Category: Helping Hands Blog
Published: Monday, 14 July 2014 10:58
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male advocateExperiences of a Wife's Advocate

Advocate- Someone who speaks on another person’s behalf.

Every person with a disability needs a good advocate. There are several reasons for this. Sometimes people are more willing to listen to a third party. Sometimes the person with the disability is just too physically or emotionally tired to stand up for themselves. Sometimes the offending party will back down when there is more than one person they have to fight.

Proper advocating is not easy. It takes both intestinal fortitude and wisdom; fortitude to continue to stand up when the fight is not going your way and wisdom to know which battles to fight and which to let go.

I have been advocating for my wife for over ten very long years now. I can honestly say her daily life is better today because she had someone willing to stand up for her and fight her battles. My wife is a strong person, but is non-confrontational. Both are good traits to have in general life, but sometimes a meek personality does not get you where you need to be when it concerns doctors, insurance and the government.

In 2004 I took her to an emergency room because of severe abdominal pain. After the emergency room doctor said her condition was not “life-threatening” he told her to go home and make an appointment with her regular doctor, completely ignoring the fact that she could barely stand and then could only do so doubled over due to pain. As her advocate, knowing she needed pain relief, I refused to go get the car. They discussed calling a taxi. I told them I would not pay the bill and no taxi driver would take a patient who was in such agony that they could not get into or out of the car without being carried. Finally, after several hours of listening to my ongoing demands for treatment the ER staff called up to the sixth floor and asked a specialist to come to the ER for a consult. This specialist also wanted to send her home, but this time with a prescription for mild pain medication. Again I refused and their only option was to admit her to a room where her pain was controlled until surgery could be performed three days later to remove grapefruit size cysts from her abdomen.

Just over one year later the pain returned, but during the course of the year we had moved to another state where she had new doctors who did not understand that when she complained of pain she was REALLY in pain. We scheduled a “fit-in” appointment with her doctor at his office where she received a precursory exam from a nurse who did not believe she was having abdominal pain necessitating a doctor. My wife was then instructed to leave the exam room and go to the rather full waiting room where they would TRY to get to her sometime later in the day with no promises being made. However, I knew due to the nurse’s snippy attitude that once we got to the waiting room they would never call her back to be seen by the doctor and would simply send us home at the end of the day when the office closed and after the doctor had left the building. I was not willing to have that happen and despite my wife’s objections I sat down on the floor of the hallway and refused to budge until she was seen by the doctor. The staff discussed calling the police to have me removed but I refused to budge. Finally the office administrator invited us into his office, which was probably a bad move on his part because now he could not get any work done. However, thirty minutes later she was seen by the doctor who scheduled an appointment with a surgeon for removal of internal abdominal growth- a result of complications from the surgery a year earlier.

Despite two back-to-back surgeries the new surgeon told us she could not fix the problem and told my wife to go home and live in pain. Not willing to live with that prognosis, I requested that she be seen by a specialist in another state, but that doctor was not covered by her employer provided insurance meaning the cost would be entirely out of my pocket and we were looking at spending $50,000+. I visited with her employer’s insurance representative and asked for help contacting the insurance company to get permission for them to pay out of network and, unbelievably, was flatly refused. The representative stated she did not have time to waste on a fruitless endeavor. Being the dutiful advocate, I then called the insurance company myself and, of course was refused, but pressed until I was told that if I could prove every capable doctor in her network was unable or unwilling to provide the surgery needed then they would pay an out-of-network doctor. I researched to locate, then called every surgeon in the entire network who advertised the type of surgery needed and got their office to decline to see my wife citing her extensive medical history or lack of advance surgical procedures which could cause further complications. Every time a doctor’s office declined I called the insurance company back to report it. After about a month the insurance company caved and agreed to pay for the surgery.

What I have listed here are examples of advocacy during only the first years of my wife’s ongoing medical problems. There are many more examples of times when advocacy meant the difference between treatment or (in my opinion) neglect. One unhappy doctor even told my wife she needed to divorce me because I was the source of her pain! Advocacy continues to be an ongoing vital aspect of my job as husband. This year advocacy has already included writing letters to Senators and Congressmen then personally meeting with them to try to get action on federal levels to stop a government agency whose actions are harming and preventing my wife from receiving medically necessary treatment. Last month I testified before the state's medical board.

Every person suffering from a disability needs an advocate, whether it is a relative, friend or even an attorney. A person who is willing to stand up and fight battles is an invaluable asset and a must-have in today’s medical and legal environment in order to receive proper care and attention. Perhaps you have tried obtaining disability benefits on your own. Consider contacting the Cochran Firm for a disability lawyer to act as an advocate on your behalf to the Social Security Administration.



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Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by guest blogger Tim Alexander.