I was told most WSIAT decisions take about 4 months but that it could take longer and if that was the case we, my advocate and I, would be informed. Around the end of March a letter from the WSIAT arrived and it simply said that the decision process would take longer than normal. There were no timelines attached, so we would just have to wait.
In early April, I was told that I would be attending a training session at the Frank Sherman Recreation and Learning Centre, a recreational park for the employees of ArcelorMittal Dofasco. I was looking forward to learning new skills so that a new line of career advancement could open for me. Ever since the initial accident and the numerous aggravations, my career had been on hold and the lost wages had made things tough especially being a single parent. I couldn’t be guaranteed a higher paying job or even a chance for advancement as I couldn’t go into any of the plant areas. This was an opportunity to prove that I had more ability than just being the corporate administrator for the online training program.
On the morning of April 13, 2010, I arrived early at the recreation park. As I walked into the building I was hit by the strong smell of varathane and I met up with the training specialist that was in charge of the session. I looked at him and said I didn’t think I could do the training. He assured me that the smell was nowhere near as bad upstairs in the training room. So against my better judgment, I said I would try it. Upstairs the smell was less but still there and there was an additional smell yet nothing was overpowering. I told the specialist I would try it but if it got any worse I would be leaving, to which he agreed.
As the training got underway, my sinuses began to burn and breathing slowly got more and more uncomfortable. The woman beside me also began to complain about a growing headache because of the smells. I lasted about 40 or 45 minutes. I then found the specialist and told him I had to go. I was going to Medical at ArcelorMittal Dofasco. He asked if I wanted him to drive me or if I wanted to go to the Urgent Care but I declined. I told him I would take my time and just go down to Medical at work. The drive to the Medical Department was long, slow and tear-filled. I remember thinking that I really shouldn’t be driving and that the Urgent Care probably would have been much wiser but as I had already passed it I pushed on toward work and the Medical Department.
When I arrived at ArcelorMittal Dofasco Medical, I was taken into a treatment room. The nurse on duty asked what happened and how I was feeling. I told them about the smells at the Recreation Centre and I said that my sinuses felt like they were on fire and that it hurt to breathe. Again the nurse asked me to agree that I was short of breath and I said “NO … it hurts to breathe.” So it was obvious that they would never admit that I complained that it hurt to breathe and I was once again placed on oxygen. After about an hour and a half they took me off oxygen. The pain hadn’t really subsided but it was marginally better. I was more tired of fighting to breathe through the mask than usual. The staff at ArcelorMittal Dofasco asked if I wanted to go home but the thought of driving then was very daunting so I said that I would return to my desk. During a few phone calls to the Recreational Centre it was discovered that the gymnasium floors had been resurfaced, and that a few of the training rooms and halls had been repainted and new flooring had been glued down in one of the other rooms on the second floor. It turned out to be a very non-productive day and the pain remained ever-present. I left a little early and slowly made my way home and into bed. My son came home and asked if I was okay. I told him what had happened and stayed in bed. Tears and a crushing weight were now my constant companion.
I took 2 days off sick and there was little to no improvement. The effort needed to breathe felt monumental at times. Tears from the effort needed to breathe were almost constant as was a crushing pain, and sense of suffocation. I had to sleep with my head raised as I felt that I would suffocate trying to sleep and each night ended with more tears.
On the Saturday, I had made plans to go shopping with a friend. I couldn’t understand why these symptoms weren’t easing and decided to try to get a few things. About 20 minutes into our outing my friend looked at me and asked if I was okay. I told her that I didn’t think so and that the pain didn’t seem to be easing. So we cancelled our outing and within the hour I was back in bed, crying through the pain and trying to breathe.
On Monday, I decided to that I had to suck it up and get my self to work. So I forced my self to move and get ready. I made it to work although it seemed everything took much longer. The climb to my second floor office was so taxing to me that the pain blossomed to a whole new level. In my office, the morning became unbearable and within about an hour I left my office. One of the guys in the outer office asked if I was all right and I said “No.” Through the tears, I said “I don’t think I can do this today.” I called my family doctor and got an appointment right away. On the way out one of the supervisors asked if I wanted to take a computer home to do work with. I said that I didn’t want to take one until I talked with my doctor.
At her office I told her about how I was feeling and what had happened the week before. Her conclusion was that this was definitely work-related. She completed the forms for WSIB and sent me home with a prescription for Tylenol 3 for the pain. I would be off for a while as I was deemed unfit for work in this condition. She also made an emergency appointment with the Firestone Clinic because of the evident respiratory distress that I was in.
At the Firestone Clinic, Dr. McIvor couldn’t be dismissive this time. I was in evident respiratory distress and to such a degree I could barely do the tests required. It was discovered that my lung capacity was at 68%. Tears ran down my face as I was asked to blow out breath as hard as possible and I felt myself begin to pass out from pain and lack of air. No additional medications or suggestions were offered. Just a course of maintaining what I was doing. It was hard to put any faith in the doctors’ of the Firestone Clinic while plaques line the walls with dedications to ArcelorMittal Dofasco’s good corporate citizenship grants.
A week or so later I received the forms from WSIB and had them completed with information about the accident and returned them. It was almost another month before I heard from ArcelorMittal Dofasco and that was the Medical Department asking what had happened at the accident. Fighting for breath I started to explain and then stopped. I said I had gone to them the morning of accident and I had told them everything. They HADN’T reported this accident, one of the most severe reactions that I had experienced and here I had to fight to breathe to tell them what they already knew.
Whether ArcelorMittal Dofasco was ever fined for not reporting the accident, I really don’t know but since they never seemed to get fined for any infractions what-so-ever there was little doubt that this too was going to be swept under the rug and that they would walk away unscathed.
The aftermath of this accident will be the subject of the next blog.