“The attorney called and said, ‘This is great. I love the format. You are my hero.’… This was the most gratifying job I’d ever done and I felt like I gave the attorney a great work product.”
A Two-Day Roller Coaster Ride Gave Me the Opportunity to Be the Attorney’s Hero
by Lisa Wolfe, RN, CLNC
My most memorable case came to me when I was a new Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. I had mailed my information to a list of attorney-prospects. Then, on a Thursday afternoon I received a call from an attorney inquiring about my CLNC® services. Like Vickie taught us, I gave my sales pitch. He said he would overnight the records to me and asked that I review them and call him the next afternoon with my opinion. After I hung up, I realized I had no idea what the case was about.
Using my resourcefulness, I called the attorney’s secretary and pumped her for information. The case involved a woman in the military who had sustained multiple injuries in a motor vehicle collision. After extensive visits to different physicians, she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She required many doctors’ visits, including psychiatric evaluations and at times she was on heavy doses of pain medications. Ultimately, she was unable to perform her duties and was discharged from the service.
The next day, I impatiently waited for the FedEx® driver to arrive. He finally came at 11:00am. I reviewed the eight-inch stack of medical records and called my attorney-client with my opinion.
The defense was claiming that the woman was potentially drug seeking and that she had a history of back pain and noncompliance. I informed my attorney-client that developing fibromyalgia after the injury to her spine didn’t surprise me, based on recent literature. The plaintiff’s gait had become affected, and I reassured him that she was compensating for pain in her knees, legs and feet. Concerning the drug-seeking issue, I added that during a severe exacerbation of pain, high doses of pain medications and muscle relaxants were required.
Next, my attorney-client asked me to research chronic pain and fibromyalgia and contact him again on Monday. I thought, “Okay, here we go. I can do this.”
Despite a Family Tragedy I Was Able to Honor My Word to My Attorney-Client
When I reported back to him late Monday afternoon, he indicated that he needed a medical summary in order to file this case by Friday. I agreed to create a chronology including doctors’ visits, complaints and recommended treatments and get it to him by Thursday – in three days. I was already committed to another task on Tuesday, so I had Wednesday and Thursday to complete the chronology. I have a six-year-old and an eight-year-old and I realized they would have to get along without my full attention for the next few days.
Tuesday came and I finished my prior commitment early. I went home and began reviewing the case again to organize my thoughts for the chronology. The eight inches of medical records were in no particular order and included numerous duplicates. I dove in. I spent a few hours labeling the pages with sticky notes and planned to get up at 5:00am on Wednesday to hit the chronology really hard.
But that evening I received a call that my eldest brother had passed away at the age of 49. What a blow and what timing. All I could do was wait to hear when the funeral arrangements were complete and continue working on the chronology I had promised my attorney-client.
Analyzing Eight Inches of Medical Records in Two Days Required a New Strategy
On Wednesday morning, I began referencing the Core Curriculum for Legal Nurse Consulting® textbook as a guide making headway on the records, but I soon realized I would never meet the deadline on my own. I called a good friend to come help me. I thought at least she could organize and hand me what I needed, while I reviewed the records and typed the chronology. She arrived at 8:30 and we worked together for 14 hours. When she left, we were only half done. The next day, I was up at 5:00am. My friend arrived at 7:00 and we spent another 14 hours on the assignment. Meanwhile, I learned that the visitation for my brother would be Friday evening with the funeral Saturday morning.
Thursday night at 9:30, the chronology was finished. I emailed my attorney-client the 18-page document. Since I knew he was also working late, I tried to call him to make sure that the email arrived, but I received no answer. My children had been troopers, and my friend and I were exhausted. I went to bed.
At 7:00 on Friday morning, I had a phone message from the attorney-client. It was my worst nightmare. He couldn’t open my email. Crushed and panicked, I spent two hours trying to reformat the email to no avail. Finally, I cut and pasted the document into the message, but couldn’t get it to look right. Wanting to create a professional work product, I continued working on it for hours.
At 2:00pm the attorney-client called and told me he needed the chronology to file the case by 5:00 that day. I told him I would print the document and fax it to him. That was my only alternative.
As soon as I began faxing, the attorney called and said, “This is great. I love the format. You are my hero, but could you mark the important pages? I let my secretary have the day off, and that would give me easy reference.”
I told him my brother had passed away, I needed to be at the visitation with my family in one hour and I was 20 miles away. He apologized and told me to call him early next week when things settled down at home. Just when I thought nothing else could go wrong – while we were on the phone, his fax machine broke. He had his associate run down the road to Kinko’s and call me with that fax number so I could finish faxing the chronology.
Keeping My Commitment to My Client and to My Family Made This Case Especially Gratifying
The case settled, and I learned many things from this experience. The next time I had to organize and analyze eight inches of medical records, I vowed I’d have the support and strategies in place so I wouldn’t have to push so hard. I also learned to find out the attorney-client’s preferred document format up front. More important, I learned that even when personal tragedies occur, I still need to stand by my word. This was the most gratifying legal nurse consultant job I’d ever done and I felt like I gave the attorney a great work product. Vickie’s voice remained in my head: “Give them what they ask for and then a little more.”
Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. Vickie has truly given me a whole new insight into myself and my abilities as a nurse. As Vickie says, “We Are Nurses and We Can Do Anything!®”
Click here for Memorable Case guidelines and thought starters.