Disability Retirement and Me
by Patty D. (now 64 9/10)
I WENT... I BECAME... I WAS!
At about the very "tender" age of 50, I decided to go back to school, a University of all places!
I had already gone to EMT School (which to me was a "walk in the park"), as Emergency Medicine had always been a passion of mine. Well let me tell you, going to a GREAT BIG University was NO walk in the park, NOT at almost 50 years old.
In the summer of 1998, I officially enrolled for the Fall term at the University of Pittsburgh in my hometown. This campus is a HUGE sprawling campus of at least "a million" buildings. At least that's what it seemed like to me.
I will never forget my first day of classes, August 31st, 1998 at 8:00am, and it was Anatomy & Physiology. My course of study was Emergency Medical Services (Associates Degree as a Paramedic). It was a 2-Year Course with the concentration of work being in Medical Subjects, as well as Public Speaking, Writing, and Political Science.
I was ALWAYS the oldest student in every single one of my classes. My second year of study involved my usual maximum number of credits allowed at college, as well as Full-Time Paramedic Classes (along with Clinic Hours), and I also work virtually Fill-Time as a Security Guard at a local Steel Plant (mostly 12:00 Midnight to 7:30am (so I could attend classes), plus worked on weekends.
I also kept my home for my husband, and the Grandson we are still raising (he was 4 1/2 at the time of my Graduation).
I was the oldest member of the Class of 2000 at the University of Pittsburgh here in my hometown. My Public Speaking Professor sat directly behind me, and kept patting my shoulder saying "You did it Kid".
Throughout many ups & downs of those 2 years, I was able to finish with a "B" average... not bad for someone who (at that point) had been out of High School for 34 years. A truly high point of my "College Days" (no I as not voted Homecoming Queen--a skinny blonde won).
A well-renowned area Open Heart Surgeon invited me to observe him perform an Open Heart Surgery. I was totally ecstatic and quite honored. Of course, I had to miss class that morning, but my Professor stated there was nothing better than a true visual and hands on class. It was an experience that I will never forget, and such a distinct honor.
All of you are most likely wondering "what in the world all of this has to do with Social Security Disability".
Well my dear friends, as I explain to you further, you will understand why applying for these benefits, was the MOST emotional painful thing I have ever had to do.
Before I embarked on my "Dream Career", I decided to "fine tune" a few minor health issues first. That in itself was the worst decision I have ever made in my life.
What was to be a simple bunionectomy procedure, turned out to be TWO bunionectomies here in my hometown. Both of these were performed by a Podiatrist (who I thought was "Tops" in his line of work). However, he and his partner turned out to be nothing more than (for lack of a better term) butchers.
I endured more than 10 months of sever pain, and still could not see any difference in my (left) foot, with toes still being "hammered". I decided to go see an Orthopedic Foot Surgeon in Pittsburgh. When he X-Rayed my foot & examined it, he was appalled at its condition.
Arrangements were made, my surgery to be performed at Allegheny Hospital. He had to subsequently reconstruct my left forefoot, re-break my toes and set them again with pins (sticking out), plus re-do the bunion. That surgery had a recovery time of nearly 4 1/2 months.
Next, he had to perform what he called a "fine tuning" on a toe of my left foot. This toe simply wouldn't st down. During that surgery, he found that a pin which was supposed to dissolve, was still intact, and beginning to become problematic. He had to work with difficulty to remove it, and re-insert a new one that now does not allow me to move that toe at all. The recuperation time for this surgery was 13 weeks.
This is where my "saga" gets to the loss of my Dream Career. Because of these 4 surgeries (the 2 botched ones plus the 2 in Pittsburgh), I found that standing for more than 15-20 minutes caused me excruciating pain. Also, I could no longer wear the required EMS work boots. Neither was I able to jump out of the back of an ambulance while performing CPR on a patient who's life I was trying to save.
In the following months, I obtained a Disability Attorney, he took my case, but very politely informed me that it would most definitely be an "uphill" battle. In other words, it would be VERY tough to win this one.
I looked at him, and with tears in my eyes, told him what else do I have to lose; I've already lost my career.
Of course we lost the first round, and I refused to give up. I told my attorney, when the waiting period is up, let's do it again. So, in July of 2002, we went back to court, gave & heard a lot of
testimony, & then the hearing officer called on a Vocational Counselor to testify. I thought to myself, here we go, I'll surely be screwed with this guy.
Well, lo' & behold, this gentleman was entirely on my side. He told the hearing office that there was absolutely nothing in my field (or otherwise) that I would be able to do, that would be comparable to the wages I would & should be earning. He stated that I was too intelligent and over-qualified for anything that he had available.
So I was awarded my disability, which ended up being one of the smallest disability checks I have ever seen the government send. Just to have to apply for such benefits was demoralizing to me because, as I said: I WENT...I BECAME...I WAS!