To SSI Disability Review Board; Louisiana Politicians, Community Leaders, Celebrities, etc.

Subject: To SSI Disability Review Board; Louisiana Politicians, Community Leaders, Celebrities, etc.
From: E. Holly Watts
Date: 2 Jan 2016

My husband, Michael S. Kelly, was diagnosed with Congenital Spinal Stenosis in 1997 when he was admitted into North Oaks Hospital in Hammond, LA paralyzed from the neck down. Seven days later, he was released miraculously able to walk on his own. However, he was told that his condition was such that he could bend to tie his shoes one day and his paralysis could return and be permanent. He dealt with an enormous amount of pain and we, with no insurance, carried on with our lives as if all were normal.

That all changed on June 29, 2014, when a bump on his head sent him back to North Oaks for an emergency life-saving surgery on July 1, 2014 in which the C3 through C7 vertebrae were removed from the back of his neck and the muscles sewn closed over the remainder of his spine. He suffered severe neurological damage and is no longer able to walk normally without the use of a cane or walker. He is a high risk for falls and requires assistance to simply take a shower. He experiences tremors in his extremities which make caring for himself via routine tasks extremely difficult.

As his wife, I have devoted my days and nights to caring for him. I help him dress (especially when buttons are involved), assist him in the shower, and perform many other tasks that he is unable to do on his own. When I leave the home even for a brief amount of time, I have to make sure that he is situated in a wheelchair so that if he needs to get into a different room, such as the bathroom, he can use his feet to sort of push himself where he needs to go. This method was recommended to me by his primary care physician in an attempt to prevent him from falling at home when no one was available to assist him. The objective here is to have him avoid any further trauma to his spine and/or additional injuries. In addition to the cane, walker and wheelchair, other medical equipment that his doctors have ordered are: a hospital bed, transitional shower chair, gait belt, and neck brace (he cannot hold his head up for long periods without some sort of assistance). He also has physical therapy and occupational therapy in our home twice a week.

As you can imagine, this situation has taken its toll on us financially. Shortly after his surgery in July of 2014, the hospital administration assisted us with filing for SSI Disability. He was, as so often is the case, denied and by October of that same year we had hired an attorney to help us take his case before a Judge.

On November 10, 2015 (more than a year after initially filing) my husband along with his attorney appeared before Judge Thomas G. Henderson in New Orleans. Even though a short local car ride causes my husband severe pain, our son volunteered to drive my husband the 133.8 miles round-trip. After a brief and to the point meeting took place and all of the medical records were delivered, the Judge ordered a continuance until December 10, 2015 so that a more recent MRI report could be obtained (the one obtained 3 months earlier during an emergency visit to the hospital was not sufficient for the Judge).

My husband’s neurologist conducted and reviewed the new MRI and that along with his reported findings were delivered to the Judge. The neurologist also included a personal letter on behalf of my husband. From that point, we were told that it could take 4 to 6 weeks for the Judge to reach his decision (though our attorney did petition for an expedited ruling due to the desperateness of financial our situation).

Today, January 2, 2016, we received a letter indicating that the Judge has ruled “Unfavorable” in my husband’s SSI Disability case. Although we do plan to appeal his decision, I have to question how he could have come to this conclusion? Every physician, nurse, therapist and specialist that my husband has seen all agree, “The man is disabled.” I find it deplorable that a Judge can so carelessly and callously deny someone that is truly deserving. Judge Henderson literally held our life in his hands and he just tossed us aside like garbage. How can someone with no medical training go against the scientific findings of those trained in their respective fields? More importantly, what recourse do we have?

The only thing I can think of is to try to bring awareness to our plight in hopes that someone out there can speak on our behalf because Judge Henderson is not listening to anyone else that we have representing us. Please be a voice and share this letter.

Thank you,
E. Holly Watts

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