Karen Douglas injured her back on the job, but worker's comp declined surgery and insisted she's permanently disabled. She finally found a back pain doctor who would fight the insurance companies for her.
I worked for the postal service, I was a mail carrier delivering mail. I was walking with a tray of mail, slipped off a curb, and jolted my back. I didn’t notice much afterwards, but then I began developing what I thought was a hamstring injury. Turns out it was sciatica. A few days later I went to the doctor, they did an MRI and found a problem with L4 L5, and sent me to an orthopedic surgeon. That doctor sent me through lots of treatments. First we did rest, physical therapy, traction. Cortisone shots, graduated up to an epidural. All the while I was taking pain medicine and muscle relaxers, not realizing how addictive they are. About eight years of epidurals every 3-4 months, I think I had fourteen epidurals. Then I had an epidural fail. The person administering the epidural punctured the epidural sac and I leaked spinal fluid. So they said no more epidurals for you, you’re done. So in 2008 that’s where they left me at, just medication to try and hold back the pain of these two discs. And L5 and S1 was also bulging.
All the while I was taking pain medicine and muscle relaxers, not realizing how addictive they are.
When I would do the MRI lying down they never saw it. But once I walked in here and Dr. McCord said let’s do an Upright MRI, that’s when the whole problem was seen. Back in 2007 I was placed with a physiatrist which is just pain management. Lots of oxycodone, lots of Soma. I think I was addicted
to Soma when I walked in here in 2010. June of 2010 I had a friend who used to come to Dr. McCord and she said, “Hey try my doctor, maybe he’s got something other than medicine that he can offer to you.” I walked in here, we did the Upright MRI, and within two minutes of looking at my MRI, Dr. McCord was sure of what I needed to do, and that’s to go ahead and have the surgery. That is to fuse the spine and go on with life. So began my journey, this is a work comp issue so I fought work comp constantly, all the way.
We requested surgery in June but in September they sent a request for a second opinion. This doctor opined that I didn’t need the surgery, that I need to be permanently disabled, on medication for the rest of my life. After he declared me permanently disabled on record, I began a fight for my job. Working for the post office I loved my job, I loved delivering mail, I love the customers that I had. But when he wrote those words “PERMANENTLY DISABLED” I began a fight for my job. Through many months just sitting there, trying not to take medicine, I was sitting at home no longer working, we fought back and forth with Work Comp. Work Comp would constantly have me go see other doctors, they would just flat out deny procedures that Dr. McCord would want to use to show and prove that I needed this surgery. Back and forth with Work Comp. We requested surgery again, they denied us again. I sought a lawyer, the lawyer requested surgery and they again denied it. I was pushed into my only option which was retirement and I was warned of this from the beginning that I would be forced into retirement. As I could see that coming and happening, it began a desperate fight. I was willing to just try anything, whatever they wanted, I began to try to work with federal Workers Comp, which is impossible to do. They are not going to approve this surgery for me, is what they told me.
But when he wrote those words “PERMANENTLY DISABLED” I began a fight for my job.
In 2011 I ended up in the hospital with severe pain I could hardly just tolerate it. I began having problems with continence, I was incontenent, I couldn’t even feel that I was going to the bathroom on myself because the nerve pain was so intense. Dr. McCord placed me in the hospital to try some pain management to try to see if we could get Work Comp to approve surgery and they told Dr. McCord “We will NEVER approve this surgery for her.” And they didn’t. They never, ever approve the surgery for me. March of 2012 I lost my job, I was no longer under the postal service. I was under myself getting Workman’s Comp but unfortunately they were not going to approve this surgery. We requested it through my medical insurance, my personal insurance and they denied it because it is a work comp issue. So I began a fight between the both of them. And I didn’t have enough money to fight either of them. But Dr. McCord never gave up. He never gave up. He called senators, he called congress people. When I was in the hospital I remember he visited me late one night and said, “Well I just got off the phone with a senator, and he’s going to try to help us.” Unfortunately with federal Workers Comp is under the Department of Labor and they’re basically GOD and don’t answer to anyone. They’re bigger than even senators and congress people can fight.
But Dr. McCord never gave up. He never gave up. He called senators, he called congress people.
So I gave up, and I was done. I don’t know how it came about that BlueCross BlueShield, my personal insurance, asked “What’s going on with this person, why is she having all these problems?” I had gained 30 pounds, sitting in a chair for two years eating chips I gained 30 pounds. I began to have high blood pressure, I was taking four Aleve three times a day, which I was medicating myself, a doctor never told me to do that but that’s they only way I could somehow keep the pain from overcoming me. And I had given myself an ulcer. So here I had high blood pressure, an ulcer, now I have thyroid problems. I killed my thyroid I guess with all this medicine I was taking. I was no longer on the Soma thanks to Dr. McCord. When I first walked in here he said “I won’t prescribe that for you.” And I praise God that he didn’t because I think I was addicted to it. I think it would have been more hazardous to me had I remained on muscle relaxers that long. So I attribute me not being addicted to Dr. McCord. Having someone on your side was the biggest blessing of all. When I walked into Dr. McCord’s office the very first time, he told ME my symptoms, and I started crying I said “Yeah you believe me! That’s what I’m going through!” From the very first moment he knew what was going on with me. So I’ve always believed in him.
Having someone on your side was the biggest blessing of all. When I walked into Dr. McCord’s office the very first time, he told ME my symptoms, and I started crying I said “Yeah you believe me! That’s what I’m going through!”
Work Comp sent me to see a third “opinion doctor” he was supposed to be a “referee” between Dr. McCord and the second opinion doctor, and he more or less called Dr. McCord a monster. Said he just loves to put people under the knife and if he does this to you you’re going to be absolutely permanently disabled you’ll never walk again. And that’s not the truth! I do more than walk now! I’m back to hiking, I walk my dog which all I wanted to do when I first saw Dr. McCord. I just wanted to walk my dog again. It’s ok if I don’t enjoy all these things that I used to, just can I walk my dog again? Boy I wear that dog out now (laughs)! I walk him a lot. We go hiking and have a great time together. I was complaining about my scars to my husband the other day. He said those scars are beautiful in a way, because think of your life before, and those scars mark a certain point when you were given your life back, given hope back. I attribute all of that to Dr. McCord, he never gave up on me throughout two years of fighting and being denied and being told “You will never have this surgery.” He never gave up on me, never.
Those scars mark a certain point when you were given your life back, given hope back.
If there was any glimmer of hope throughout it all, the only reason I never gave up was because Dr. McCord was saying “No, this is going to work. We’re going to get this approved.” And he always had belief that we would. Sure enough we able to get it approved through my personal insurance (even though it was workers comp issue).
And here I am, today! (laughs) I had the surgery on a Wednesday, I woke up on Thursday morning and they removed the catheter from the surgery. I got up, I walked, and I already knew something was different. I was upright, I could just feel that I had been changed, it was like a miracle. Even though I knew it was the fusion that did it, he got the disc off of that nerve, and I was walking. And I walked around and around that nurses station, I know they were tired of seeing me, probably! (laughs) But I was just so proud that I could walk and I was standing upright and feeling good. Two days later he did the second surgery where he went through the back, and I went home the very next morning which happened to be my birthday! (laughs) So the greatest present of all, lots of family and friends could see how I could walk upright, no more limping, no more leaning, no more medicine. I’ve been medication free since 8 weeks after the surgery I haven’t taken another pill. To me it’s a miracle I don’t know how I healed so fast, other than this is exactly the way Dr. McCord told me it was from the beginning. He said “This is how it’s going to be, this is how I’m going to fix it, and it’s going to take you this little while to heal, and then you’re going to go on with life.” And I have, I’ve gone on!
I got up, I walked, and I already knew something was different. I was upright, I could just feel that I had been changed, it was like a miracle.