Rough financial terrain - the current landscape

First, an apology - I am not the best of bloggers, which is perhaps obvious!  I am not inclined to feel like you, all of my readers, need to know every detail of our existence.  Yet during my recent bicycling rides I have been pondering just what honest truth I can share with each of you about this life as one with a spinal cord injury.

What follows then is, more or less, where we are at as a family in terms of finances following my injury.  You may have noticed I have until this point avoided this topic; yet lately a bit of financial angst has set in - so that, if nothing else, this writing gives me a chance to vent some of those frustrations.  This also will give me the chance to relate what I am trying to do about our ongoing financial shortfall, and (as writing can do) perhaps organize my thoughts around this topic.

Thanks for reading and for even possibly for considering my employment .... some ideas on that topic as you read the following.


When I was injured at the hands of the intoxicated teen in August 2004 he was driving an uninsured vehicle. He and his family had no resources to compensate us, and though a lawsuit was filed initially it was dropped as there was nothing to be had. Our hope had been that some 3rd party, like a store or business, could be found at fault for selling alcohol to a minor - but that was not to be. In 2005 the state of Washington ordered the driver to provide restitution payments to me for damages caused, and determined that he should pay me $8,000 for uncovered medical expenses from the initial trauma. Since that time I have been occasionally receiving typically $40 checks; of which interestingly enough - if I fail to cash, I will owe the state a $50 fine!

We did receive a payment from our own auto insurance company. Basically if you are in any accident in which a car is involved, whether that be in an auto, or as a pedestrian or as a cyclist - your own auto insurance policy may cover you with PIP - personal injury protection, or if applicable UIM, or under insured motorist coverage. In my case we received a payment (minus attorney's fees, especially since this all became complicated) as I was truly hit by an under insured "motorist".  In my case, I believe it was primarily the PIP coverage for which we received compensation. Those funds went to the following areas:  our 3 children's college funds, to provide a vehicle we needed to purchase that I could get in and out of, pay uncovered medical and rehabilitation expenses, and finally to provide a better viola to my full-time professional musician wife (who struggles as almost all musicians to meet expenses; yet who provides music, joy and thereby brings meaning to much of life).

We have managed to stay afloat as a family due to two disability policies I had, and with the help of Social Security disability. Unfortunately one of those policies ended five years post-injury, or last fall 2009. Since that time we have faced then a very significant loss in monthly income compared to what we have been accustomed to since 1988. Don't get me wrong – we have so very much to be thankful for !!! An amazing recovery, relationships, community, and the deep satisfaction that comes from volunteer work. Yet something needs to change beyond just our ability to pare down to basics. I find myself torn between wanting to be the provider for our family, and yet face the reality of the lack of physical ability that will keep me from accomplishing that goal.

As for work, if I were to earn more than $750 per month, I would lose all social security disability income and the ability to have Medicare and supplemental insurance coverage. Basically I need to earn either less than $750 per month, or earn a lot (over $135k) for it to make any sense to go back to some type of full time work. I am hopeful that perhaps I may find a job that could pay me less than $750 per month, yet provide some other compensation such as health/dental insurance and/or deferred compensation of some variety. I am in the process of investigating possible opportunities with some local non-profit organizations focused on global medical care; in addition to seeking out ways to work as a medical examiner for insurance companies and pursuing speaking opportunities that may pay me an income.

Here is a summary of our family's current financial challenges:
1. All three teens need their wisdom teeth extracted at roughly $2250/teen with no insurance to cover this expense.
2. In an attempt to save money I have discontinued two of my medications (at $4-5/pill) which were otherwise deemed important; and have stopped receiving injections in my left arm and hand which allow me some additional movement/flexibility in that hand. These treatments each cost $1300 and have been given 4 times per year; yet my last treatment was in October 2009. I have decreased physical therapy and massage to once per month in an attempt to save money as well, yet honestly these have both been very helpful to me in the past.
3. I have some upcoming consultations which are likely to be expensive, yet important to complete. I have not have a urologic evaluation since January 2005 and am scheduled to see a specialist in the next few weeks to help determine if I need to catheterize myself more frequently, or perhaps not at all (that would be great!!).
4. I have been keeping up with my continuous re-certification requirements for Emergency Medicine and have passed all necessary exams to date to qualify for the board exam offered this September.  Once passed, my board certification will be effective until 2020.  Yet the exam fee is $1750, and having not been able to practice in the ER since 2004, it is even more vital that I take a review course to prepare for the exam. That alone is $1000, and does not include air travel and lodging.
5. Our family's ongoing medical/dental expenditures typically average $2000 to $2500 per month. That includes money spent on medical insurance with the remainder being uncovered medical and/or dental expenditures. Close to 90% of those dollars are attributable to me.
6. This fall we will now have 2 kids in college, both with monthly living expenses not covered by their 529 college funds. It was a sad day when I realized over a year ago those college funds were only for tuition, books and school supplies – not for room/board/living expenses. Given the economy it has been so far impossible for both boys to find part-time work.
7. On July 1, 2010 my Medicare insurance coverage was to begin, but did not….yikes! Investigation in process.

So while I have come to appreciate what many people face day in and day out, in terms of financial uncertainty, it is hard still for the first time in 22 years to not be able to afford some basic medical and dental care, and to have no reserve for emergencies, or to experience much of the life we once knew. In order to raise some funds we are looking into selling both our vehicles to obtain cheaper/older autos; we are also in the midst of a home re-fi with increasing consideration of accepting a 30 year mortgage just to keep monthly expenditures lower.
Overall I do not want to sound ungrateful. We have been provided for and cared for and loved by our community in amazing ways. Our church body of friends and many here on Bainbridge Island have done so very much to encourage us and have played a vital role in my recovery. I am deeply indebted to so many for their prayers, encouragement and talents in aiding my rehabilitation.

You could help by praying for me. I do want to work, and though I love the volunteer work I have been able to throw myself into, the time has come for me to find something to supplement our family income. Whatever that will be, I desire it to be work that is exciting and that will thrill me to get out of bed each morning! Though I had hoped to remain a long term faculty volunteer at the University of Washington school of medicine, serve as a spinal cord mentor to others so injured, and maintain active involvement in church ministry to others who have experienced loss, illness and hardship – it may be time that some of that energy needs to be re-directed and those volunteer activities curtailed. Time and events will tell….

I will do my best to keep you posted. IF you know of any opportunities in the medical field; speaking, teaching or potentially as an insurance examiner – I would appreciate the referral.
Thanks again for reading!
Be well,



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