping his anger to himself Dad simply listened briefly as I expressed my disappointment and sadness. Then I ended the conversation and headed to the front door to leave and go home.
As I turned the door knob to open the front door and leave I felt my dad’s sizable hand grab my arm. By this time the tears I was trying so hard to hide were welling up in my eyes, Dad pulled me back and said, “You’re going home to cry now aren’t you!”, and with that he pulled me close and held me tight like no other time in my life I can ever remember.
While that was a day filled with so much heartache, it was also the day I knew what a Father’s Love for his daughter felt like in its most purest and heart warming form.
After that appointment I did just as that final doctor told me.
I pushed through every bit of agonising pain and covered up as best I could so no one knew the full extent and insisted on me seeking more help.
I taught myself to live with excruciating pain through the day and let the tears flow in the darkness of the night when not even my husband would see me cry.
THIS is where my ability to Chronically Smile began.
Early during 1992 my lawyer was ready to settle based on my doctor’s reports and I was sent to see one final Work Cover Doctor to finalise the process.
I may have considered myself a young married woman at this time, however I was still very much a naive young girl in many ways and very much too trusting.
Once again I forgot it was a WORK COVER Doctor I was seeing.
The doctor I saw was a much older man, tall and lean with white greying hair, he was very polite, whilst ever so pretentious in his demeanor.
Through the course of enquiry this doctor asked about such things as a rash on my arm as well as if I intended to have children…… I told him I’d had Eczema since I was a baby…… I also told him I did want to have children but not just yet, maybe in a number of years.
The report, of course, came back diminishing my pain levels….. In reference to the Eczema he said, ”There is some rash on her skin, I do not know what it is!” and then went into the fact that I did not what children at the present time.
Several months later, prior to the finalisation of my Work Cover claim, I called my lawyer to inform her that I would be going on maternity leave as I had unexpectedly fallen pregnant.
I was in no way prepared for the backlash I received, all due to the fact that I had told that one single Work Cover doctor I was not planning to have children any time in the near future.
My lawyer lashed out at me like a I was a rebellious wayward teen who should have been ashamed of myself for even having a sexual relationship, let alone falling pregnant.
I was outraged, I had not fallen pregnant to some one night stand or casual boyfriend, I was not sleeping around and I was not pregnant with a child I did not know the paternity of, much less was I in some form of teenage rebellion.
NO, I was a young married woman who could not use any form of contraceptive pill due to how ill any medication induced variation to my hormonal balance made me and in a heated moment of passion with my husband we chose not to use contraception.
I had fallen pregnant to my HUSBAND and here I was being chastised for it by a lawyer who was NOT looking out for my best interest, but how much FINANCIAL GAIN she was going to receive from settling this case.
This lawyer’s reaction to my pregnancy was not the only negative reaction I received in this Work Cover fiasco regarding my pregnancy as a married woman.
The doctor that my lawyer had organised with me to consult with during the first few days when my accident became a Work Cover case was also the doctor who performed the pregnancy test and gave me the wonderful news.
News to which the first statement from this doctor was, “Now you need to decide as soon as possible if you are keeping this baby or would you prefer to terminate?”
Yes, read that again, just to make sure your eyes were not playing tricks on you!
I had just been given the news that confirmed my suspicions that I was carrying my first born child, a child I had already come to love as I had suspected his existence and felt his presence within my womb.
And the first thing my doctor asks me is….. Do I Want to ABORT My Child?
I don’t think I have ever forgiven that doctor, whom I had previously respected so much, for even thinking it was acceptable to ask me such a question when I had made it very clear this was news I was happy about.
During the pregnancy I was hospitalised several times due to lower back pain, along with the first recorded instances I have found in my hospital records regarding digestive issues. Then after I had given birth I had issues with breastfeeding for a number of reasons, one of which was the pain I suffered through my neck and shoulders.
Carrying and caring for my new born son, Rhys, was not always easy either but I pushed through the physical pain to be the most hands on mother I could possibly be. As a result my strength grew over time, however as much as my strength grew the pain was ever present and I just simply pushed through with the smile I had come to wear as my mask.
The Work Cover case settled during early 1993 and I was finally free from all the “Medical Professionals”. While what I have written does give insight into what I endured through this system, nothing I could ever write or verbally express could ever convey the true depth of the ordeal that I was put through by those in “Care Professions”.
I entered the Work Cover System a teenage girl with not a care in the world apart from the pain in my body sustained by one man’s inattentiveness on his way to work one morning.
I exited the Work Cover System with a body that was not only in pain from injury, but now due to the mental and emotionally impact that The System and all the Medical and Legal Professions complicit in its functioning had placed upon me I would never be the same person again.
Nor would I ever be able to view our Medical Professionals with the same level of respect again, much less ever trust them in the manner a patient should be able to trust our Healing Professions.
For what it is worth, I received slightly under $10,000.00(AUD) for this experience. How much my lawyer made I do not know. Truth is, I can’t even remember what the money was used for, nothing worthwhile during that time I am sure other than living expenses.
What I do know however, is that I would have forgone ALL that money and walked away in a heartbeat given the opportunity. NO amount of monetary gain was, or ever could be worth all I endured through that system or the pain that I have lived with every waking moment of every day for the past 28 years.