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Standing Up For Yourself

Most of us stand up for those we love. If someone says something bad or does something to hurt your spouse, your protective instincts come out. And Lord help anyone who does our children wrong (or in my case, our fur-children). But do you stand up for YOURSELF?

I injured my shoulder nearly two years ago. When it happened, the Navy orthopedic surgeon I saw told me it was a pulled muscle and to take some muscle relaxers and Ibuprofin and it would go away in a matter of weeks. Three weeks later, my husband helped me PCS to Washington (he had moved 10 months prior).

So I went to a new doctor (not Navy as we were too far away from the closest military base). She immediately put me in physical therapy and to “re-strengthen” my muscles. I asked if I needed an MRI. She said no, it was just weak/pulled muscles.

The physical therapists said I had weak muscles and possibly some tendonitis and bursitis. PT seemed to work for a while, well enough for them to say I could return to doing everything I wanted after just a month of appointments. And I did feel better, but I just could not get over this HUMP and get fully better.

After attempting to get ready for my next physical fitness assessment, I started really hurting again. Back to physical therapy I went. For seven months. I started complaining that I wasn’t getting better. I mean, I got better a LITTLE but then hit this plateau that I just couldn’t break.

I was told I just needed to “push through the pain” to make the muscles better.  I went back to my PCM to complain that I wasn’t getting any better. She had x-rays done that didn’t show anything  and then…

… then we moved. To a place that was close to a Navy hospital. And I had to start over.  With a new doctor. The closest Navy hospital does the “team” approach so you might see one of about five people in the team. I saw the CNA because I had a legitimate concern, coupled with family history, and wanted a referral to an OB-GYN. She refused at first until I actually argued with her. Then she agreed.

The next week, I went to my new PCM and asked for an MRI for my shoulder/neck since I had been in physical therapy for the better part of a year and I wasn’t getting better. This happened to be around PRT time. She argued and told me, “I am an old lady with osteoarthritis in my knee and I can do the PRT… why can’t you?”  This was absolutely, 100% unprofessional. Not to mention the physical therapists said I wasn’t ready for it, Navy Reserve doctors said I couldn’t do it, and **I** knew I couldn’t physically do it. She ended up telling me she’d do the MRI, but only for my shoulder and she was only doing it to prove to me I was fine.

Directly after my MRI, I went to the patient advocate. I didn’t even know one existed. Every military hospital has one (and I wouldn’t doubt if all civilian do hospitals too).  When she heard how I was treated, she immediately told me she was going to make sure I was allowed to leave the hospital and go into the civilian sector for all my needs because what I experienced was unacceptable.

So I started over with a new doctor.  She read my MRI and it said there was nothing found but that they recommended an MRI with dye contrast and a consult with an orthopedic surgeon. So I was sent back to the Navy hospital (at my request because I got a referral to a very highly recommended doctor) where I was told, “It’s just weak muscles and inflammation. Let me give you a cortisone shot and you’ll be all better.”  I pointed out that the radiologist had recommended another MRI but with dye contrast and was told that the radiologist must be “overzealous.”  (Please note: I think military healthcare professionals are generally awesome and very skilled… I just wasn’t getting the care I needed for these specific problems)

So I promptly called TriCare and asked for a second opinion (yes, you are entitled to a second opinion… and if that is different than the first, you are entitled to a third!). Which I received.  THIS orthopedic surgeon did the MRI with dye contrast and still found nothing. But he listened to me and with my symptoms and pain, he recommended doing an “exploratory” arthroscopic surgery. He said he was quite sure I had a labrum tear in my shoulder and that it doesn’t always show up in MRIs… especially the farther you get away from the initial injury.

Today, I am sitting here 2 ½ weeks post-surgery… with four permanent anchors in my shoulder due to a labrum tear and fix. It was actually bad enough that he had to do a semi-open procedure rather than a totally arthroscopic one.  The prognosis is good and will hopefully fix everything. TriCare really came through and helped me get the second opinion… and that second opinion has made all the difference in the world. But I knew there was something wrong. Really wrong. More than just "weak muscles" wrong. And I wouldn't stop until I found someone who would believe me and fix it.

The moral of the story is:  Stand up for yourself. Only YOU know when there is something truly wrong with yourself or someone in your family. Find an advocate, but also be your own advocate. Stay strong and keep at it.

Have you had a time where you've had to fight for yourself or your family member (health reasons or other reasons)?

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