A 92-Year-Old Woman Taught This Certified Legal Nurse Consultant Class, Courage and Strength
by Margot Lintner, RN, CLNC
I’m sure I’ll never forget my most memorable case as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. It involved Mrs. Gert G., and this case was life’s instrument in opening my spirit and teaching me.
Because it was a holiday, my entire family was home enjoying a lazy morning. We were in our pajamas, making waffles, my girls chatting, my husband relaxing with the paper. Little did I know that this day would bring me not just a case and a retainer, but a nugget of self-discovery.
Little did I know that this day would bring me not just a case and a retainer, but a nugget of self-discovery.
While we ate, the phone in my home office rang. My youngest daughter ran to get it, despite my warning not to answer the office phone. Too late. She picked it up and started telling the caller about our morning. Swell, I thought, how professional – a CLNC® consultant with a nine-year-old assistant. Standing there in my robe with syrup on my fingers, I took the phone from her.
Only a Client in Need Could Have Interrupted My Holiday
It was a new attorney-client who apologized for calling on a holiday and interrupting my family time. He’d received my information packet two months ago and apologized a second time for not returning my follow-up call. I assured him it was okay and asked how I could help.
His client was having an independent medical exam (IME) the next day, and the case was going to summary judgment on Friday. I took a breath and asked him to tell me about his client. He gave me the five-minute version:
In May 2005, Mrs. Gert G., aged 92, was hit in a crosswalk by a seven-ton truck. She was taken by ambulance for surgical stabilization and was hospitalized for three weeks for a fractured left femur. The hospital transferred her to its geriatric rehab unit for three months of follow-up care and multiple therapies. Following therapy Gert walked with a cane, couldn’t sleep and had no appetite. She had constant lingering pain in the left leg, and took prescription painkillers only when she had to because, she said, “They dope me up.”
Prior to the accident, Gert was never sick a day in her life – no illnesses, no surgeries, no medications. A widow for 30 years, she had lived on her own until a year before the accident when her 76-year-old cousin Arthur moved in with her. She was 100% independent. She cleaned her own house and walked three miles a day, only accepting rides to the store and to church. Now Gert refused to go out, take walks, read or watch TV. Her doctor said she was “just nervous” and gave her Ativan. She refused to take it.
After Medicare ran out, Gert’s portion of the hospital and rehab bills was $36,000. As she lived only eight doors from his law firm, she went to his office for help. He said he asked for $500,000 in mediation but the truck driver’s insurance company only offered Gert $13,000 total.
As my attorney-client relayed this information, my mind raced, my heart pounded and my passion for this “yet-to-be-my-case” built. When he finished, he said, “Ms. Lintner, I know this is a holiday, but I need your help. My client needs your help.”
My Family Helped Me Switch from My “Day-Off” Look to Professional CLNC® Consultant
I asked him to hold and turned to find my whole family listening in, huge grins all around. I said, “I know it’s a family day and all…”
“No!” they chorused. “Go for it. We’ll help you get ready. Go CLNC® consultant!”
I told my new attorney-client I could meet him at his office within the hour. Then I told him that I charged $150/hr. plus expenses, mileage and parking, that I needed a retainer of $1,500, and that I would bring a contract for us to sign. He agreed to everything.
While I’d been taking care of business, my husband had printed out the contract letter, complete with the attorney’s name and then he packed my briefcase. My daughter brought out my shoes and my husband polished them. My 12-year-old daughter had laid out my navy power suit and white blouse.
I threw on my suit and pulled back my day-off hair. Marie urged me to wear my CLNC® pin. I dug into my jewelry box and pinned my CLNC® insignia to my lapel.
Lessons from Vickie’s CLNC® Certification Program Surrounded Me with Power and Confidence
As I drove to the attorney’s office, I was thinking, “What did I get myself into?” Then facts, lessons, protocol and more from the CLNC® Certification Program flashed through my brain. I could see and hear Vickie. Bam! In the blink of an eye I was surrounded by a mantle of power and confidence. I realized that I had everything I needed, including some positive personal self-esteem, to handle this case successfully.
Stepping out of my car, briefcase in hand, I heard, felt and saw in my mind Vickie’s mantra, “We are nurses and we can do anything!® We are successful CLNC® consultants!” I knocked on the door and met my new attorney-client.
He ushered me into his conference room and got down to business. After going through Gert’s entire file with me, he looked over my contract letter and signed it. Then he handed me the $1,500 retainer check he’d already prepared.
I wanted to meet Gert. I told him I should look into her day-to-day life and get her current thoughts and feelings.
In minutes we had walked down the street to Gert’s house. A tiny, wiry lady with snow-white hair and piercing clear blue eyes opened the door. She probably weighed 90 pounds. She was dressed in an immaculate housecoat, nylons and black shoes. In her left hand she held a cane. She looked me over and invited us into her spotless home. As we shook hands, she said, “You can call me Gert,” then introduced her son and her cousin.
Vickie’s Voice Guided Me Through an Emotional Plaintiff Interview
Everyone cleared the room, leaving me with Gert. I’m a real blabber but this time, I stuck to Vickie’s words: “Listen to the person. Don’t interrupt. Ask questions, listen some more.” I did just that.
Gert told me how she felt after the accident. She was furious at how she had been treated and mistreated. The medical, surgical, rehab and physical therapy staff did not take care of her. Her mental, spiritual and emotional needs were ignored, forgotten and trivialized. Gert was treated as a fracture, not as a whole person. “No one listened to me at the hospital or at rehab,” she said. “They didn’t care how I felt. They were too busy.”
Now she had no wish to go for walks, eat, cook or tend her little garden. She no longer looked forward to watching “Jeopardy,” reading Reader’s Digest or working a crossword puzzle. “My life is over,” she said. “I don’t care about anything. I’m through. Why should I take a walk again? To be hit by another truck? I don’t want to be hopped up on pills. I want my life back!”
More than an hour later, we were done. Gert took both my hands in hers and said, “Thank you for listening to me.”
I gave her a few tips about the IME and gave her son a sheet of directions. I told Gert I’d meet her a half-hour before the appointment. I wanted her to feel and to know she was in good hands, and I would not let the IME doctor make her say anything that could be used against her.
After another hour at the attorney’s office formulating our strategy for the summary judgment, I went home exhausted. I spoke to my family briefly and went to bed early.
Both Gert and My Attorney-Client Appreciated “Great Work”
The next morning, I met Gert and her son for coffee. I gently suggested that she stay cool, calm and collected during the exam. Soon after we entered the IME doctor’s examining room, the doctor appeared.
At the outset he was pleasant, professional and kind. Yet as he took Gert’s history and began the physical exam, he became more and more impatient with her slow speech and movements. It was as though he forgot she was 92. For two hours I silently watched from a corner.
Every so often, Dr. Jones would slip in a question not within the scope of an IME. This is known as double dipping, in hopes the plaintiff will say something that contradicts her deposition testimony. Every time he tried this, I spoke up: “That question is not related to this IME. If you have any other questions, please contact the attorney who requested your services.” He’d glare at me, then go back to his exam. After a while he quit trying to double dip.
Poor Gert was not doing so well. She was annoyed and offended that this doctor was asking her questions he’d already asked or knew the answer to. I leveled my gaze at her as if to say, “Stay cool and calm,” and she did.
After the exam and a long wait for X rays, we left the building. We were drained and preoccupied. At their car, as I went to shake Gert’s hand, this tiny, tremendous lady reached up and hugged me tightly. I wished her luck on her case and told her to start her walks again, or else. She smiled and said, “You are a fine girl.” The lump in my throat was huge.
I drove to my office in silence. No radio. No cell phone. I had to prepare my observations, analysis and conclusions from the IME. Then I had to call my attorney-client and give him a verbal report with my recommendations on the real case theme and damages. Clearly that included Gert’s outstanding medical bills and, most important, her hedonic damages – the loss of the pleasure of simple things and the passion for life.
I was nervous about presenting this to the attorney, but at the end of our conversation, he thanked me profusely. “This is great work,” he added. “I bet they’ll settle. I’ll keep you posted.”
Gert Won the Case and I Won a Lesson in Class, Courage and Strength
Two days later, he called to say they had settled for $200,000. He thanked me again and said he’d be calling me. I was thrilled that Gert had been heard. She had an attorney with equal parts heart and legal expertise, she had a CLNC® consultant on her side and she’d won. “What would Vickie do?” I thought. Oh well, I had a good cry and said a prayer for Gert.
I knew I might never see her again. Then, last December, I was driving home on the street where her accident occurred. Just ahead I spotted Gert walking with her cousin. She had her cane and she was dressed up, a little black purse swinging on her arm. They stopped at the corner, the very corner where she had been crushed by the truck. I drove past them and tapped my horn. She looked at me intently, then as she recognized me, her face opened into a glorious smile. She raised her cane in the air, a victory wave, and laughed. I waved back and drove home.
This case is memorable for many reasons. Out of the blue I found a great, experienced attorney-client. He never forgot my CLNC® services on Gert’s case. He’s a pleasure to work with. All my invoices are paid on time. I make excellent money for my work product. I’m respected for my ideas and analysis and for educating the attorney. I thank Vickie and all the staff at Vickie Milazzo Institute for helping me to become a successful CLNC® consultant.
Most memorable is a 92-year-old woman who, by coming back to her life, added dimension to mine. She taught me three things I try to use daily in my CLNC® business: class, courage and strength. You go, Gert!
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