My book.

My book.
"Fascinating" Stephen S. Hall. writer, N.Y.Times magazine. "Hard to put down." A.C.P.A., American Chronic Pain Association.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Abnormality is our normal, or Psychiatry tunes out our reality.

Before the mini-lobotomy that Dr. William Sweet tried to talk me into, "You will still have the pain, you just won't care that you do." he had me evaluated mentally and intellectually.

One of the tests used was the MMPI or Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory*.

A number of these questions cannot be answered the same way by those without pain vs those with chronic intractable pain.

Many docs, psychologists, rehabilitationists and counselors use this test. See how you feel about it. For readers without pain I put the reasonings below the statements for which you had to choose True or False.

"I wake up fresh and rested most mornings.
My daily life is full of things that keep me interested.
I am about as able to work as I ever was.
I work under a great deal of tension.
(Trying to get the work done before the pain becomes too great to continue on.)
I am sure I get a raw deal from life.
(I am in constant chronic intractable pain. What else is it if not a 'raw deal'?)
I am very seldom bothered by constipation.
(If you are takiing narcotics (and some other meds) this is a known side effect.)
I find it hard to keep my mind on a task or job.
(Pain. Meds.)
I am a very sociable person.
(see above.)
Parts of my body often have feelings like burning, tingling, crawling, or like "going to sleep".
(This defines some of the sensations of tn as well as some other pain disorders.)
At times I have very much wanted to leave home.
(Trigeminal neuralgia forces you to stay in much of the time as does many of the pain syndromes. I was virtually housebound for over 10 years, going out only to the bank, grocery, and doctor appointments.)
Much of the time, my head seems to hurt all over.
I am in just as good physical health as most of my friends.
I prefer to pass by school friends, or people I know but have not seen for a long time, unless they speak to me first.
(Many of us do not want to have to deal with the questions of 'what have you been doing.' For me, I did not want to have to answer the additional questions, or deal with the pitying looks, about the facial paralysis.)
I wish I could be as happy as others seem to be.
(We are in pain. Most of us are unhappy about that, and what it has done to our lives.)
Most of the time I feel blue.
(We are in pain. see above.)
I usually feel that life is worthwhile.
(Some of us do not. I was advised at one point, by doctors, including a psychiatrist, that 'rational suicide was acceptable in my case.)
Often I feel as if there is a tight band around my head.
(For trigeminal neuralgia, at least half our heads, unless you have bilateral.)
My speech is the same as always (not faster or slower, no slurring or hoarseness).
(Not once we start on the anticonvulsants, opiates, and other medications prescribed for constant chronic pain.)
My table manners are not quite as good at home as when I am out in company.
(For me, it is hard to eat because of the paralysis and loss of sensation in my mouth. For others, opening their mouths is painful so eating is difficult. At home I can enjoy my food more and worry later about what has fallen out of my mouth. I sure cannot do that when eating out.)
I know who is responsible for most of my troubles.
(Dr. Martinez caused the numbness where there had previously been none.
Dr. Jannetta paralyzed my face. Dr. Wiulson said there was too much scar tissue from Dr. Jannetta's surgery to do what he wanted. My 2 lawyers left me high and dry.).
I believe that my home life is as pleasant as that of most people I know.
I certainly feel useless at times.
The top of my head sometimes feels tender.
(Hello. Did someone say trigeminal neuralgia?)
I do not tire quickly.
My memory seems to be all right.
(Pain and pain medications change this for many of us; from peppy or energetic to zonked and and good memory to fuzzy, cloudy, zonked.)
I can read a long without tiring my eyes.
(This is more specific for those like me whose trigeminal neuralgia effected their eye usage.)
My hands have not become clumsy or awkward.
(This is an issue for many with pain, such as arthritis, etc. The medications can also cause this.)
I have had no difficulty in keeping my balance while walking.
(Again the meds.)
I enjoy many different kinds of play and recreation.
(The pain stops that.)
I frequently find myself worrying about something.
(The next surgery, or that there is no more surgery. The next drug or there is no drug. The next time the pain attacks.)
I have few or no pains. (Obvious)
I have difficulty in starting to do things.
(Meds and pain.)
It does not bother me that I am not better looking.
(This is more specifgic for me and others whose pain/treatments for the pain caused changes to their looks.)
I have numbness in one or more places on my skin.
I have often felt that strangers were looking at me critically.
(Again the paralysis. Others with pain often tell stories of using the handicapped spots (with the appropriate plate or placard)and people yelling at them that they were not disabled and "How dare you park there? -this also happened to me. Because pain is invisible we also get looked at critically by those who refuse to believe that we have pain or cannot do something that we say we cannot do because of the pain.)
Life is a strain for me much of the time.
My parents and family find more fault with me than they should.
(I have heard way too many stories similar to mine where nasty things are said because family refuses to accept the pain/disability.)
I have never been paralyzed or had any unusual weakness of any of my muscles.
Most of the time I wish I were dead.
(Too many of us have expressed this wish, whether an active wish or inactive. Only those who live with constant chronic pain can really understand (and those who have devoted and accepting family) why death is not is not the worst thing that can happen.)
I forget right away what people say to me.
(Again meds but also sometimes the pain is so loud nothing else can get through.)
I usually have to stop and think before I act, even in small matters.
(Meds, Pain.)
Often I cross the street in order not to meet someone I see.
(When the pain is bad it is hard to be a "hail fellow well met.")
I often feel as if things are not real.
(Narcotics will do that to you.)
I get anxious and upset when I have to make a short trip away from home.
(What if the pain gets too bad? What if I forgot/don't have enough medication with me? What if, for those with trigeminal neuralgia - this is definitely how it was with me, someone moves their arm, or takes off a coat, or it gets breezy triggering the pain more? Too many what if's.)
I have more trouble concentrating than others seem to have.
Almost every day something happens to frighten me.
(For me when the t.n. was very bad, anytime a breeze came up, a strand of hair started to fall on my face, someone walked by too closely, the chance something would trigger the pain, was terrifying.)
At parties I am more likely to sit by myself or with just one other person than to join in with the crowd.
(Too many opportunities to increase the pain.)
I have sometimes felt that difficulties were piling up so high that I could not overcome them.
(The pain, the medications, the inability to work causing financial troubles, the loss of friends as they disappearred the more times you say "I'm sorry, I can't.")
I have often met people who were supposed to be experts who were no better than I.
(See Dr. Martinez, Dr. Jannetta, my lawyers.)
Whenever possible I avoid being in a crowd.
(Again, triggers for the pain.)
It makes me nervous when people ask me personal questions.
(It is tiring, hurtful, frustrating to say "pain, pain, pain.")
I do not feel I can plan my own future.
(It si up to the docs, the treatments, the surgeries, the medications.)
I am not happy with myself the way I am.
(Uh. duh.)
I very seldom have spells of the blues.
(see above.)
A windstorm frightens me.
(This is a killer for trigwminal neuralgia, and some other disorders such as some people who have CRSP, complex regional pain syndrome.)
The future is too uncertain for a person to make serious plans.
I have no fear of water.
(That is a killer for those with touch triggers.)
The future seems hopeless to me.
(Until the right doc and the right med/treatment/surgery comes along.)
I can stand as much pain as others can +
(No, I can stand more.)
I spend most of my spare time by myself.
My main goals in life are within my reach.
I am not feeling much pressure or stress these days.
I hate going to doctors, even when I'm sick.
Although I am not happy with my life, there is nothing I can do about it.
(Not depression,true for many of us.)
I am so sick of what I have to do every day that I just want to get out of it all.
(see above.)
I have recently considered killing myself.
(Same as the other questions about suicidal thoughts.)
My life is empty and meaningless.
(see above.)
I find it difficult to hold down a job.
Lately I have thought a lot about killing myself."

It turned out to be a longer list than I expected so I apologize for typos; because "I can read a long without tiring my eyes." - not. Or ending up in severe pain.

The reason I write about this, and will write more on it, is because of the way too many times many pain patients have been told "it is all in your head." or that their pain is psychiatric and not physical, regardless of the physical findings.
Copied and pasted from

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Alone in the storm or Oh brother where art thou?

The wind is getting a little stronger. I keep hearing the TV meteorologists, the governors and mayors, trying to scare me, maybe telling the truth, but it is easier to work at thinking it will be nothing like they are saying. The hurricane and tropical storm, winds and rains they are predicting for my area, will be nothing like their screeches - get inside, tape your windows, find a safe place - but instead just a whisper.

I went through almost all my surgeries alone, being taken down to the OR by orderlies, no one there to take my hand or touch my shoulder and say "It will be allright. I'm here for you now. I will be here when you wake up."

I am feeling the same bereftness now.

The people who are supposed to be my family, the sister and brother with whom I was raised, live 20 and 35 minutes away, respectively. Except for my brother sending me a manila envelope filled with pictures of me as a child, some of my report cards and some other things (I have no idea where they came from or why he had them), no note, just essentially an F--- you, you are not my sister" I have heard nothing from him, or my sister.

I have written before about some of the things they have done to me, yet have made me the bad guy, their children believing them. Except for one brave soul there is no family for me, and he lives a number of states away.

I was reading a novel and came to these lines: "You don't need to protect me anymore Neil." "Yes I do. I'm always your older brother. I want to be there for you." Everytime I read lines like these, 'I am your sister, I am your brother' it is a knife to the heart.

It is times like tonight, especially, when they keep talking about having a safe place to go, let your family know where you are, let them know you are safe, if you have no one go to a shelter, that the sharpness of the betrayal of family, that the turning away, for no reason, of the people that the world tells you to go to when there is trouble (and I know way too many people are in my boat, the 'family' nowhere near what the storybooks say) when it is the most acute.

For much of my days they are not there in my thoughts, they have disappeared, as they have in real life. It would be nice, I sometimes think, if I could call the sister, who once told me, "when I am just with you alone it is enjoyable" but somehow others (one sister) seemed to have made sure she turned away.

The brother and I have much in common. He is creative, an artist (or was at least). His hurting of me has been the worst because he has done it to me publicly.

He invited me, I do not know why, to his son's bar mitzvah. He called me while I was in the hospital. The date would be only a few days after I had major surgery. I told him that I was not sure I could come because of that. I was told that if I did not come it just showed what kind of person I was because he was extending himself to me and I was refusing. What could I do?

I took a train from Pennsylvania to Florida where they were living. He and his wife picked me up from the train station and took me to their home where my other 2 sisters were, having also come down (from Pennsylvania) for the celebration.

Not one person asked "Are you okay?" How are you feeling?" or even "How did the operation go?" I spent the visit pretending I felt well.

The surgery was not at the base of my pain though. It was when I was at the synagogue and the little pamphlets were being given out that told about the Bar Mitzvah boy and the service.

On the front was a thank you "to all our family" on my brother's side. Everyone's name was there. But mine. The hurt was physical. My nephew did call me up, with the rest of the family, to help cut the cake. That helped salve it some. I was not completely publicly cut out.

When my father was dying he hired people that were nurse's aides and not well trained. I saw some of them, one in particular, treat him cruelly. My 2 sisters who were often at the house protected them when I pointed out something horribly mean - like the time one aide sat there as my father, who had ALS and could move only one finger, kept asking for mushroom soup. He asked, then fell asleep for 2 or 3 minutes. Then he would wake "I want some mushroom soup" and fall asleep. The aide just sat there. My father kept repeating this request, maybe 5 times. I realized she was not going to bother so I said I would get it.

I walked into the kitchen. To my surprise there was mushroom soup sitting in a pot on the stove. It made no sense that she would not have said, "It's heating up, I'll go get it for you." The man wanted his soup. She had made it. What kind of game was she playing?

I brought the bowl into the room. "Give that to me, I will feed it to him." she demanded. Then she sat the bowl down on her lap, not feeding him.

Finally she said, "I need (something, I no longer recall what) from the other room. Go get it for me?" she said to me. As soon as I left the room I glanced back towards where he was sitting. Now that I was gone she was feeding him the soup. She would not do it while I was in the room. I had no idea why.

I told my sisters. "Then do not stay in the room." they replied. They did not care that she was doing something hurtful to him. More important that I be hurt and left out.

My brother came up from Florida for a visit. We were standing in my mother's room. I told him what had happened; that the aides were being downright awful to him and that I was also being treated horribly by my sisters. I started crying. I reached out to him. He let me 'hug' him for maybe 2 seconds then pushed me away. "Let them do what they want and you stay away."

His disdain(?) dislike(?) hatred(?) for me trumped his concern for our father and his getting the care he needed.

The third time was the strangest still (at least until the envelope with the pictures).

He had invited me to his daughter's wedding. She barely knew me, he had not talked to me in ages.

Nevertheless I knew I had to go if only so people could not say "See, I told you. What a bitch, she did not even come to her own neice's wedding."

He told me I could only come alone, there was no room at the reception for me to bring someone else. It would cost too much for more another table place for my friend who was driving me, even if she paid for her own meal.

The wedding was over and we were in the reception hall. He came over to me. "There is someone you have to meet." he said, almost pulling me along with him.

He called over to a woman I had never seen before. She walked over, smiling at David, and looking at me.

"Do you know who this is?" he asked me, his face and voice announcing his enjoyment.

"I am sorry but I don't."

The woman looked at him curiously. She shook her head. She did not know who I was. I was embarrassed. I assumed it was someone I should know.

He continued to look at me, almost gleefully. "Are you sure you don't know who this is?"

I was completely stumped.

"I'm sorry. I don't know you, I'm afraid."

"This is my half sister ( )." I was dumbfounded. None of the 3 of my siblings (half siblings) had ever had a relationship with their father or his family. What was she doing here?

It turned out she was the sister they found to take my place. Don't like your sister, for unknown reasons, (or at least ones you never told her) just go out and find another.

He had no room at the table for me to bring someone - I was totally alone - but there was ( ) the half sister, her husband, and her mother, seated at the same table where I had been told to sit and where there was no room. Surprisingly there was plenty of room for them.

Do you ever get over the pain? Do you ever get over the aloneness of having no one?

Is there ever shelter from the storm?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Things we can learn from a dog.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

When loved ones come home always run to greet them.

If something you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

Take naps and stretch before rising.

Never pretend to be something you're not.

Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

Avoiding biting when a simple growl will do.

On warm days stop to lie on your back in the grass.

On hot days drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.

When you're happy dance around and wag your entire body.

When someone is having a bad day be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

No matter how you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout. Run right back and make friends.

Be loyal.

Taken from FISH WRAPPER, Lancaster County/south edition, June 5,2009.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why aren't you volunteering?

"Well, if you say you can't work at least you could volunteer somewhere!".

One of my sisters said this to me. It was a continuation of her disbelief about the level of pain/ if I really had pain. She said this after, I forget, number 3 - 6 of my brain surgeries, done to try and stop the pain. The irony is I got a job 6 weeks after the first surgery worked but never heard a "good for you." "Way to go." etc. (Or a 'sorry' when the pain came back 3 months later.)

I am reading an article from Psych central, an online site.*

The writer, a psychologist who does not have chronic pain, states: "If employment is not possible because of the level of disability, then volunteer work is suggested." What? Why would we be able to do the one when we cannot do the other?

She continues, "chronic pain can be managed. Management usually means that people live with some degree of pain." She is unaware that for many of us 'some degree of pain' is a gigantic and debilitating degree of pain.

If you believe that those with chronic pain can be 'managed' to allow only a modicum of pain then it follows that you believe we can do volunteer work as a substitute for a paid job.

Talk to many of us, that 'some degree of pain" means disability that is not just an inconvenience but a major impediment to living a life. For some of us management means being able to get out of bed in the morning or being able to put on our shoes

If we could do volunteer work we, most probably, can get a paid position.

I think, almost constantly, what can I do in the context of my pain; and if not a paid job then maybe I can do a volunteer one?, but the reason I cannot volunteer is the same as the reason why I cannot get a paid job. I have pain that is disabling.

My father once said to me "I have seen you read, so I know you can read." I explained to him, repeatedly, that I can read, and write, but only for 15 - 20 minutes before the pain becomes so bad it nauseates me. He does not want to hear or believe it. This is, I think, somewhat the author's reasoning.

"Medications are one option,", she writes, "but it is a common misconception that medications cure chronic pain" I do not know who has this misconception, it is not those of us with CIP (chronic intractable pain).

"Most medications for pain dull uncomfortable sensations..."

We look, hope, and dream of a cure; but we also know that the medications we receive, often opiates, may 'dull' the pain - if we are lucky. They also make us feel awful, cloudy of thought, tired, and slowed in thought and movement: neither fun nor sensations to be wished. And how do you work when you feel like this, even forgetting the addition of the pain?

And, I am sorry, but to equate "uncomfortable sensations" to chronic intractable pain is a gigantic miscomprehension of what CIP is, as opposed to the pain of say a sprained wrist or a slight arthritis (as opposed to severe and disabling) of a finger or toe.

Only someone who does not have pain, like the sister, my father, or the article's author, can think this way.



Monday, August 22, 2011

Feeling the weight of suspicion.

I went to the pharmacy the other day. As long as I was there I decided to see if I had any medication refills ready for pick up.

The last time I was there there was a codeine prescription still available for refill. I also had a new 6 month script from my doc. I asked the technician to put it on file, as they always have done.

I returned in a month and went to the counter. "I'd like to have the codeine refilled (along with 2 other non narcotic prescriptions.)" The woman could not find them in her computer. "It was put in the file." "Okay, no problem. Let me check." She picked up a rolodex type file and thumbed through it. "No. I'm sorry, nothing here."

I was becoming anxious. I knew they had it. I had never lost a script or needed a replacement - for any reason - ever. In addition, I had just left my pain doc,(on very good terms), because all he could do for me was write for the codeine (and an anticonvulsant, taken for the pain). He felt my family doc could do it just as easily plus the family doc was 10 minutes away. My pain doc was an hour away. I knew he would have no problem if another script had to be written but I felt uncomfortable with that because I had just ended the relationship. I could not ask my family doc to do it, he had just agreed to start writing for it. This would look...bad.

I knew I had done nothing wrong. I knew they had it on file. I waited while she looked again, no luck. I waited, my nerves on end. Was I going to be considered a druggie, someone just trying to get over on the system by getting a second script? Was I selling it, was I taking too many? No. None of those.

All the articles on pain patients being addicted, selling their meds, giving them away, making us the bad guys in the 'war on drugs' when we are not, had taken an unconscious toll on me.

"Oh I'm sorry. Here it is." In a second I went from feeling like I was going to get caught doing something wrong, even though I knew I had not, to feeling free again.

My friend just told me a similar story; only in hers the pharmacist yelled at her so the whole store could hear. "You are 2 days early! These are narcotics. You cannot have them yet. You have done this before, In March (5 months ago) you got them 2 days early and in another month you got them one day early." "Please call the doctor then if you have a problem with the prescription." "No." he barked at her, "the doctor does not decide these things. I do." As she was leaving he yelled after her "You can always try to get them at another drug store." She left the store feeling humiliated, embarrassed, and (falsely) accused.

She called me, very upset. "What did people think when he was yelling this at me? They must have thought I was trying to pull one over, maybe even doing something illegal, at the least being a 'druggie'." She was devastated. And what was her crime? Trying to get her prescription filled, something almost everyone does at one time or another - without hassle or repercussion.

Why then can't we be treated the same as the one who gets insulin or heart medication? What is our crime? Nothing, other than trying to get the medication that helps get us through the minute, the hour, the day.

Neither one of us, or any pain patient, should be made to feel embarrassed, humiliated or criminal, merely because we have a medication that carries the definition of opiate.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What is 'brave'?

"You are so brave." someone says, a stranger or even a friend or loved one as they learn what you have or are going through.

Are you brave because you fight the pain? Is your 'courage' in the struggle to get through each day or in going through procedure and treatment after procedure and treatmant?

I read what so many have to say about their experience of living with chronic pain. From many of them, from their stories, I think the bravery is in saying "I can't", "today the pain is bad." "I will try despite the pain." Sometimes it takes courage to say the truth.

I know that I am not the only person with pain who has been ridiculed and criticized for saying "I can't"

One sister said to me "I don't understand why you don't volunteer at least." If I could do volunteer work, I could do paid work. And I want to do paid work. It would give me a place to go, people to see, things to do. And a paycheck. It would give me a sense of purpose.

Actually I do volunteer. Once every 2 - 3 weeks I take food to an elderly woman. Although I am only required to leave the food and leave, I stay for an hour or so. We share confidences. We have a relationship, even when she introduces me to people as "the lady who brings me food."

I love doing it, and yet I often cringe when I know today is the day. It is just picking up meals at a church and schmoozing. How bad is that?

Sometimes pretty bad.

I use my eyes to pick out the foods I want to take her. Then I use my eyes when I talk with her, especially because sometimes she is a handtalker. The movement of the hands sets off the eyepain. Sitting with her is usually a codeine time. One lady, one hour, one codeine.

I do not tell her: I tell no one that this is hard for me. Sitting with someone and talking. Ah, come on... Who would believe it? Often even I do not believe it.

Am I brave because I do it? Am I brave because the fight continues minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day? Am I brave because I stay home knowing that a simple trip just to the store, using my eyes to look at the items, will cause the pain?

Often I see it as a coward's act. Just bite the bullet, for crying out loud. It is a trip to the store or to see Angie, or to go to church or sing in the choir. Your life is so empty and lonely only because of your fear. Everything is colored by the worry. What if (whatever I try to do) makes the pain so bad I have to be overdosed, in pain and narcotic headed?

I think about trying to volunteer, something like being a 'pink lady' in a hospital. I used to be a candystripper, a gazillion years ago, way before the pain. This would be taking water or flowers to patient rooms. That means reading, looking for the room number, talking to the patient. Could I do that? Would they let me work for only an hour? And would I be even more discouraged if I found out something even that simple was beyond me?

Is it cowardice to let the fear of the pain and the fear of failure because of the pain take control?

Is it bravery, or foolhardiness, to try?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ben's friends is no friend of mine.

I woke up this morning obsessing after falling asleep to the same thoughts. Going through my email this morning I found 2 emails sent to me by the admiinistrator of this Ben's friends group, Living with TN. I read them, and responded. What she wrote so upset me that I am still shaking. The posting today is my sounding board and catharsis (I hope.).

I was 'suspended" and accused of spamming and harassment because I asked to have my book listed as an external link to their article they put on Wiki about atypical facial pain. I say accused because when asked to provide proof of either/both she could provide none.

She told me they had "unearthed" my blog. They, she and'other administrators, although only one other named in one of the emails she sent) had decided that my mention of it was an 'advert' for the book. I assume this was her basis for the 'spamming' complaint. The only problem was they obviously never bothered to look further to see that the blog name is not the same as the book and this blog has nothing to do with the book.

She had no basis for the 'harassment". Instead she wrote me an email- to my personal address- her fourth, to tell me if I replied it would be considered 'harassment' since I had already sent 3 emails(I could only find 2) to the administrators of the site. All were in direct reply to her email but she wanted to find an excuse after the fact for the "permanent" suspension. (She put permanent in her email. The site notification merely said 'suspended".)

Once again, and I did write a short post earlier when this first happened, it appears it has to do with the book.

Want to know what it is like to live with this pain, day after day, and to fight this pain, day after day? My book does that. The author of the article is a researcher of research. Interestingly Stef, the administrator who wrote me, did 2 things: she defended the author of the article in her email for some unknown reason and said part of their agenda was to erase the idea that atypical facial pain is not psychosomatic; but a large portion of the article seemed to indicate to the reader unfamiliar, and familiar, with the pain, that this is a psychosomtic disorder and not physical.

It is bad enough that I have to live the pained life. It is bad enough that I have to fight the pain every day, like so many of us. Support sites should be support sites for the members not for an agenda.

Stef indicated she had not read the book or checked out the excerpt. This is not a book on how much fun it is to live like this. I lay bare the most intimate parts of my life so the reader can feel the pain we go through living like this. "Red", the researcher of the research and author of the article had mentioned in one of his posts at the site that he was not looking for 'self-aggrandizement'. It appeared to be pointed at me. If I wanted to self-aggrandize the book would not read the way it does. I would have made myself the hero.

Stef told me I could not have the diagnoses I do: trigeminal, atypical trigeminal neuralgia, and facial pain. "You cannot have all three." She ascknowledged she is not a doctor, I do not even know if she is a medical person, but I informed her those were my diagnoses by neurologists,etc. It was telling she never replied to that information.

I am tired of people lying about me. Ben's friends is no friend of mine when they work to add to my pain rather than try, through the support they purport to offer, to help diminish it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


There was a bat in my bedroom the other night. I ran out of the room slamming the door behind me. I stood outside trying to figure out what to do. I silently opened the door a smidgen to check and make sure I had seen what I thought I saw. I had. What am I going to do!

Finally I recalled that people hit them with brooms so I went downstairs and got the broom. Steeling myself to do battle I opened the door and it was not where I had last seen it, circling around the light fixture directly above my bed.

I noticed one of my cats was kind of looking up at a curtain. I snuck a peek and saw the bat. SWACK! I swung and hit it. It fell onto my bed. THAWCK! I banged down the weight of the broom hard onto the back of the bat. It moved then fell onto the floor. WHACK! I hit it once. I hit it twice. It had to be dead.

I looked down and it was gone.

I took the flashlight and gingerly looked under the bed. It was not there. Oh No! Where the heck was it?

I upturned the mattress and then overturned the boxspring. It was nowhere to be found. On the slight chance it had been somehow able to maneuver itself around for a while (But how could it? I must have killed it!) I moved the bureau very slightly away from the wall.

And saw the movement of a wing.

BANG! I pushed the bureau back hard against the wall. It had to have been squished (Eeeeew.) but I was not going to chance it. I would wait until tomorrow.

Wait, there's a can of bugspray right on top of the bureau.

I must have at least hurt it. I hated the darn thing but did want it to suffer. I know, "I'll poison it too" I announced to the room. And then, just for good measure I got some baking soda. If I throw that at it, if I did not kill it with the broom and the poison does not do the job, then the poor thing will asphyxiate. One way or the other this bat was a dead duck.

I slept on the sofa downstairs the idea of the bat just too....ick. The next morning I tried to get myself together enough to get it out from behind the bureau and into the trash. I was standing in front of the bureau with the broom and a long handled dustpan. I was ready. And then I couldn't. I just couldn't!

I went into the den to do some work. The room was next to the bedroom but that was far enough away so that I was not worried about that poor dead bat.

I was on the phone with a friend when, all of the sudden, I see this Thing flying around the fan in the center of the room.

"Oh my G-d!" I screamed into the phone and threw down the entire phone, ran out of the room and slammed the door behind me. Once I gathered my wits I called my friend back and explained what had happened. Either it was the same bat or worse still, it was another one!

She suggested I call the police and they actually came. That officer was no more a fan of bats than was I but he bravely looked for it. And could not find it. Kindly he offered to come back if I saw it again.

The next morning I called an animal control company. He came to the house and after spending almost 25 minutes in the den came downstairs holding up a black plastic garbage bag. "Got it." he said proudly. "Is it alive?" I asked, my disgust quotient almost off the yecch meter. "Oh yes."

Man. What did it take to kill these things? I had just heard they were on the verge of extinction but when it is in your house suddenly the ecosystem becomes a lot less important.

It occurred to me that this is a lot like dealing with pain. You can throw everything possible at it and it is still there. You can be worried about what the treatments are doing to your body, your personal ecosystem, but not be able to give up.

I guess there is no good answer. Much easier just to have a bat and let the animal control guy get rid of it for you.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dr. Jannetta still rules or I was suspended from a support site, apparently because of my book.

To put a period on the posts about the lawsuit I was going to write on the lifelong effects as a result of the lawsuit and the malpractice.

Funny thing is - today I found out that once more the book has apparently gotten me in trouble.

An article in Wiki on atypical trigeminal neuralgia was written a by a moderator (I believe that is his position, I cannot get into site to verify it) of the group Trigeminal Neuralgia (TN) - Online Support Group

I was given neither notice nor explanation. My last comment on the atypical trigeminal thread suggested that my book be linken in the article external link section since it is the only one ever written on living with and fighting against trigeminal neuralgia.

I had added it myself and it was removed by Wiki, I think because they decided it was self - promotion, despite it's relation to the subject. That was fine; however someone else then linked it only to find that the link had again been removed. This was after I had mentioned to the article's author that I thought the book would be a good adjunct to the article.

Did he remove the link? I think he is able to do that but I have no way to know. Did he have me removed from the group? This suspicion has a better grounding for that possibility.

How far will people go to protect Peter Jannetta from something that is not even written in the book?

The question arises, with his background, surgery named after him, sec't of health for Pa. etc, why does he need to be wrapped in cotton and the bad truths about him wiped away by suspending people and banning a book?

The pen is mightier than the sword. He killed my life and my looks with his sword. I did not think, in fact I know, my pen is not equally powerful.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Governor Ridge and Me and the end of the story.

On Monday morning, January 16, 1995, I spoke with Mike. "I do not accept the settlement." I told him what Bob did, how he essentially forced me to take it.

"Carol, you said "Yes". You have to take it." "That's not right. I was literally forced to the point where I had to give in. Mike, I was crying by the end of the last call. He had to know my agreement wasn't voluntary. He forced me." "Well, it's too late now to take it back."

On Tuesday morning I received a letter from Bob. A release prepared by opposing counsel was included in the envelope. Neither side wanted to waste any time. "Please review...and, if it meets with your approval, please execute and return..."

Of course it did not meet with my approval. I spoke with Bob on the 19th, "The release does not meet with my approval. I do not authorize settlement." I had now said it 2x.

I talked with Mike on the 20th. I "instructed" him (as per his letter to me) "that there was no settlement." He asked me to give him a call so we could discuss it further.

We spoke, I reiterated, 'no settlemet'. He told me, once again, "You have no choice. You agreed."

My aloneness, again, was all that could inform me. I had to rely on them. He, and Bob, were the lawyers. They tell me I must take the settlement. Then what choice do I have? I cannot deal with getting another lawyer to fight these lawyers. All my reservoirs of energy and fight were depleted.

"Mike, you say I have to accept it. I don't and you don't accept it and Bob doesn't accept it when I tell you that. I guess I have no choice. Send me the paperwork."

The settlement was bupkis but at least it was over.

Dr. Jannetta essentially got away with it. The CAT or catastrophic medical malpractice fund, run by the state, paid almost half and his insurance paid all or almost all of the rest. I often think it would have been better had he been required to look me in the eye and take a dollar bill out of his pocket to hand me directly.

It would have been over, the upset, frustration, and anger, if not for the fact that within a month of the forced settlement Governor Ridge nominated Dr. Jannetta for the position of Pennsylvania Secretary Of Health.

My case was in the courts for 14 years, proof of perjury, and more, and suddenly it ended with the forced settlement. The timing seemed fortuitous. Had the case not ended it would have been impolitic to name someone whose testimony the court called perjurious.

I wrote the governor and all 50 senators. No one cared. The goveror's aide waited almost 3 months to reply, by which time the confirmation was a done deal. He wrote, in part, "the consistent information we received from peers, patients, the that Dr. Jannetta possesses the highest integrity ad attributes of sound character and professional reputation." That would not have been so had my lawsuit still been active.

I went to the attorney general's office. I had to fight to speak with one of the lawyers. He looked at the Pa. Superior court's decision: "We have little difficulty in concluding that Dr. Jannetta's testimony at deposition was different than, or inconsistent with, the testimony at trial." Levy v Jannetta, CCP Allegheny County, GD 81-7689; appeal -J. A370017/92. Levy v Jannetta et al, No. 00150 Pittsburgh, 1992. settled, 1995." It made no difference. "There is no case here." he said. It never dawned on me this AG was a Ridge appointee. Of course he would not take action.

I went to fee dispute. It was Mike, Bob, myself and 3 attorneys who would be hearing my complaint, and their defense. One attorney, in particular, made it clear he was on their side, treating me as though he was the lawyer for Fishbein and Unterberger.

It was an awful experience. The result was, and was not, what I expected. To my mind, since they did almost no work, they did not deserve more than $10,000, 1/6th or so of their fee. I knew that would not happen.

The decision was for an additional $10,000, for me. They found in my favor but the written decision read "We find for the attorney". So Fishbein and Unterberger were in the clear along with Jannetta.

I had 2 years in which to sue for legal malpractice. I talked to one attorney who was not interested: too much work because you have to prove you would have won the underlying medical malpractice case as well as prove the legal malpractice.

I called another office. The lawyer with whom I spoke felt I most definitely had a case. He wanted to discuss it with another lawyer in the firm. He called me back a few minutes later, anger in his voice. "Did you know Mr. Cantor, one of the partners, is one of the lawyers who heard your fee dispute case? What kind of game are you playing?" "No I didn't. The bar association gave me your number, but no name, when I asked for a recommendation." His voice softened. "All right then. But, obviously we cannot help you."

The physical pain of the trigeminal neuralgia as well as the emotional pain from all that had gone before made it too hard for me to call any others. Besides, Mike did not seem like a very happy man. He lost his "zest" and complained to me about his kids and family life (he has denied this). Maybe that was enough; I did not need to add to his misery.

And then I found out he was not as miserable as he had seemed.

I had heard about the Phen pen diet drug and the massive lawsuit against the company that made it.

And then I heard that Mike Fishbein had won a $58 million fee for himself and his lawfirm as one of the main lawyers in the case. So much for not having zest. This case was settled in 2000. It was ongoing during the time he had my case.

A number of years passed when I decided to try the state's attorney general again.

The lawyer who came out to speak with me at first said there was no case. As he read through the paperwork he started shaking his head and murmuring. He finished reading and handed the papers back to me.

"I am so sorry. We would prosecute him for perjury but you just missed the statute of limitations. There is nothing we can do."

So everybody got away with it but me. I continued to pay when the trigeminal neuralgia association refused to let their membership know about my book, because my experience with Dr. Janetta was included. My inability to write on their Facebook wall was what started me telling you this story, a story I have not told publicly before. Ultimately I was allowed to write on their wall so I mentioned my book there. And here? Here I tell you about Peter Jannetta, Mike Fishbein, Robert Unterberger, Governor Ridge...and me.

(I saw Dr. Janetta at a trigeminal neuralgia association conference about 3 - 4 years ago. I went up to him. "Dr. Jannetta, I wanted to let you know I have had a browlift, 4 facelifts, some of the side of my mouth removed, repeated tarsorrharphies..." He interrupted me. Not with words, but with action. He picked up the newspaper from the chair next to him and began reading it.
He had absolutely no interest in the carnage of my life as a result of his surgery.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Browbeaten by my lawyer.

I was worried about going to Pittsburgh. I felt Bob was totally unprepared for trial, having prepped no one, having gotten the wrong specialist.

Was he going to lose my case because he had not done his homework? Would Dr. Jannetta still end up getting away with what he did?

Bob's first call to me was to say "Don't come up now." His second call raised my hopes.

"Carol, I have an offer from the other side." My heart leapt. My stomach clutched. I was ready to feel elated. After all, without an attorney, a judge had said the case was worth $250,000 to $350,000. This was my lawyer speaking. He would know how to get what it was worth.

"They have offered $250,000. I think you should consider taking it." "Bob, No. That is not what this case is worth. You know what he did to me. We have his perjured testimony and the other proof. No. I will not accept that." "Okay, you should think about it, but I'll go back and see what I can do."

My body shook with anger. My face was paralyzed, my eye sewn shut, maybe permanently, surgeons could not do what they wanted because of the scarring left from the Jannetta procedure. $250,000? No. It was not enough to make up for what he did, to punish him (punitive damages, not revenge), to cover my lifetime medical costs because of his negligence, malpractice, and lie.

He called again. I am not allowed to tell you the amount, by settlement contract. Each time he went lower. "They are offering ($------)."
"$(------)? You're supposed to be going up Bob, not down!" Once again he said "Ok. I'll talk to them and call you back."

I stood by the phone, trembling. There was no one to call for help.

The pain had taken my chance at living a real life, working and making friends. There was no family. I was by myself. The pain and the narcotics did not help in my being able to fight for myself. And Bob, I think, knew that.

The phone rang. I cringed, afraid of what he would say this time.

"We have a new offer of $(------) (lower still)." I fought the tears. "If I refused the $250,000 why would you even think I would take this? Why are you not fighting for me?" "Carol, this is their offer. Think about it." He hung up.

I was thinking about it. He was not ready for trial. (Mike Fishbein would later write in a letter to me that Bob would be doing all the expert prep (including me) while the trial was ongoing (We would be in Court, how could he be outside talking to the witness at the same time?) or he, Mike, would come up to do some of it. Neither ever mentioned that to me.)

The next call was a reminder to think about the offer "Have you changed your mind?". "I already told you you were supposed to be going up. I am not going to take a lower number. The $250,000 was offensive enough." "Well the offer is now at $(------). Obviously you don't want to say 'Yes' to that. I'll call you back."

Call number 6 was even lower. "Carol, we have an offer of $(------)." I could not figure out what he was doing. He was not ready for trial. Evidently any offer was okay to him. After all this would be the least amount of work for a 33 1/3% payoff regardless of how I fared.

Call number 7 had me at my wit's end. "Carol, they will not go above the $(------)." I was crying, sobbing into the phone. "You were supposed to work for me. This is not what was supposed to happen. I don't care what you do. Just get rid of this. Take it." I said weeping copiously, my words barely intelligible. I begged "Please, just stop it, now." I meant he should stop his behavior, his calling and browbeating me. "Ok. I'll tell them we accept." "I don't care. Just get this over with!"

The calls stopped. The amount was accepted, no matter how I had said it.

I agreed out of pure frustration, anger, fear of his having it thrown out because he was not prepared. The amount was an insult but I was exhausted from the emotional whipping I had taken.

I did not accept the settlement. I had to wait and get through the weekend. First thing Monday morning I called Mike Fishbein.

"Mike, Bob forced me into agreeing to the settlement. I do not agree with it. Tell them my agreement is withdrawn."

The final fight was about to begin.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Maybe I should have stayed Pro Se.

Neither Mike Fishbein nor Robert Unterberger (Bob), the associate I was told would be working on my case, were working on my case.

That is an overstatement. They found an expert, right specialty, wrong subspecialty. We needed a neurosurgeon with an adult practice who was very familiar with the MVD. Instead they found a pediatric neurosurgeon. He could not comment on adult practices. It was not his specialty. Nor was trigeminal neuralgia.

It was hard to find a neurosurgeon willing to testify against Dr. Jannetta, or testify, period. At trial I used the best Jannetta Procedure expert there was: Dr. Jannetta. Who better to know the surgery and, as the defendant as well, he would not cost us a cent. But this was not whom they thought to engage as our expert.

A facial nerve specialist and an ophthalmologist, at the least, were important to the case. Mike did not bother with the former. He asked me to see if my ophthalmologist would testify. Dr. ( ) agreed to, about the eye damages as well as the lifelong complications and risks. The other effects of the paralysis was left with no one to speak about them.

No depositions or interrogatories were sent out by either of my lawyers.

The only expert they had me see was a vocational counselor. His report would state whether I could work and at what. It went to the issue of damages but in the scheme of things was the least important report we needed.

The trial was scheduled but nothing was happening. I waited, thinking a lawyer of Mike's caliber was getting all his ducks in a row. Two months before we were to go to court, my worry mounting, I met with him.

"You're not acting as my advocate." He looked at me without any visible concern - about me or the case. "I have been doing this for 20 years and after all that time you lose your zest for it."*

I did not know what to do or think. The Judge was not going to give us a continuance. I already knew how he felt about me and the case.

I kept my fingers crossed hoping that the ducks would start lining up.

It was the week before trial. Bob called me. "Trial starts next Monday. I'm picking the jury Friday afternoon. You can come up to Pittsburgh on Friday."

He had not prepped me for trial. He had not prepped the ophthalmologist. To my knowledge he had not talked with the (wrong) neurosurgical expert.

It did not seem he was ready for trial but there was nothing I could do about it.

At least, I thought, I'll be in Pittsburgh soon and once he preps me to take the stand I'll feel like this trial is really ready to happen..

Then my phone rang.

"Carol, you don't need to come up here this weekend. I won't need you until the trail starts so you can wait until late Sunday to come up."

Late Sunday? Then when was he going to prepare me to testify?

My fear about his readiness for trial turned out to be a wasted worry.

He called me Friday evening to tell the jury had been picked. That was good. It was the rest of what transpired in that call and the additional 6 others, over a 2 1/2 hour period, that had me in a tizzy and sobbing into the phone.

*He has denied saying that.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Got a lawyer and an appeal (or hope springs eternal).

Feeling dejected and angry I went over to the clerk's office to request copies of the transcript.

I watched tons of Law and Order. Each time a guilty defendant won there was nothing the state could do. This was the end of it. And Jannetta had won.

The clerk asked me if I wanted to file papers for an appeal.

"Oh, No. I can't appeal. I lost the case." She looked at me in surprise. "You absolutely have the right of appeal." It took most of my self-control not to squeal in relief and hope. I scooped up the necessary forms she held out to me delighting in the knowledge maybe all was not lost.

I left the office and walked into the hall looking for the elevator. Standing in front of it was Mr. Olszewski.

He tried to be pleasant, making little chitchat I no longer recall. He ended by saying it was nice meeting me and that he wished me well.

"We'll probably be seeing each other again. I just filed for an appeal." His face fell. "Oh." "Yes.", I said. "I did not even know I could do that until the clerk mentioned it." "I sure wish she hadn't told you about that." he replied somewhat under his breath.

Pro Se in this case had been enough for me. I had to get an attorney for the appeal. Armed with the perjurious testimony as well as the illustrations Drs. Jannetta and Gendell had drawn at their depositions, which did not jibe with each other, and other proof of malpractice and negligence, I assumed I would have no problem finding a lawyer.

One or two still turned me down, mostly because of the problems left from Kate Lecky's mangling of the case as well as the fact that I had been Pro Se.

Fed up with cold calling attorneys I decided to contact a kid I knew from high school who was now an lawyer.

Mike Fishbein and I had not known each other well or hung out in the same groups but I remembered him as a person of integrity and decency. That was what I wanted in a lawyer. Aggression would be good too, but the others mattered because it meant they would honor their commitment to me, the case, and the law.

Mike and I met for about a half an hour. A few days later he advised me he would accept the case. The cost would be in the form of a contingency agreement, 66 1/3% for me and 33 1/3% for him.

At our second meeting he introduced me to Robert Unterberger, an associate. Although the contract was between Mike and I Mike told me that Bob would be doing most of the work. I agreed, mainly because at the end of the day Mike was still the one in charge of the case. It was his word, his signature, his promise to me via the contract, on which I would rely.

He told me that I should write up the first layer of appeal. It went to the Judge who had non suited the case. "Carol, This will automatically be denied." And it was.

Mike wrote the next brief. Although he relied on his own research for case references much of it rested on my work as Pro Se.

The issue for 1 of the 3 appellate judges reviewing the case was that I had not entered the deposition in the proper form as evidence. Dr. Jannetta read from the deposition but I was supposed to have entered the deposition transcript as evidence. The stenographer twice reminded me to do so but my nerves got the best of me and I had forgotten to do it.

The one judge thought this technical error was sufficient to deny the appeal. Thankfully the other 2 judges dissented, stating that although I should have done so, the fact that the testimony had been officially entered into the record was sufficient to allow the case to be returned to the lower court to be reheard.

I was in. And I had an attorney. This would be a homerun.

Nah. Of course not.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

2 out of 3 judges hate me.

I was in the courthouse when one of the judges who had a small part in one ruling saw me. He called me into a side room.

"Ms. Levy. You must find an attorney." "Your Honor, I have tried to find someone to take the case. I am unable to do so."

"Then try and settle it. I think without a lawyer the case is worth $250,000 - $300,000. If you had an attorney it would be different."

"They do not want to settle. I have to take it to trial."

"Then I am going to order a continuance. You must have a lawyer."

I told him I doubted that would happen but I would try. Opposing counsel was informed about the continuance; they were fine with it.

A few days later we were to appear before Judge McGowan, the same judge who had sent me to the "time-out" chair.

We were called up before the Bench.

"Your case starts next Monday." he intoned.

"Your Honor, Judge Murphy ordered a continuance. You should have the papers."

"I don't care what he did. Trial starts next week." Mr. Olszewski spoke up. "Your Honor, we have the continuance and we are fine with that."

"I don't care. You do not have a continuance. Levy v. Jannetta, et al. begins next week."

Neither of us were prepared to start. We had relied upon the order of continuance. Now we had no choice.

First thing was to pick the jury. One by one potential jurors were called to a table where both of us asked them questions. Once all had been queried we went outside to fill out a paper checking off which ones we wanted and which we did not. It was interesting that we both knocked off ones the other wanted. I was surprised it was that easy. Maybe this lawyering would not be so bad.

Dr. Jannetta set the stage with his testimony at the two depositions. "Major and common complication" My testimony was the opposite. He not only never told me that facial paralysis was a risk, he had denied there could be any possibility of disfigurement. Dr. Gendell had said the same thing in the hospital and acknowledged it in his deposition.

I thought he should be rewarded for his honesty, about the risks as well as when he took responsibility for the unnecessary dietary treatment.

I made an appointment to speak with opposing counsel the day before we were to start trial.

"Mr, Olszewski, will Dr. Gendell testify at trial as he had at deposition; that he did not know facial paralysis was a risk and he told me it was not?" "Absolutely." "Then I'm dropping him from the suit."

Dr. Gendell had been named as a defendant as had the hospital. In my pain, and my concern most about Dr. Jannetta being called to account, I had let the case against the hospital slip away, not having done any prep on it.

I felt that Dr. Gendell, by his honesty, did not deserve to remain a defendant.

Before the trial started the judge called us into chambers. He gave me a little speech about going Pro Se and how hard that is to do. He told me he could not give me extra help. I expected that. I did not expect he would try and hurt my case.

I was up first. Opening statements are very specific. You can only say what the issues are and what you will be proving.

I had a sheaf of papers in my hand. My hands, voice and body started shaking as soon as I began reading my statement to the jurors. I looked up every once in a while. It was obvious they were not paying attention.

I knew the case. I should not need my cheat sheets. I stopped reading to them and looked at them directly. Their attention perked. I finished up and sat down at the plaintiff's table feeling I had made my points.

Mr. Olszewski, of course, gave a good opening: whatever she said she could prove we will prove the opposite.

I called myself to the stand and told my story. Then Mr. Olszewski stood before me. One by one he named every surgeon who had operated on me before and after the Jannetta surgery and asked what each had told me about the risks of their procedures. I replied for each that it was not the same kind of surgery so the risks were not the same, and none had named risk of facial paralysis.

These questions were objectionable, irrelevant and improper. I was so nervous I did not think to object. The Judge never interrupted my testimony or indicated the questions were out of line.

I finished and then called Dr. Jannetta to the stand. He took the oath to tell the truth then sat in the witness chair, legs crossed, complacency apparent in his every movement and intonation.

I took him through the hospitalization, what had he done, what had happened and then asked the biggie.

"Dr. Jannetta, is facial paralysis a known risk of the MVD, or Jannetta Procedure that you perfromed on me?" I was prepared to go after him for his lie at deposition. "It is an unknown complication. How could I have told you about something that was unknown?" I was not prepared for a new lie.

I showed him his deposition. "Dr. Jannetta, please read your testimony highlighted here." He looked at it with little interest. "Facial paralysis is a major and common complication of the MVD of which I invariably inform my patients." "Dr. Jannetta, which is true, what you just read from the deposition or the testimony you just gave, that it was an 'unknown' complication."

"You can't ask him that!" the Judge practically shouted, cutting him off before he might answer. Had it been an improper question it was up to Mr. Olszewski to object. The Judge was not supposed to do his job for him. He gave me no opportunity to re-ask the question. Instead he adjourned for lunch.

Throughout the lunchbreak I thought about what I could do. I never thought Dr. Jannetta would change his testimony. The only explanation was that his attorney had told him what I had said about Dr. Gendell testifying about paralysis being unknown to him as a risk. Dr. Jannetta arranged his testimony to jibe with the resident's. Did his lawyer tell him to do so? That I do not know. If he had it would be a crime. It was a crime to commit perjury and it was a crime to persuade another to testify perjuriously.

There was only one choice.

I returned to the courtroom and the trial resumed.

I stood. "Your Honor, I rest my case."

It was pro forma for the other side to ask that the case be 'non suited' or thrown out of court at the end of plaintiff's presentation.

It was to my benefit the Judge wanted me out of there.

The fact was I had presented testimony that I was not told about the risk and Dr. Jannetta testified, at least in shown deposition, that he had told me. That made it a question for the jury. Even though I presented nothing of the rest of my case for negligence and malpractice the groundwork was set for the jury to decide who was telling the truth.

It was to my benefit the Judge wanted me out of there.

"Mr. Olszewski, your request is granted. This case is non suited." And with that it was over. All hope was lost.

Or so I thought.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The resident's turn to be deposed.

Dr. Gendell, the lead resident on my case and in the O.R., sat at the table, ready and willing to sit through the deposition.

I had him draw a picture of the operative site and mark down what he had seen during the surgery. Later I would do the compare and contrast with the drawings rendered by Dr. Jannetta.

While I was in Pittsburgh Presbyterian Hospital, my treatment was somewhat, disheveled, for lack of a better word.

Even though the diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia was not in question they still had me seen by a psychiatrist. Chronic pain and women, more often than men with chronic pain, is often viewed with suspicion.

I think it was also something for the psych residents to do. Maybe, too, they learned something about pain. They came to the same foretold conclusion. Whatever neuroses I might have, they had nothing to do with the pain.

They also decided I should be tried on a nutritional supplement. "Maybe increasing your level of vitamins and other nutrients will help the pain."

It was Dr. Albright, another resident, who presented me with this regimen, a can of Sustacal (or similar drink) with every meal. It tasted awful and, despite filling me with minerals and vitamins, made no difference in the pain.

"Dr. Gendell", I asked, "Was it your idea to give me the Sustacal?" "Yes." "Did it make any sense to do that?" "No."

An honest answer. One he did not have to give. I was very impressed.

Then we got to the nitty gritty. I asked him about the risks of the procedure. "Did you tell me or my parents that my face could be injured?" "No. Facial paralysis was not a complication of which I was aware."* He stayed until all my questions had been answered. The next big step was when we would meet again in court.

Despite Dr. Gendell's truthfulness I still needed expert witnesses.

Doctors and nurses both refused to testify against Dr. Jannetta when asked.

Kate Lecky, the original lawyer, had not talked with any of the hospital personnel. When I did, even though it was now a few years later, there was no hesitation. "I remember you but I will be fired if I testify. I am very sorry."

She had contacted a few neurosurgeons. Either the answer was "Dr. Jannetta is a friend of mine." or "I cannot testify against someone of Dr. Jannetta's stature."

The only recourse I had was to make Dr. Jannetta my expert witness against himself. I expected him to tell the same lie about the risks as he had at the two depositions. I was much more prepared to pursue that part of the case.

I thought that even an adversarial relationship still required the honesty that I assumed was part and parcel of the law (I know I am ridiculously and stupidly naive.)

Dr. Gendell had been honest in his deposition. He admitted to someting that he did not have to admit to (the Sustacal silliness) and he acknowledged he told me that facial paralysis was not a risk. Dr. Jannetta was his teacher. The only way he would not know it was a risk was if Dr. Jannetta had not taught him it was.

I thought the truth deserved to be acknowledged.

That acknowledgement almost cost me the case.

Depositions start now. (medical malpractice con't.)

Of course I am only writing about the more interesting anecdotes. Lots went on in-between but that is the boring minutiae of most lawsuits.

It was time for depositions.

I scheduled Dr. Jannetta's for the afternoon. Dr. Jannetta, opposing counsel and I, and a stenographer, were there.

Dr. Jannetta had no trouble hiding his disdain - for me and the proceedings, but he did answer the questions.

I asked him to draw illustrations of the surgical area, marking and describing what he had found. I would later compare them with pictures his resident would be asked to draw.

He said he operated on me. He described what was found on operation. I asked "What were the risks of MVD or 'Jannetta Procedure' of which you advised me before the operation?" He replied immediately, "Facial paralysis is a major and common complication of which I invariable inform my patients."

It was hard for me to keep a straight face. That was not what he told me, or my mother, or my father. That was not what his resident told me when he was asked.

We had been at this for about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. I started to ask a follow up question when Dr. Jannetta stood up. He looked at his watch and announced "It's 3:30. I have to leave."

I was astounded. There had been no set time parameters. This was an official legal proceeding. The subject of it was not the one who determined when it would end.

"Dr. Jannetta, I am not finished." "I'm leaving now." The last sentence in the official stenographic transcript was the voice of Dr. Jannetta's lawyer.

"Dr. Jannetta...," But his voice was not heard. Dr. Jannetta had left the room.

I would have preferred had he stayed. I did not have much more to ask. It would have been over and done, and he would not have been required to come back and sit for a second deposition.

The most important part of the second deposition was the question, asked again, "What did you tell me were the risks of MVD?"

His answer remained the same. "Facial paralysis is a major and common complication of which I invariably inform my patients."

His recollection and mine were diametrically opposed. He had told me "I promise you your face cannot be injured."

Forget the claims of malpractice and negligence. The stage was set. The jury, the triers of fact, would be the ones to decide; who is telling the truth? The next deposition, with his resident, would help illuminate the answer.