Thank God I Didn’t Have Health Insurance In Dickinson, North Dakota

When I first came to work in Dickinson in 2011, I worked May through December for two different oil field service companies.  The first company that I worked for, I began to have a little bit of pain in my hips at the end of the day from walking around all day on rock scoria.  At many of the oil well locations, the rock scoria ranged from golf ball size to soft ball size, and after ten hours of stepping on rocks the size of soft balls, it became painful.

The second company that I worked for, I was too enthusiastic about getting things done and carrying things that were too heavy for one person to carry.  At my own business that I operated in Idaho from 2007 through 2011, I carried heavy things all day, and at the end of the day my back hurt.  But after sleeping all night, I was O.K. in the morning.  At the second oil field service company that I worked for in Dickinson, my back problems got worse day by day.

In November of 2011, the company that I worked for was doing large concrete pours.  After working twelve hours, and completing the last section of the concrete pour one day, the twenty foot long power screed quit working, its motor would not start.  Instead of vibrating itself across the concrete to level it off, it was sitting there in the middle not going anywhere.  It was many miles from Dickinson, 7:00 p.m., dark, with several concrete trucks backed up waiting to empty the last of the concrete.  We got two people on one end, me and another person on the other end, and we tried to pull the power screed back and forth and forward to level off the concrete.  It was double railed, too heavy, and had too much resistance to pull it by hand.  I hurt my back some standing on one end of it to lift it up and carry it out of the concrete pour area without stepping in the concrete.

I had seen an approximately twenty foot section of black steel schedule 80 pipe laying on the ground at the edge of the location.  Nobody wanted to have anything to do with that piece of pipe, it must have weighed about 300 lbs.  I dragged the pipe across the site with no one helping me, back to the concrete pour, hurting my back some more.  I hurt my back some more getting it out across the concrete with no one helping me.  The owner of the company did make three more people get on each end of that pipe with me and screed out the concrete, pulling it back and forth, and pushing it forward.  The concrete was finished off without any defect at all.

My back was not better the next day, it was not better after several days.  I said to the owner of the company that I could not do the work any more. He said O.K., get your camper off the company property as soon as possible.  I moved my camper  onto a friend’s property in Dickinson.  I thought that in a week or so I would be O.K., and that I would get another job in Dickinson.  I was not O.K. after a week, I had a lot of pain standing up, and I could not walk more than about thirty feet without holding on to something.

I called the North Dakota unemployment/disability telephone number, and I explained that my back problems had gotten worse and worse working for a company until I could not do the work any more.  I thought that I would be O.K. in a week or so, but I was not O.K.  The North Dakota unemployment/disability woman on the phone said, you quit your job, you are not entitled to anything.  I did not think that was correct.  I did not file any disability/injury claim when I was working for the company because I did not think that I had sustained any disability/injury.  I thought that I would be O.K., but I was wrong.  I didn’t want to hire an attorney, I just wanted to go back to my home in Idaho.  I thought that I would be better in a month or so.

I drove back to Idaho to my home in a rural farming area.  For the first month, I lay in bed about twenty hours each day.  My hips hurt and throbbed most of the time, which I thought was due to my back problems.  I had a hard time standing up long enough to wash a dish or plate at the kitchen sink.  I had a very hard time getting into and out of my truck.  On a good day, I would try to go to the grocery store, but I would have to hold onto a shopping cart the whole time after getting out of my truck in the parking lot, in order to walk, and I was in a lot of pain which got worse the longer I was standing.

In January of 2012 I began going to a chiropractor.  I had back X-Rays taken.  The first chiropractor that I went to was not very much help.  After about seven treatments, he even started to suspect and suggest that I might have something wrong with my hips, maybe I needed hip replacement.  I did not have health insurance.  The only way that I could afford hip replacement was if I sold my house to get the money for surgery, which I wasn’t about to do.

I sought out the oldest and most experienced chiropractor in the area.  On the first visit to this second chiropractor, after looking at my back X-Rays and examining me, he said, you have what is called antalgia, it is the most common back problem there is, it means “leaning to one side”.  When you have a damaged area on your spine or disc, your spine will try to lean away from the damaged area.

The second chiropractor that I went to, spent over an hour trying to straighten out my back on my first visit.  He put a kind of hot towels/blankets on my back to relax it for about ten minutes, then he physically pulled my back lengthwise to straighten it, both altogether, and vertebrae by vertebrae.  Then I was laying on my back, he was talking to me, articulating my right leg, and he asked me if I had any knee problems before and I said no, just then he yanked my right leg fairly hard, and my back went “Pop!”  I started laughing, and I said you distracted me, you probably won’t ever be able to pop my back like that again.  He said that’s O.K., sometimes it only takes once like that.  I could tell that he had helped a lot during that first visit.  He only charged $45.

I went back to this second chiropractor about five more times.  I got better and better with each treatment.  I looked forward to these treatments, he spent about an hour each treatment pulling my back straight, trying to “pop” every vertebrae apart one by one.  As my back got better, my hips hurt less and less.  He only charged me $45 for these hour visits, but I paid him more money than this, because I was aware that other chiropractors charge about $45 for fifteen minute treatments.

In April of 2012, I first tried to walk one lap around a grass athletic field, and I just barely did it, my hips and back hurt the longer I was standing.  In a week of trying, I got to where I could walk several laps around the athletic field, but my back hurt the longer I was standing.  It took me all of 2012 to work at getting better.  I became aware that I did not have hip problems, my hip pain was mostly related to my back pain.

In early 2013, I got to where I was 85% recovered from my back injury.  I had learned that I needed to do a variety of back strengthening exercises so that the many different kinds of muscles in my back would keep my back straight.  I came to realize that though my arms, shoulders, and legs had been strong, and allowed me to pick up and carry heavy things, my back never had been very strong, and this was the part of me that gave out.

In talking to an older woman who had broken her back and later recovered from it, she told me that if I would start taking glucosamine, glucosamine sulfate, or glucosamine with chondroiten, I would notice a difference in about one week.  I started taking the supplement glucosime, which you can buy in most grocery stores, and I recovered to about %100 by the Spring of 2013.  In May of 2013, I was back in Dickinson working for a construction company, having to do physical labor all day, without having physical problems or any pain.

I am very grateful that I did not have any health insurance when I got injured, because I am almost certain that an orthopedic surgeon would have insisted that I needed to have both my hips replaced, and probably also that I needed to have a spinal fusion.  I am not a doctor, I didn’t know about these things, I would have believed what a doctor would have told me.  It was a good thing that I didn’t have money for surgery or health insurance, and I had to get better without surgery.  It is now five years later from my back injury, and I don’t have any back pain, back problems, hip pain, or hip problems.

Looking back on everything that happened, especially if you are an older worker, if you are at work and you hurt your knee or back, you should quickly decide if you need to inform your employer of this injury, because if you don’t inform your employer right away, and your knee or back injury turns out to not go away, and prevents you from working, North Dakota workers compensation and North Dakota disability people will deny your injury claim because you didn’t report it right when it happened.  I was out of work without any pay for at least four months, and was unable to do physical labor jobs for more than one year.

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