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This diary ended up way longer than I expected it would.  Once I finally decide to write, I write it all, I suppose.

I worked in a warehouse filling catalog and online orders for a large company.  It was the second such job I've had in three years.

I was underemployed, worked crazy hours in a dirty, unfriendly environment, all in the hopes that I would be formally 'hired' after the peak Christmas season.  I really needed and wanted the health and dental insurance.

I should have applied for state Medicaid.  Now I'm in a health crisis and have nothing.  I don't even have a job.

I started working at this place in October 2007.  It was a $9.00 an hour job, the same starting wage as everyone else.  I was formally a seasonal employee.  My job was to personally fill orders that were more than a couple of days old.  I was basically my own boss, had little supervision, and was trained in every single department in the warehouse.  There was supposed to be at least three full-time employees doing this job but I was the only one.  There were a couple of part time people who really never had the time to learn properly their duties.  I supervised and trained them myself. I worked long, long days and I admit that I felt a bit puffed up with my own importance.  I was probably the most highly trained non-management person in the house. The warehouse is all high tech, and I had the same computer access as management. I felt valuable. I was trained to run all the heavy machinery--forklifts, stock pickers, etc.  I could work in any department and fill-in for just about any employee in the place.  But most of my job duties required walking.  OMG, the walking.  After my first week on the job I bought a pedometer and found that I was walking 40-50 a lot of miles a day in a million-plus square foot warehouse.  It had concrete floors and I walked frequently on metal grating.  I developed plantar fasciitis, an extremely painful foot condition.  Against the advice of fellow employees, I visited the on-site nurse once.  She looked at my feet and told me I just needed to get used to the job.  After a few weeks I paid out of pocket and saw a podiatrist.  It wasn't a work related injury--my bones/tendons weren't aligned properly.  I learned how to stretch muscles and tendons in the mornings before I even got out of bed.  I was offered cortisone shots but declined.  I stretched, took ibuprofen, bought new good shoes and inserts every 3-4 weeks, and kept on going.  I felt pain every single day.  

I was laid off a couple of times and called back.  Keep in mind that I was still considered a seasonal employee.  By May I wondered if I was ever going to be formally 'hired'.  I asked and never got a good answer.  The layoffs were of short duration and I was always called back. See a pattern? The last time I was called back I worked on a stock picker lift, a machine weighing more than one ton that lifts personnel and material to about 25 feet in height.  My job was to grab heavy boxes, bring them down to floor level and move them around as necessary.  The company prides itself on the clean environment, but the 'clean' is only eye level.  2 and 3 stories high is rarely cleaned.  It's dusty and disgusting.  I developed three serious eye infections in as many months. I paid out of pocket to get treatment, always at a Doctor's Urgent Care facility because it was cheaper and I had no health insurance.  Because visiting the on-site nurse is to be avoided at all costs--she is there to save the company money, bottom line, and visits to her are noted and remembered. I eventually paid out of pocket for prescription safety glasses.  They were not required by the company.  After watching a co-worker crush his foot between machine and steel rack, I paid out of pocket for my own safety shoes.  Those also were not required by the company. They weren't boots, mind you.  I couldn't have worn those day in and day out.  I paid for expensive steel-toed cross trainers that didn't give me as much pain.

When the peak season swung around again, I swore that I would save all the overtime pay and finally go to the dentist.  I hadn't seen a dentist in almost 10 years and I needed work badly.  I knew I had cavities, I knew that I needed a root canal.  I would take what I had saved and ask a dentist to fix what needed it most, whatever was in my budget.  I saved from September to January.  I was still a seasonal employee.  Not formally 'hired', no insurance.

On Monday, my face...blew up.  I woke up to a swelled-up cheek, puffy eyes, and a goose egg on my upper gum.  I called off work.  I called my regular doctor, who I only see in extreme circumstances.  The doctor agreed to see me first thing Tuesday morning.  I took another sick day from work. The doctor lifted up my top lip and said "ouch".  He wrote prescriptions for antibiotics and some generic vicodin (I love him so much for those 10 vicodin).  He wrote me an excuse for being absent from work for the two days.  I left the doctor's office and immediately went to work to find the nurse.  She poked around my face, agreed that I was in bad shape and took the doctor's excuse.  She said that I would need to visit the corporate doctors that are paid by the company, located at a nearby hospital.  I would need to be cleared for light duty work ASAP (can't run heavy machinery on drugs). She told me to go get the prescriptions filled, go home and she would call with a time for my appointment.  She never called.

I called her late Tuesday afternoon and left messages on her voice mail.  No response.  On Wednesday morning we had terrible weather and my county was on a level 3 snow emergency (no unnecessary travel under penalty of arrest).  The warehouse is in a different county, different rules. I called the nurse and left voice messages.  I called my manager and left voice messages.  No response.  Also no dentist to be found in such bad conditions.  Thursday, more bad weather.  No nurse, no manager, no dentist.  Also no more Vicodin.  I had taken them all.  

On Friday, we were downgraded to a level 2 emergency.  I dragged myself out to the car and to work.  I needed to find the nurse and my manager.  

My key card to get in the building didn't work.

I called human resources on my cell phone and was finally connected to my manager.  She let me in through the offices section of the building.  I knew that was bad.  My supervisor met me in his office, and together with the manager they let me know that I was being let go.  Permanently.  For non-compliance of company procedures.  Discussing my situation didn't matter.  My manager gathered my personal items (there wasn't much but my trusty bottle of ibuprofen), took my key card, and escorted me out of the building.  She privately told me that the company couldn't afford to keep sickly people.

I wasn't valuable at all.

In my upset, I didn't even try to call a dentist on Friday.  I went home and huddled on the sofa.  I cried a little.

On Monday, I will go to an 'affordable dentures' place and have some teeth pulled.  They do extractions pretty cheap, compared to a regular dentist or oral surgeon. I can't afford any of that dental work now.  I'll need the money I saved to survive the next few months of job hunting.  

My sister-in-law works for the state of Ohio bureau of worker's compensation.  She will help me file for unemployment.

I'll also file the paperwork for Medicaid.  I should have done it in the first place.  See, I had Medicaid once years ago, and I was treated like a second-class citizen.  I was a second-class citizen.  I remember my son's dentist telling me that he was doing things as a courtesy because Medicaid didn't pay. The shame of it was beyond anything I could ever imagine.  But I think I can handle shame of being poor a little better than I can handle being thought of as "sickly".


Others note that the miles the cheap pedometer I bought said I walked per day is impossible.  I'll take those folks at their word.  I walked a lot.

Originally posted to Buckeye BattleCry on Sat Jan 31, 2009 at 09:41 AM PST.

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