Anatomy of a Sick Day, part 2 (or why people with special needs are exhausted by advocating for themselves)

In the last few months, I made a promise to myself to be kinder to my body and give it more rest when my cerebral palsy-related issues flare. That was part of my logic in filing for intermittent leave, so I could feel less guilty about calling out. Because while I don’t call off often, and while I have a legit disability, I am after all American and consumed with a drive to push myself past pain and perform at all costs.

So the fact that I laid in bed for an hour this morning contemplating the benefits and the detrimental effects of not going to work, and still called out is a big deal to me. Being a good employee is a big deal to me.

But as soon as I posted my last blog entry, Anatomy of a Sick Day, I checked my personal email only to receive an email from my very nice claims administrator for the absence management company hired by Stitch Fix to handle leaves.

My sick day was being approved only as a courtesy as I had already used up my leave time for the year. I had a medical appointment in early November which launched this whole journey (Is it Time for Botox… in my Hips?) and followed up on a visit with the podiatrist where I was diagnosed with two Morton’s Neuroma (The Stabby Toe and The Challenging Gait).

I have chronicled my frustrations with this whole process in blog posts like WTF? Another Cerebral Palsy Aware Day and Toe-Day at Work.

I have had two falls since early November, and significant work changes throughout the fall. My right side has taken a lot of abuse in all of these falls and changes, and my toe still burns more than it should.

But somehow, despite have a neurological condition that has changed my bone and tendon structure, made it difficult for me to walk, and left me with muscles in my lower body that never relax, the absence management company approved my leave for up to three hours twice a year.

SIX HOURS A YEAR.

How is that helpful?!?!?!?

I reviewed the initial letters and paperwork and found that my very, very helpful and talented neurologist wrote that I should have leave for 1-2 episodes per year of an undermined length. She physically wrote in her own handwriting “undetermined” and explained that my cerebral palsy made me an increased fall risk.

And they decided that the only leave I needed was for regular twice-a-year visits to my neurologist. Why would I pay $30 per form to have special leave for two appointments per year?!?!?

To settle my nerves– because even after I wrote back to them that she requested leave for episodes not appointments they would not budge and said my only recourse was to have more paperwork completed, at my expense– I called my blind friend, Nan. Nan has a lifelong history of advocating for oneself and at this point even she is frustrated and exhausted by the constant mental gymnastics it takes to get the most basic attention.

She moved to a retirement community in September, since as a blind person she will lose her independence if she relocates at a period of time when she no longer can re-learn a setting. She told me how she asked an administrator to read her the activities calendar. The administrator read her one week. And told her to call for help getting more info.

At this point, it’s been almost six months. Nan’s rent is significant, and it would have taken 5-10 more minutes for the administrator to go ahead and finish the month. Yes, Nan can call someone to update her on the day’s activities, but as someone who never neglected to point out the accommodations she would need, shouldn’t some of this help be automatic by now?

Anyway, I’m going to download the medical forms and start filling them out myself, and see if my PCP will just sign them.

Ridiculous.

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