Although I’ve managed to get 5 articles posted in the past 6 weeks, I’m actually not doing all that well, and I finally decided that I owe my readers an explanation.
I was driving, with my whole family in the car, when our car was rear-ended on August 15. Nobody else was hurt. I didn’t notice that I was hurt until we were back in the car after exchanging insurance information with the other driver, so it must not have been that bad, right?
Oh, it could be worse. It could be so much worse. Riding in cars is very dangerous! We are lucky and grateful.
But my back still hurts. This is my 46th day of continuous pain. Much of the time it’s quite mild, but it wears on me, makes me tired, dulls my appreciation of every good thing in life. Then there are the times when I try to do some ordinary thing like picking up a half-gallon of milk or my 22-pound toddler, opening a heavy door, or scooting back my desk chair by pushing with my feet–or I’m not even doing anything at all–and my lower-back muscles send out blinding flashes of pain.
I thought it was just the cumulative pain that was making me so tired that I had trouble stumbling through my daily life, so distracted that I found myself wrapping up work days realizing that I’d done only two hours’ worth of work in eight hours, so irritable that I was shrieking at my ten-year-old. I thought it was because my lower-back muscles were yanking on my upper-back muscles yanking on my neck muscles that I was having more frequent and more severe headaches. These things are probably true, but there’s more to it than that.
I have a concussion. My head didn’t bonk into the steering wheel or any other object, but when my car was hit while I was holding the wheel and holding my foot on the brake, the impact not only threw the part of my spine between the seatbelts sharply forward, it also tried to wham my head forward. I remember resisting that by stiffening my neck. Apparently, I succeeded in holding back my skull more than my brain, so my brain hit the inside of my skull and was hurt.
Of course, when I showed up in the emergency room saying I’d hurt my back in a car accident, the nurse assessed me for concussion: She said, “How many fingers am I holding up?” and “Who’s the president?” and tapped my knees with a rubber hammer. I seemed to be fine. I was sent home with instructions to rest, take painkillers, drink plenty of water, and be patient as recovery would take 4-6 weeks.
After two weeks of struggling to keep up with my day-to-day life and missing a lot of work on the days when I couldn’t cope, I went to my primary care physician. He sent me to physical therapy, which has slowly helped to relax and restore my back. I’ve also been seeing my chiropractor to realign my upper spine every time the lower muscles pull me into the pinchy, tense, pre-headache state that I already knew far too well from years of experience with tension headaches.
Between all these appointments and just feeling bad, I used up all of my Paid Time Off days at work, so my doctor wrote up an explanation of why I should work only 20 hours a week for several weeks. This is letting me get more rest.
However, my boss was noticing that I had some small memory lapses, that I was getting things done more slowly than normal, that I kept mentioning feeling so exhausted I could barely move. It happens that his wife is a concussion expert, so he hears all about concussions, and he recognized the symptoms. He recommended that I get evaluated by a doctor who specializes in concussions. I brushed this off the first time he said it, but after I had the reduced work schedule, I figured I had the time to do this and I might as well make sure.
I walked into that office feeling pretty good, about the best I’d felt since the accident 40 days earlier. They sat me down to complete a computerized evaluation. Within minutes I felt the confusion, exhaustion, and headache that have been coming over me when I try to do stuff! And when I got to the section where I was supposed to recognize which of the shapes had been shown to me before, it was horrifyingly difficult–I couldn’t do it, but I could see that I would normally be able to do it.
So yes, I do have a concussion, and the way to get better is to rest more. I need to spend less time at the computer and take more breaks when I am working. When I’m trying to do something and I start to feel bad, I need to stop for a few minutes. This is hard! There are so many things I’d like to do, for my paying job and for The Earthling’s Handbook and for my various volunteer involvements. But I need to slow down and let my brain rest…or the damage could be permanent.
My car insurance has been awesome. I’m with Allstate, and while I’m happy to recommend them, mainly I’m feeling that situations like this are the reason we pay into insurance and that it’s really, really nice to be able to sit back and let the benefits flow in my time of need! Here’s what Allstate has been doing for me:
- My car (which was all mashed in at the back and slightly damaged at the front, too) was fully repaired. Daniel had to pay the $100 deductible when he took the car to the shop, but this was refunded because the accident was not our fault.
- We got a rental car for the time our car was in the shop.
- All my medical care related to the accident is covered (up to $5,000, and it probably won’t cost that much). I can go to my doctor, chiropractor, physical therapy, and concussion specialist without even paying any co-payments, like some sort of princess! 🙂 Although I’ve been billed for the ER visit because I didn’t yet have my magical Allstate claim number at that time, now I can send the bill to Allstate and they’ll pay it.
- Now that I am missing more work days than my employer will pay me for, Allstate will pay me 80% of my salary for those days, so I can take the time I need without worrying about how to support my family.
If working half-time doesn’t give me enough rest (I’ll be going back to the concussion specialist for follow-up) then I also have disability insurance. I can take up to 12 weeks off work, receiving 60% pay, and rest assured that I’ll still have a job when I get back. I’ve done this before, when each of my children was born and also when I had a horrible viral bronchitis that made me very sick for a full month. It’s important to be able to rest when I need it so that I can be an effective worker when I’m at work.
This is why we have insurance! This is why we humans link together in networks and pay a little at a time for the privilege of belonging, so that when something goes wrong, the money is there to support us in taking good care of ourselves. Every once in a while, I feel guilty about how much I’m getting, and then I remember: I paid for this! I’ve been pouring money into the various insurance systems for years. I’m allowed to take some back.
Another, informal form of insurance is belonging to a church. I’ve been showing up every Sunday knowing that my kids will get attention and supervision and food even if I’m lying on the couch the whole time. (I haven’t. But I could!) This week, I asked my pastor for some help at home, and he set up a Doodle poll, and now Daniel and I have a third adult in our home every evening to help us with the crucial period between when everyone gets home and when the kids go to bed! I was burning out at that time and letting everything slide. Now I can get more rest and slowly catch up. (Home life has been particularly difficult because a lot of Daniel’s time and energy has been going into a repair project that has to get done right away and has taken longer than we ever expected! I can’t help at all, and he can’t keep up with his regular chores let alone give me the extra help I need, so having more hands on deck is crucial.) We’ve also had some valuable help from friends who don’t go to our church.
We also have the “insurance” of having savings we can tap as needed and having a thrifty, green lifestyle that leaves us lots of slack when we need it. We can spend money on take-out food and even a hotel room (it’s a long story about this repair project!) and thanks to a gift from Daniel’s parents, we haven’t actually dipped into savings yet. We have put Lydia in disposable diapers for a while, twice, and because we’re used to cloth it’s a wonderful lightening of the load–not only do we lose the chore of washing them, but the diaper bag literally weighs much less and is easier on my back!
Using my insurance in a time of need is working for me! I’m trying to give up on being sorry for the things I can’t do–and the way my house looks when all these church people are coming in!–and instead appreciate the resources that are available to help me when I need it. Also, I can’t say too many times how grateful I am that this accident wasn’t worse!
I might not post much for a while, due to technical difficulties beyond my control. Thank you for understanding.