More than a decade ago, when I worked as a legal nurse consultant (LNC), I supported the clients of lawyers who’d suffered a medical injury of some kind. In the world of litigation, it is common practice for both plaintiff and defense attorneys to arrange for a medical professional (specifically, ‘their’ medical professional) to evaluate the client. When I worked as an LNC, one of my regular activities was to attend these evaluations also called “Independent Medical Evaluations” or “IMEs” for short.

After I joined a few of these evaluations, as the medical professional representing the injured party I was shocked at what I observed: Physicians manipulating patients, twisting their words and in some instances getting them to change a response from “My pain is a 9/10” to “My pain is a 5/10, I guess.”

I began making it my mission to get lawyers to spring for the $500 or so it would take for an LNC to accompany their patient, take copious notes, and intervene if the patient was in peril or asked to do something unconscionable. When I went to marketing events I handed out postcards that said “Sending your client to an IME without a LNC, is like sending them into a courtroom without you.” This type of communication drove clients to the business I was growing, but also felt like a personal commitment since a lot of the physicians seemed to be men, and the injured parties women.

Fast forward, and still years ago, I was asked by my attorney client to accompany one of her stroke clients to travel to another state, for her IME. The case itself had involved a large wholesale chain, and severe mistreatment of an attorney who looked disabled, but maybe not smart. And she was treated terribly.

So we departed for the 24 hour trip one morning from Baltimore International Airport, and I assisted this lovely woman who was extremely physically challenged, from the airport, through the friendly skies, and down into the state where the injury occurred.

A couple of notes here:
• The first, is that if you need a good dose of humility, head to the airport and depend on the goodness of employees and strangers to help you get through security. I already have a high dose of this, having traveled with Zach all of his 22 years. So many memories, but the seizure that turned him blue at 30,000 feet probably takes the cake for the worst. And there are a lot to choose from.
• The second, is that there are a lot of people trying to navigate things like flying, that have a hard time just getting through the day. If you are accustomed to judging others to help support your own belief that you alone are responsible for what happens to you, I sincerely hope you never get t-boned in an MVA while driving, or find yourself with a chronic, and even terminal illness. Because those experiences have painful but radiant lessons, that can really hurt.
• Third, if nothing else, hopefully you will read this and at least have some new appreciation and understanding that things are not the sum total of what they appear to be.

What I learned as I spent time with my client’s client, is that she was smart as hell. She was a badass attorney who suffered a stroke that impaired her. Bound to a wheelchair her roles in life changed drastically, including trying to shop in a store where she was abused because she was vulnerable, and resulted in this lawsuit.

We went all the way out of state, spent the night, attended the IME and returned the next day. Aside for the separate hotel rooms, we were together the entire time. An unlikely match we traveled super well together and before we knew it we were landing back in Baltimore and saying goodbye. When asked to share what she has learned from her experiences through it all, she said:
“I learned there are a lotta good people in the world, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.”

My question for you, and for us, becomes: Had we suffered the same “negative” fortune as this brilliant legal mind, who is unable to care for herself for the rest of her life, and was further disrespected and injured because of her appearance, would we be able to say the same?

If not, you are a perfect candidate for an airport experiment testing patience and your ability to ask for help. Until we ride in the wheelchair of another, we have no idea what true freedom is.

Click to access the login or register cheese