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.
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.