When accidents happen, especially at work, it is natural for us to want to be made whole again: put back together as much as possible so our lives can return to normal. Sometimes, recovery for these accidents only covers the harm we can see. A worker injured on the job may appear healed physically but have more internal healing that needs treatment. This issue was examined in a workers’ compensation case appealed to the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal in 2016.
Gary Thompson worked as a program monitor for the Department of Health and Hospitals, Office of Public Health. On February 15, 2011, Thompson left work at the end of the day and took the elevator as his office was on the eighth floor. When the elevator descended past the third floor, it suddenly fell and hit the ground level with a strong impact. Thompson’s post-incident MRIs showed serious injuries to his knees, hip, and upper and lower lumbar spine. Thompson had to undergo bilateral knee arthroscopy and other procedures, but no procedures performed relieved him of his back pain and other symptoms. Thompson’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jorge Isaza, recommended a discogram to determine whether Thompson was a surgical candidate and Dr. Allen Johnston, appointed by the Office of Workers’ Compensation (OWC), reported that he agreed with the recommendation.
The OWC medical director approved the discogram and it revealed pain generators in Thompson’s back at Ll-2, L2-3, and L5-S1 levels. Dr. Isaza performed surgery on the L5-S1 level in April of 2013, but this did nothing to relieve Thompson of pain. Dr. Isaza recommended post-surgery diagnostic tests. At this point, OWC refused approval to conduct those tests. Dr. Isaza recommended another lumbar fusion on the L2-3 and Ll-2 levels, to treat the upper lumbar injury, which a May 14, 2012, MRI report confirmed the need for. The OWC also denied coverage of this procedure.