I’ve Done My Part. Please Do Yours.

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

November 21st, 2010 • Living with Chronic PainPrint Print

The good news about the incessant assault on my nerves is that it has, finally, after twenty years of failed attempts, kicked my ass into being a morning person. That’s because I absolutely, for the sake of my health and wellness, must be ready – shoes on, purse packed, computer, wrist braces, and audio headset together – to bolt out the door the minute that the leaf blower, lawn mower, tree cutter, or mover with big loud truck arrive.

Take Friday as an example: I’d requested from management that I be given a heads-up before noisy maintenance activities take place in my vicinity. The manager had responded that I needed a doctor’s note, and I’d sent another email saying A-OK on the doc note, but could I please have the personal courtesy of a heads-up meanwhile.

At 9:30 am, just as I finished my blog post about dealing with this whole auditory injury, someone put a power drill into my ear and flicked on the switch. OK that’s not what happened exactly, but it sure felt like it – despite the earplugs and heavy-duty headphones I wore, upon the unexpected arrival of the tree cutters.

Since the hearing protection obviously wasn’t going to do the trick, I bolted out of my apartment as fast as possible. Tree cutters (ah, mistake – turns out the guys previously on the property were tree pruners) generally stay for about half an hour, so I decided to go for a bike ride. The problem was that all my biking gear was in the room closer to the tree cutters. Going into the room was an assault on my ears. But I endured it, to grab my biking shorts, leggings, and socks.

Then I grabbed my bike and fled, and as I did, I also burst into tears. Why didn’t the management let me know? Just a phone call. A lousy, simple phone call could have spared me the exacerbation of an injury. I had bad ear pain throughout the bike ride.

I biked 13 miles, then returned. When I got home, the tree cutting truck was still there, as was the tree cutting guy. Fortunately there was a lull in noisy activity. I asked the guy if they were done, and he said no, that they’d be there until 4 pm. It was about 10:30 am at the time. I asked the guy if he could please, please wait for 5-10 minutes, so that I could change my clothes, grab my things, and get away. I explained that I had an auditory injury. “Sure!” he agreed. “I’ll go ask my boss.”

Fortunately he did not require a doctor’s note for the accommodation.

I went zip-flash through my apartment, tearing off my biking gear and putting on jeans and a t-shirt. I grabbed a jacket and my purse, and I stuffed all my computer gear into a bag. Then I bolted like a bat outta hell.

The six weeks of lost work, plus the two moves, plus all the other expenses associated with this injury, have tanked me financially. And I mean tanked. So the fact that I’d have to pay for lunch, because I couldn’t stay home to make it, caused me additional stress. Plus I’d planned on spending the day calling around looking for work opportunities, to alter said financial state. My plans were trashed. Then there was the fact that I’d have to cancel a service I’d ordered for my apartment. The guy was supposed to arrive in about 45 minutes, but I couldn’t call on my cell phone, because it would exacerbate my ear pain. It was just a mess.

I went to a health food store and got lunch. While there, I came up with a solution: I could drive up to the café but not go in. Then I could use Skype to make calls from the car, because I’d be picking up the café internet service but not having to deal with the café noise. So that’s what I did – cancelling my appointment with the service guy and making some job-pursuit-related calls, as well as a few calls to my doctor – to request a super-fast response getting me a note about disability accommodation.

Yes I have become a bag lady. With really expensive equipment.

I also checked my email. There was a message from my apartment manager, responding to my accommodation request email from the day before. In the manager’s reply, she thanked me for letting her know that I was getting the doctor’s note, and she informed me that she hadn’t received it yet. Not a word responding to my request to give me a heads-up about loud maintenance work in the meantime.

So I sent her another email, letting her know that I’d been calling my doctor but that something weird was going on with their phone. (My call kept going straight to voicemail, then being put on hold 15 min, then gettung disconnected – three times in a row.)

I also asked again about the personal courtesy accommodation. I have no interest in inconveniencing anyone, I explained, but I am just trying to keep myself safe. Since I’m out of control of the environment around me, I need information about what’s going on when, so that I can protect myself and avoid an exacerbation of my condition.

I was feeling very upset that the disability accommodation request was such a struggle. I called my mom, who not only comforted me but also promised to send healing energy to my ear. My mom is a powerful healer, mind you, so I knew I’d feel better soon. I continued making calls and responding to emails, until I started freezing. It was a cold, rainy day. I didn’t want to run the car to keep the heat on. Yes I’m green. So I went into the café.

I spent the afternoon doing as much work on the internet as I could. My jacket kept me warm in my upper body, but I was very cold in my legs, and I could feel myself getting sick. I kept spraying echinacea on my throat.

At about 3 pm, I picked up a Skype voicemail from the apartment manager. It was a lovely, super sweet message, in which she said, “Of course we’ll accommodate you.” Bam! All the stress drained from my body, and I was happy. Happy happy happy. All it takes is an attitude of willingness, and our lives are turned around.

At 3:45 pm, I packed it up. I was expecting guests at 4:30 pm. I arrived at my apartment at 4:10 pm. The tree cutting truck was still there. I asked if they were finished. The guy said that they had one more thing to do and that it would take 15 minutes.

My instinct was to jump into my car and get the hell out, but I felt that I needed to stay around the area, for my guests. So I ran into my apartment, threw my computer and purse onto the floor, grabbed my umbrella, and ran out again. With earplugs in my ears. Because heaven help me if they were to start up with the saw again, while I was on my way out the door.

I love rain, so I had a great time walking. Plus my ear had been feeling back to (relatively) normal since my mom had started working on it. So I enjoyed the rain and the colorful leaves, and I walked 10 min in each direction – giving a little extra time for the tree cutters to finish up. Another five minutes walking through the grounds of my apartment complex, and I was approaching my unit.

The main road has no sidewalk, and there’d been a few cars going by. So when a man and a dog were approaching me, I decided to avoid the whole man-dog-car space negotiation, and I walked on the pathway through the residential units. Besides, I figured, I’d be able to see the tree cutting truck ahead of time, by approaching from that angle.

As I neared my unit, I saw that the truck was in fact still there. By this point, it was 4:35 pm. The truck had moved position and looked poised to leave. I smiled. Then there was an earth-shattering monster bang, the sound of something extremely heavy hitting metal — seemingly as it dropped down from a height. Even with the earplugs still in my ear (30 decibels each), I was overwhelmed by the noise assault. As I turned and ran away, there was another explosive bang. Then the sound of shredding trees.

I stayed away for the next 10 minutes, wandering around the far end of the apartment complex. Then I stood and waited near the gait of the property, so that I could greet my guests, were they to arrive. I was feeling increasingly anxious about missing them, as they were supposed to meet me anywhere between 4:30 pm and 5:00 pm.

By this point, I was soaked, despite my umbrella. And I was stuck. I could not determine from a distance whether the tree cutters were done. Only by approaching my unit, which meant putting myself in auditory danger, could I find out if they were through.

Fortunately, they were done by the time I arrived. But so was I.

I was in horrific, awful pain — a major setback from all the healing I’d done over the past few months. I wanted to cry. My hearing was messed up, my ear was in pain, the whole right side of my head felt as if the skin were peeled off and raw nerves were exposed. For what?

Maintenance is required to give 24 hours notice to residents before doing work on their units. I think that maintenance similarly should be required to give 24 hours notice before doing work that has this level of possible auditory impact on residents. Previous injury or not, that level of noise can cause hearing damage. Furthermore, maintenance should be required to stay within the time parameters they outline. If they say they are going to be done by 4 pm, they need to be done by 4 pm.

When I’d talked to the management a couple of days earlier, trying to figure out how to pre-empt maintenance noise, without being given a heads-up, I was informed that maintenance works 8 am – 4 pm every day. And the tree-cutting guy confirmed that time frame.

I did everything in my power to prevent the exacerbation of my injury. Despite requesting a heads-up (which I didn’t get), and despite staying away from my home all day long – in other words, despite doing everything reasonable and within my power – I still got fucked.

I crawled into bed. Frightened. Angry. Hurting. There was a deadness in my ears, a block in my hearing perception. Not as extreme as from the initial injury in mid-August, but a really bad exacerbation of that injury. I felt so torn up with frustration. Here I’d specifically left the previous apartment situation in Sacramento because the management had refused to accommodate me (except with a measly sign, and only once I’d given notice that I was leaving). And I ended up in even worse pain than before.

I’m exhausted. And broke. And feeling totally out of control of my life. And, in a way, homeless. Because though I have a place to lay my head, and I have a place to store my stuff, I have nowhere to rest and recuperate.


Rellacafa November 21st, 2010

I am so sorry to read about all of the noise assault that you have been dealing with, Loolwa, that is of no help on top of moving stress! Moving is stressful for perfectly healthy people, with chronic pain it can be a nightmare, especially for those of us who spend a lot of time at home. It’s almost like even though my stuff comes to the new place, it still takes a while for it to get that comfortable “homey” feeling and that little bit of being on edge is enough to send my nervous system into chaos! It takes me about 3 months to adjust to moving, based on the last two, LOL! I hope that you get some peace very soon xx

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