Disability

About a year and a half ago my husband was in a pretty serious car injury. He was taken to the hospital unconscious. It turned out he had a blown to the head, which has been exasperated by the fact that it was not his first head injury (he can cite at least 4 other concussions before this point).

Immediately after the accident he slept constantly. He would watch TV with me and not remember the next day that we had watched anything. We would have a conversation and a few hours later he would have no recall of the conversation. He had, and still has, massive migraines constantly, dizziness, and soreness and pain in his neck and back.

Initially he tried to go start back to work, which was a big mistake for his recovery. But he believed that what he had would pass quickly.

He quickly used up all of his PTO time leaving work early due to massive headaches.

Eventually his boss told him he needed to fill for FMLA or if he missed anymore he would be fired. So he did. Within about six months he had used up his FMLA and was told that he needed to apply for short term disability. He did this.

He’s been seeing two different neurologists, a speech therapist for memory issues, a chiropractor and massage therapist and physical therapists to deal with the back and neck pain, an ENT and vestibular therapist for his dizziness. And while time has seemed to help him with his memory and cognition, though he isn’t perfect according to our neurocognitive analyist, he has definitely improved. But his headaches and dizziness have seemed to have gotten worse despite all the different treatment plans that his two neurologists have put him on. He still, a year and a half later, can’t drive because he can’t focus on the road and moving his head left and right causes his vertigo while driving. The few attempts that he has made have nearly resulted in other accidents.

Well, at the end of February, his short term disability ended and we also found out that the first review of his long term disability was denied. So here is a guy who WANTS to work, but can’t because he can’t mentally and physically hold a conversation (required by his job) for longer than 10 minutes… and he is denied? Anyway, so now we’re having to pay for COBRA for health insurance because he is now technically on a leave of absence at his work and since we only get one appeal for the long term disability we also have to hire a lawyer. Combine that with about 40% less income than we had previously – and well, things are financially tough over here.

I’m still working my part time job, so that is helpful. But right now we’re making *just enough* to cover our daily expenses. The medical bills we’re just working on one day at a time and chiseling them out with the $100 I get each month from my HSA (here’s $15 to you, $15 to you, and $15 to you… we know it isn’t enough, sorry).

In other words, things are stressful financially here. His appeal is due by the end of July. So we just keep hoping that one way or another that will settle things. However the lawyer keeps talking about suing if he gets denied again and then there is of course the next option of public disability (right now we’re applying through the long term disability benefit from his job benefits).

Because we don’t know what will happen next to us financially except that we know there WILL be expenses and that we WILL have to pay for them. We’ve decided to stop paying down debt. Paying down debt assumes a luxury of not getting in to more debt. We don’t have that luxury, we HAVE to incur medical debt right now.

Instead we’ve decided that our best method of debt prevention is to build a healthy savings of the extra money we do get so that we can pay for the “unexpecteds” that come along the way. When/if the disability gets approved, he’ll be getting a back payment of enough to pay off the majority of the debt that we have except for student loans, so it isn’t like we’re just giving up on paying it.

We’re essentially going back to Baby Step #1 and saying: “For us, $1000 isn’t enough. We need more because we know that big emergencies are likely in the next few months.”

So instead of my extra money at Kohl’s going to debt, it is now going to savings. Instead of my overload money at work going to debt, it is now going to savings. Instead of some of these wedding checks going to debt, they’re going to savings. Instead of the tax refund going to debt, it is going to savings. Instead of my summer teaching money going to debt, it is going to savings.

As strange as it may sounds, money and debt and finances have taken a second seat. It used to be my main focus, my drive. But now it is about getting my husband out of pain. Or at least helping him find a way to manage his pain so that it doesn’t get to the disabilitating levels that it has achieved recently.

However, money stress doesn’t help his recovery, so that is my “job” in helping him get better. I just have to make sure the money stuff is taken care of as best I can until we move past this and in to the next phase of our lives together.

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5 Responses to Disability

  1. psychsarah says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of your husband’s injuries, his disability claim being denied, and the ongoing struggles of rehabilitation. I work with people who were in car accidents every day (and many, like your husband, who have brain injuries and pain) and I know that the financial strain can add such a burden to recovery,. He’s fortunate to have a wife who has priortized finances in the past, so that you can have the option of shifting focus now. Best wishes to both of you-it’s tough to be the caregiver/strong person too. Take care!

  2. Oh my. I’m sorry to read about your hubby’s medical issues. How very frustrating for both of you. I hope you can get long term disability without having to incur too much additional debt.

  3. I am so sorry to hear about this! I think you guys are going about this completely the right way, you have to focus on his health – absolutely!

    Jordan has something called Mixed Connective Tissue Disease….not fun. He’s in a lot of pain, a lot of the time. He’s able to work now, but we don’t know how long his body will give him – so we are starting to thinking about saving and planning for a future when he might not be working.

    I wish you the best during this difficult time.

  4. Nicole says:

    Good luck and keep your chin up.

  5. deenadollars says:

    Best wishes during this difficult time. I think it sounds like you are making a great choice to prioritize having some stability with savings while so much is in flux. Hugs.

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