I injured my leg at Macy’s Herald Square the first week I moved to New York City 17 years ago. A rack of leather jackets was knocked over by a salesperson and a corner of the steel display device deeply dug down into the upper, inner, diamond of my right calf muscle. I stood there in Macy’s, wide-eyed and fresh from the Nebraska farmland, throbbing with pain and wondering what hit me as I watched my leg immediately discolor to red, then purple and into black.

Macy's Herald Square - NYC

I limped to the in-house Macy’s doctor. He was ancient and could not hear me. He scribbled some notes, gave me an aspirin for the pain and wrapped my calf in an Ace bandage and sent me on my way.

When I told him several times I was having a hard time walking he told me to take a cab home instead of riding the subway. I found a doctor’s office with “Sports Medicine” acid-etched on the glass front door during my limp home. I noted the phone number and called for an appointment the next day. My doctor, I was told, was the brightest mind in medicine. He had just arrived from a prestigious “job as a leg bone surgeon” at a hospital and there was no one better in Manhattan than this guy.

At least that’s what his receptionist told me. I hobbled into his office the next day. When my doctor made his grand entrance he was packaged just so: A starched white lab coat entombed a precious GQ-looking pretty boy with an orange tan, perfectly floppy blonde hair and big hands he used to purposefully crush yours in a handshake. He also had the uncanny ability to address his entire conversation to my calf and not my eyes during a cursory examination where he pinched, pulled and flexed me into excruciating pain. He told me to walk across the room.

When I did, I limped. Insulted, he asked me why I was limping. I told him because my swollen and raw calf muscle was killing me. He glowered at my calf and shook his finger at it, “If you limp now, you’ll limp for the rest of your life. Now walk!” His face was turning red beneath his amber tan. “Okay, I said.” “You’ll do more than ‘okay,'” he shouted. “It isn’t that bad. It’s only a muscle injury. We aren’t talking bone, here!” He looked like he was ready to cry tears of fury.

I turned around gave him a bit-lip look he did not catch because his eyes were locked on, and glistening, as he stared at my injured calf. In slow-motion I forced myself to walk in my regular pattern. I was slower and my gait was uglier and more painful but I pressed through the discomfort in order not to limp. “That’s better. Do that from now on.” He appeared to pronounce me healed and gave me a referral for physical therapy and electric stimulation to promote muscle rejuvenation.

Then he told me he wanted me to pay him $400 cash for a letter he would write to Macy’s insurance company. Macy’s needed his evaluation so I could get paid back for what I had to pay for his treatment and therapy. Presenting Macy’s with his bill was not enough proof of injury. I told my doctor I didn’t have insurance and didn’t have $400 cash to pay him for a letter and that my expenses were going to cost over $2,500 to get my leg better. My doctor said he did not care about my financial condition. He refused to write a letter on a promise I would pay him when Macy’s paid me. I was dismissed from his sight when he left in a huff to see another patient.

He tried to slam the door behind him but the automatic door mechanism kicked in and closed the door with a wispy whoosh. I found a lawyer who told Macy’s they could have a doctor’s letter for an additional $400 on top of the settlement if they really needed extra confirmation of my injury even though their in-house doctor had already documented the injury when I visited him on the day I was struck.

Macy’s backed down from their position on the letter. My attorney took 33.33% of my $3,000 settlement. Ever since that injury my right leg from the calf down has become a perfect barometer for predicting when it will rain better than any weatherman. It is the injury that keeps on giving. At least I don’t limp when I tell people to bring an umbrella tomorrow.

27 Comments

  1. Geez, with doctors like that you could hire someone like me to yell at you to heal you and I’d do it for only $100. I’d tell you to stand up straight for an extra $50.

  2. The lesson I learn from the experience, Robin, was how important it was to have good health insurance. It’s a crime we don’t have universal health coverage here in America so people don’t get caught in the system unprotected.
    That doctor gave me 10 days to pay his entire bill and when I couldn’t he sent a lawyer after me. Macy’s took over a month to pay me so I was stuck between rocks for a bit.
    I know that doctor paid his attorney more to come after me every day for a month than he collected from me when I paid him in full.
    Some people find strange pleasure in degrees of torture.

  3. Yeah I was without health insurance for 1 1/2 years I think. Now ironically I work for a Health Care Provider. Having health care is so important! I’m still paying of an ER visit when I didn’t have health insurance and they did nothing for me other than give me a prescription. Sorry I had gone off the topic there.

  4. I am so glad you have health insurance now!
    When I was a graduate student at Columbia and I told my mentor that Macy’s story (it all happened a month before I enrolled at Columbia and had student health insurance) my mentor yelled at me in a packed cafeteria just how important it was to have health insurance.
    A year earlier he had an aggressive glioma brain tumor and the doctor had to go in through his ear to remove the tumor.
    He lost sight in one eye and hearing in one ear and the total cost for the surgery that saved his life was $28,000 and that was 17 year ago.
    He continued to yell that if you had to pay that kind of medical bill all on your own you’re better off dead because you’ll never have any kind of life again — SO GET COVERED AND STAY COVERED! :mrgreen:

  5. No kidding! I had made some poor choices for sure and unfortunately Erik’s company didn’t offer health insurance for a domestic partner or whatever. Of course mine does but that doesn’t help us now. Once he’s divorced I’ll feel safer about our health insurance because if either of us is without a job we can just be under each other’s.

  6. The bigger question is, will it rain today?
    (Currently I’m off to fill out more online forms for health insurance for the self- employed…)
    My sister doesn’t have health insurance problems because she lives in Paris…

  7. Robin — It might be interesting to get the insider POV if you ask around. :mrgreen:
    suzanne — My leg is tingling today. That means rain tomorrow. The local forecast says rain on Thursday and sunny tomorrow. We’ll see who’s right. :mrgreen: How does health insurance work in Paris?
    Carla — Yeah. I probably would do the something like that today, but back then I was a friendly Nebraska kid where I grew up with the expectation you helped first and trusted you’d get paid later: “A Deal is a Deal.” I know the real world doesn’t work that way… but still… I believe you have to trust in people by default first and then if they lie to you or betray you then you can take a hard approach…

  8. I could tell you what I’ve dealt with since my auto accident two years ago, but we’d have to come up with a Miss Green emoticon for me. See, it would take up a huge green block of comment space so long you’d think I was never gonna stop talking. “And then he says to me…” “So I filled out all the paperwork…” “But then…” (don’t get me started)
    Sorry you have such a hard time. And you are the only second person I’ve heard say they ever had black skin or flesh and didn’t lose that body part. Mine was toes and the bottom of my right foot. “Black and blue” I’d seen before. Never black.

  9. David: If anyone is interested, I am rebuilding my weblog at WordPress thanks to an invite I recently received. “Attitude Check,” a post I wrote on May 23 is in the archives; category “Abiding in Him.” It starts a little slow as far as accident infor and is nowhere near the whole story, but it’s a good start. Thanks for asking.

  10. I would have held out for a better settlement. That can be forgiven because you were young at the time. One can never tell if the injury may lead to future unknown consequences that can only be compensated with a fair and generous settlement in an undetermined amount. I think they owed you at least a quality undergraduate education at an elite private university or a nice European sports car. Maybe a class action suit could have been filed. There might have been thousands of other similarly injured victims seeking justice!
    Regarding underinsurance or lack of coverage, let your doctor know immediately. They will hold off on all of the costly extra tests if they know that you are paying for it, rather than the insurance company.
    Also, if you have any connections with a doctor, such as a common immigrant heritage or anything like that, go to that doctor. I know of a doctor who provided pro-bono care for a heart patient who didn’t have insurance and couldn’t pay because the patient was from the old country.

  11. I would have held out for a better settlement. That can be forgiven because you were young at the time. One can never tell if the injury may lead to future unknown consequences that can only be compensated with a fair and generous settlement in an undetermined amount. I think they owed you at least a quality undergraduate education at an elite private university or a nice European sports car. Maybe a class action suit could have been filed. There might have been thousands of other similarly injured victims seeking justice!
    Regarding underinsurance or lack of coverage, let your doctor know immediately. They will hold off on all of the costly extra tests if they know that you are paying for it, rather than the insurance company.
    Also, if you have any connections with a doctor, such as a common immigrant heritage or anything like that, go to that doctor. I know of a doctor who provided pro-bono care for a heart patient who didn’t have insurance and couldn’t pay because the patient was from the old country.

  12. Paula — Thanks for the pointer to your article!
    Chris — I had an attorney with a philosophy that he would not take Macy’s for any more than enough to pay him and pay my doctor’s bills. He told me it was not copacetic ask for more than you were owed. He did, however, also make it really clear there was no rush to settle. He said just what you suggest — these things can travel on for years. I was young, as you also rightly suggest, and I needed the money to pay a pestering doctor, so I settled to get out from under. Today I would wait longer.
    Thanks for your other valuable tips! I appreciate the info and will file it all away into my rainy day leg fund! :mrgreen:

  13. Paula — Thanks for the pointer to your article!
    Chris — I had an attorney with a philosophy that he would not take Macy’s for any more than enough to pay him and pay my doctor’s bills. He told me it was not copacetic ask for more than you were owed. He did, however, also make it really clear there was no rush to settle. He said just what you suggest — these things can travel on for years. I was young, as you also rightly suggest, and I needed the money to pay a pestering doctor, so I settled to get out from under. Today I would wait longer.
    Thanks for your other valuable tips! I appreciate the info and will file it all away into my rainy day leg fund! :mrgreen: