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Scared and hurting - Need some advice

process_xpprocess_x Posts: 35
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:44 AM in Chronic Pain
Hi there,

I have been struggling with chronic pain for 4 years. I have been in 3 car accidents one of which was at 70+ mph. I had been going to Kaiser for treatment until I lost my job last year. I was treated with mostly narcotics, anti inflammatories and muscle relaxers. Physical therapy, injections etc. did not help. In my current financial situation and due to the fact that I no longer have insurance, I sought the help of a chiropractor.

Nearly every other doctor I have been to has told me that my pain is in my head or that I am making it up or saying that it is worse than it actually is. I have dealt with these responses from physicians since my first accident. Anyway, I went to a chiropractor for the first time 2 days ago and the chiropractor thinks that I have spinal stenosis. I have 9 compressed discs throughout my back from cervical spine down to lumbar.

My question is: is a chiropractor qualified to make this diagnosis and if he is not full of crap then why have none of my other doctors seen this on x-rays, cat scans or any one of my 4 MRI's? The chiropractor told me that my disc volume is very low. The discs that are affected range from 4 to 2 millimeters. He said that my condition is severe. Any answers would be greatly appreciated. Also wondering if I should consult with the county hospital again and see what they say about this? Please help!


  • What type of physician did you see for your back? Did you see a spine specialist? I do not have much faith in a chiropractor, but that is just my personal opinion.

    I do hope you can get some answers to your problem. Another opinion would certainly not be a waste of your time. Keep us posted.

  • My advice would be, if it is financially feasible, seek the second opinion at the county hospital. I'm assuming the chiropractor took x-rays (most do), so I'd request a copy of all the films and bring them with you. I'd tell the doctor you see exactly what the chiropractor has "diagnosed" and then hopefully he'll either confirm it or give you another opinion on what is going on. I'm with you that it is odd that after nothing has shown up on previous diagnostic studies this chiropractor has magically arrived at a diagnosis. Personally, I'm skeptical of chiropractors, but that's just a personal thing. Either way, you don't want to be spending your money on something that isn't going to help so I'd seek the second opinion and then re-evaluate whether or not to continue with the chiropractor.

    Do you have the reports from your previous imaging studies?? I would highly recommend getting a copy of all the reports of previous studies you've had done because I have had the experience where docs think something on a report is insignificant and fail to mention it, so I would want to be sure that stenosis is not mentioned in any of the reports...
  • Hello there and welcome to Spine Health. :-)

    What tests did your chiropractor do to reach his diagnosis?

    I have used a chiropractor and believe that he helped me although I ended up needing surgery because I had a structural problem with my spine.

    There are a lot of people who don't think much of them.
  • I requested my records from Kaiser 3 weeks ago or more now. I have checked back with them twice and I am still waiting. I am anxious to see what is on the MRI's and such as I do not trust doctors in managed care settings (especially Kaiser) I have had nothing but bad experiences with them.

    The chiropractor took x-rays and circled the 9 discs that are "compressed". Trust me, I know how I feel so I am inclined to believe him but I just want to make sure that he is qualified to do those kinds of measurements of discs. He also works with an ortho.

    Just an example of Kaiser, hyperthyroidism and thyroid cancer runs in my family. Every woman on my mothers side had it. I have A LOT of the signs and symptoms yet Kaiser refused to diagnose and treat it because they use different blood indicators than the rest of the universe. So, I took myself down to Stanford one day (because I stopped breathing and was having heart palpatations 29 within less than an hour that kaiser had on their moniter, and low and behold, Stanford said that is exactly what it was but that they could not diagnose in the ER. I could not afford their endo out of pocket so I am still uncontrolled. Point of the story is, Kaiser has their own criteria that they go by to avoid treatment etc. because they are a managed care setting whereas Stanford is a teaching hospital and uses the correct diagnostic criteria. Sorry for the rant.

    I really want to believe this chiro because I know something is wrong but every Kaiser doctor I have ever been to tells me that my MRI's etc. were "unremarkable". They also told me that it is impossible to have sciatica in both legs and I do so go figure. In regard to the county hospital, I have been to their express care/ER 4 times in the last six months and it seems like they are not as open to helping a chronic condition. One doctor took x-rays and said they found arthritis which I know I have and the next time I went they said I didnt. So I am getting mixed answers from them. Also, this may be important, I have a bone in my neck that is sticking out to the left by about almost a half an inch. It has been causing headaches and pain everywhere. Chiro said it was a 20% partial dislocation. It has been there for almost a year and county failed to see it on an x-ray. I never thought much of it because I assumed it was a knot like the other million I have up and down my back but now I am having headaches which will last anywhere from a week to a month along with pain shooting up and down my arm.

    Thank you for your reply's, I appreciate it.

    Is a chiro qualified for diagnosing problems such as this? I know a lot of you said you don't trust chiro's (neither do I really but I am at my end) but are they qualified to say what is wrong? I can only go to the ER because of my insurance situation so I only want to do that to confirm the diagnosis...
  • As many have stated, it's a matter of personal opinion.

    I trust my Chiro. I believe he is qualified. He takes x-rays, reads them himself then sends them off to be reviewed by a radiologist, and also works with an Ortho. He worked with me a long time, and kept me out of the operating room for a very long time. Now, I will admitt I didn't always follow his advice. Shame on me. When he knew I was beyond his help, he said so. He sent me on to an Ortho Surgeon for further imaging and diagnostic testing.

    So in answer to your question. In my opinion, yes they are qualifed. If you have the right one. Just like doctors, there are good ones and bad ones.

    Do you feel better after you see him?

    I am sorry. It sounds like you may be stuck in a not so great situation with your current medical facility. Does your insurance offer you any other alternative?
  • I don't have insurance. I am also skeptical of handing over almost 7k for 6 months of treatment with a chiro. Apparently he thinks I am that bad. I mostly just wanted to know if his diagnosis will stand up to these idiots at the county hospital. My first adjustment was yesterday and I am experiencing new pain but I hear that is normal...
  • After my first visit to the chiro, he warned me I would be sore afterwards.
    Wow! Was he right. I was so sore and stiff! :''(
    It lasted 2 or 3 days.
    After that I did get relief from my visits. I went for a year, but he recommended that I should get an MRI scan as I wasn't responding as well as he would expect.
    Apart from my lumbar spondylolisthesis, he told me I had osteophytes on my thoracic spine and a very stiff and tight neck. (Didn't x-ray the neck) My MRI showed that I had 3 herniated discs in my thoracic spine, so I guess the osteophytes are trying to guard that area.

    I also learnt a lot from my chiro visits. He gave me ideas for changes to my diet which helped me to lose 20 pounds and he gave me various exercies which strengthened my core and back and leg muscles.

    If my physio can't get enough relief of my thoracic and cervical symptoms, I will try the Chiro again.

  • A diagnosis always helps. Somehow we need that validation to keep us sane. Trust me I know.

    They always do recommend a lot of visits.

    Perhaps you can just explain to him, "it's not in the budget." Maybe do what you can afford. Some is better than none. See if you can get some relief from a few adjustments.

    As Jellyhall said, The good ones will offer you advise on how to eat right as well as various exercises and body mechanics that will help you. Mine did.
    Let us know how it works out for you.
  • It is tricky...

    My understanding is that there is a difference between a chiropractic diagnosis and a medical diagnosis, and to me, it seems like your chiropractor might be getting outside his scope of practice to diagnose spinal stenosis- a medical diagnosis. The "science" of chiropractic is based on the theory of subluxations, and I believe chiropractors usually "diagnose" subluxations since that is what they are trained to treat and fix. It sounds like that may be what your chiropractor diagnosed in your neck that he referred to as a "partial dislocation."

    But, there are plenty of chiropractors out there that do make medical diagnoses, and it's just a personal opinion how much credit you put in that. They do not have the same training as MDs, and they are taught based on a completely different science, but I don't think there is any consensus as far one being right or the other being wrong- It's like comparing apples and oranges. Both are fruits, just different. I think maybe you're trying to think of the chiropractor as a substitute for an MD, but they are not really interchangeable since they do different things.

    One thought is maybe you could get access to the ortho through the chiropractor? I don't know if your chiropractor would be willing to do that, but if they practice together you might see if there is any way to get the orthopedist to take a look at your X-rays. Also, if you really want confirmation on the diagnosis from a doctor it might be worth the money to pay for an initial eval out of pocket, particularly since you have already had films taken. I would think it wouldn't be too terribly expensive (probably the cost of a few chiropractic visits) since they wouldn't need to do any additional imaging.

    I think FROG said it best though- just like there are good and bad doctors there are good and bad chiropractors. The bottom line is whether or not it works for you. Chiropractors offer a therapy, so I think maybe instead of being so hung up on if the diagnosis is right or wrong, you might focus on whether or not the chiropractic therapy works for you. If so, great. If not, move on to the next thing...
  • Spinal stenosis will show up clearly on an MRI - it's unmistakable. If you're in any doubt, I'd ask your chiropractor or doctor to point it out to you on the MRI. Instead of being uniformly wide, the spinal canal shows a serrated, wavy effect where the stenosis is impinging on the nerves. Pain and weakness in both legs (especially upon walking) is one of the symptoms. Yours may or may not be related to stenosis, but I thought I'd mention it, as you said you had pain in both your legs. Good luck with your back and neck, and hope you get some answers (and relief) soon.
  • Most of us will have compressed disks as we get older. Stenosis is when the opening inside for the spinal cord narrows, he can't diagnose that with an x-ray, and it's not the same as compression. I just don't quite see the connection.

    The good news is that in a few years you'll have access to health insurance :)

    I'd check out the Spine Health articles on stenosis and how it's diagnosed. I don't think a chiro could diagnose it, just that he can't diagnose it, and I doubt chiro is effective in treating it.

    Kaiser missed my spine diagnosis, so I'm right there with ya. I had a severe burst fracture and they diagnosed a compression fracture and sent me on my way without a brace. Now I'm a mess. Luckily I have insurance, I can't even imagine being in your situation. I really feel for you.

  • I will admit that I do not like Chiropractors. My feeling is that they too often take advantage of people who like you do not have health insurance. Or the go after people who have had bad experiences with doctors. Keep in mind that nothing they do lasts more than a few days, weeks or months. And while there may be some very good ones there are many more awful ones who will cause more damage.

    An xray will not show herniations except that in a complete herniation the space will be lessened. But since everyone is different how would he know what your normal disk spaces are? Also as Happy said we all have herniations and other degenerative changes once we hit 40 if not earlier.

    There are some who believe that traction can help to stretch the spine which would allow otherwise healthy disks to return to their proper shape and place. If he is planning to do adjustments I would definately run and fast. If you do have herniations his adjustments could turn them into ruptured disks.

    My feeling is that if you have 7K to spend on chiro you would be better off going to a neurologist for a consult. Many will work with you if you don't have insurance. Bring all your old MRI etc and be prepared with a list of pains and problems. Another option is to go to a teaching hospital. Many will do consults for no or low fee.

    I know you are hoping for a solution. But remember that bad care is worse than no care.

  • I am only 29 and cannot even clean my house at this point. Even drying my hair and putting on makeup showering etc. is very painfull and takes me 2 hours to get ready now because I have to take breaks.

    This is the background of problems that I gave to the chiropractor:

    My first car accident was in May of 2007 which was the most serious accident at speeds in excess of 70mph. Another happened six months after that while I was at a stop I was rear ended at 40+ mph, and the last one happened about nine months after that which was also at speeds of about 40+ mph.

    All points of pain are experienced daily without fail. Some of the pain is fleeting but frequent, some are unrelenting but all of them happen throughout the day and night every day for the last 3 years. I have to sit forward in a chair in order to remain comfortable most of the time. Difficulty sleeping. I wake up in severe pain every night. I cannot do minor daily activities without exasperating the pain. I can't do dishes, vacuum, mop, sweep, shower, put on make-up, dry and style my hair, sit for too long, stand for too long or do anything normal without making the constant unrelenting pain worse.

    All pain management, physical therapy and diagnostics were done through Kaiser until I lost my insurance and job in 2009 where I tried to continue pain management through Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Mountain View Rota-care and Emergency visits with no real help from these institutions.

    Diagnostic tests:

    1.Multiple MRI's, slices of cervical spine, and mid back but I believe none were conducted for lower back. (unremarkable)
    2.Multiple X-Ray's of spine and arm (arm was injured from airbag deployment) (unremarkable)
    3.CT Scan in ER day of first accident (I was told by Kaiser that I had two bones in my neck that were not supposed to be there which is why they immobilized me for 10 hours trying to make sure that my neck was not broken. I would like to know more about these two bones that they found “misplaced” and then said was normal.) (also unremarkable)

    Types of pain:

    1.Deep pain in low and mid back that burns and cramps (feels like burning and cramps similar to diarrhea) that radiates to hips and abdomen. Back pain is unrelenting: never stops or subsides
    2.Dull aching in lower back which gets much worse with any amount of movement or prolonged standing such as when I do dishes or vacuum.
    3.Sharp pain in neck and right shoulder which makes it painful to breath deeply
    4.Pain that shoots down right arm from shoulder.
    5.Sharp pain shooting up arm to elbow from right hand, right hand joints also feel stiff and swollen. Right hand pain radiates but shoots sharply up arm from middle finger to pinky finger, middle finger knuckle is visibly larger than left hand and has a red vertical stripe through the knuckle which hurts when pressed on, pain does not radiate when pressed. Pain is fleeting but frequent.
    6.Sharp shooting pain in both legs originating from butt. Left leg pain stops at behind knee, right leg shoots pain down to ankle bone and sometimes starts in low back instead of butt. If I lift my right leg above my heart I get a pins and needles sensation on the bottom of my foot. It hurts to sit or stand for too long. Driving is difficult.
    7.Left hip feels like bone rubbing on bone. Extremely painful to walk at times and gives me a slight limp when it flares up (trouble walking at times throughout the day) pain in hip is unrelenting but gets worse with increased activity.
    8.Both knees have sharp shooting pain when temps change drastically and they ache
    9.Mid back and neck also feel stiff with temp changes as well as tender spots on bone that are always present if pressed on.
    10.Neck constantly aches and cracks along with shoulders.
    11. Bone in neck protruding on left side causing headaches which last for weeks.

    For my condition I have been prescribed:
    5)Ibuprofen 600
    6)Lortab 10/500
    7)Norco 10/325
    11)Tramadol 50mg
    12)Vicodin 5/500

    Current medications:

    1)Ibuprofen – On bad days up to 800mg every 4 hours around the clock
    2)Tylenol – 4000mg a day

    These current medications hardly take the edge off of my pain but are not good enough to keep me at all comfortable to perform daily tasks or be able to sleep peacefully.
  • That's my first thought. You are dealing with alot of pain and no treatment. Sounds like you have cervical and lumbar issues and need a very good neurologist (not surgeon).

    A few ideas. From the accidents did you have any insurance coverage? I'm in NY and my medical and lost wages are covered to my policy limits for up to 3 years. Each state has different types of insurance but I would think unless the cars were uninsured there should be some coverage. Also have you gotten any damages awarded in these accidents? If you never looked into this you should.

    If you can't work because of the pain then you should be covered under state disability. And when that runs out you need to apply for SSDI. You may also qualify for Medicaid. This would be great since most doctors do take medicare and medicaid.

    With all these issues you need to be under the care of a neurologist. Again my personal feeling is that a chiropractor may give you a few moments of relief or they may give you even more problems.
  • I got skrewed on my first accident case because of the second one. The lawyer for the first one said that I had to settle because they would not be able to prove where the symptoms of the first accident end and the new ones begin. I got 10K out of that 5K went to the lawyer so I got 5K for pain and suffering and a new shitty car. The second accident I did not pursue because I had too much turmoil at work from the first one and ended up getting laid off a year after the first accident.

    I handled it poorly I know I should have gone after her for rear ending me. The third accident MY BRAKES failed! So automatically my fault. Not sure where to go from here other than the suggestion to go to a teaching hospital. I am not far from Stanford so I may go there tomorrow. This pain makes me suicidal at times not to mention the fact that I could kill my liver and kidneys very easily with the amounts of tylenol and ibuprofen I take daily.

    I want to know what is wrong more than anything. I am sick of feeling like I am crazy with no validation for my pain. But I guess I can't expect much more from a managed care setting like I had at Kaiser. Hopefully Stanford can help or at least see something on whatever tests they run.
  • I saw in your post that a doctor told you that it was impossible to have sciatica in both legs. I would say 4 out of the 6 times I've had discs rupture I have had pain in both legs. I have experienced mostly central ruptures that caused pain in both legs. Now it may not be as common but it does happen I am living proof of that.

    As for the Chiro's that is a hard question. I have had good experiences and bad. My current chiro has helped me through some really rough times when I did not have a rupture. I fell and was having really bad sciatic pain. The MRI showed no discs being compromised but the chiro figured out my muscles where causing things to bind up and it was messing with my sciatic nerves. Now when I have had MRI's that showed things going on he would leave me be. He has always been very cautious with possible ruptures. He has never tried to diagnos ruptures or compression so I am not familiar with them doing that.

    I would get your medical records and look to see what the MRI report actually says. If may even be in your best interest to spend a couple hundred $$ on a non Keiser doctor visit. If they differ in their opinion on what Keiser is saying I would push Keiser. Make phone calls talk to management, you may have to push hard and pound on some doors to get the treatment you need.

    Have you had any PT or any other treatments besides the Chiro??
  • I must agree w/ the other members that are skeptical of your chiropractor being able to diagnose stenosis. I have a neutral opinion or the validity of chiropractic care.

    I seem to recall you being told that you cannot have sciatica in both legs. I disagree with that opinion.

    You do need to realize that we all have some degeneration of disks and arthritis and other maladies in our spines that may show up in MRI's or x-rays, but that does not mean they are the pain generator that you suffer from. As an example my MRI showed nerve compression on the right more that the left, but I only experienced pain in my left leg. That is why we need medical professionals to use the test results, a physical examination, and your input of the symptoms you are experiencing to reach a diagnosis.

    My personal doctor sent me to a chiropractor and gave me pain medication at the start of my back problems. It did help me deal with life, but I had to continuously go to the chiropractic to keep out of pain. The chiropractor did get me to a point that I improved enough to take OTC meds and get off of the prescription drugs, but I had to see him multiple days each week.

    Spontaneous recovery is the rule in initial treatment of back pain, so it could of happened w/out the chiropractor for all I know.

    My personal doctor was also giving me injections, which helped. I believe they were tramadol or toradol, cannot remember. They were muscular injections, not ESI.

    I have not sat down and crunched the numbers financially, but whereas the chiropractor wanted me to come in constantly; pain management and physical therapy showed me exercises that could be done at home. I guess what I am trying to say is the chiropractor did not educate me, and seemed to try to keep me coming back. PT and pain management seemed to have the goal of diagnosing and treating me, but also giving me the knowledge and instructions to help myself w/o having to see them multiple times a week forever. Remember that spontaneous recovery is the rule.

    My PM is awesome, he has not sent me for any expensive tests. I can also say after the second ESI did not help he dropped them from my treatments.

    Please don't misunderstand me having surgery, in that my PM has been the biggest help to me. I just wanted to try to correct my problems with surgery to relieve my pain and hopefully get off the narcotic pain meds.

    So I guess, my uneducated financial opinion is that PM and PT gave me the most bang for my buck. This personal opinion of mine does hinge on getting a good PM. If you get a good PM you could bring your films and prior medical records and possibly get help without spending too much money. I only see my PM every 3 months. After a few visit to a PT you hopefully have learned quite a few exercises that you can do on your own. I would also be upfront and honest about your financial situation when talking with any medical professional that you choose to deal with.

    I truly hope thing get better for you.
  • Good Morning~
    I have to say that I loved my Chiropractor...but, as in every thing else there are good and bad examples of Chiropractic care. I will say that when I had BC/BS and was able to go to the Chiropractor 3 days a week I didn't have to have surgery. When my husband retired my medicare became my primary...they only pay for 12 visits a year..well, guess what...next step is surgery...3 of them. So, medicare would rather pay thousands of dollars for surgery, phys rehab, pain management, meds, ect. instead of my chiropractor who only charged $45.00 a visit. Amazing.
  • Try Stanford. They have a pretty good rep.

    As far as the accidents - not sure how Conn works but in NY I have health insurance under my policy even it if is my fault. I would check with your agent about that. Also check what the statue of limitations is on the second accident. And for the first why did the lawyer get half? Usually it is 1/3 + expenses.

  • I am out in Ca, and I am pretty sure I missed the filing date to file suit. Everything is out of pocket here if you dont have medical coverage. I only had liability insurance so nothing was covered for me on the third at fault accident.
  • I am out in Ca, and I am pretty sure I missed the filing date to file suit. Everything is out of pocket here if you dont have medical coverage. I only had liability insurance so nothing was covered for me on the third at fault accident.
  • Chiro is good for some things and not for others. I won't say he definitely won't help you, but I think the diagnosis of stenosis via x-ray is shady.

    As for not being able to have sciatica in both legs. Huh? Why not?


    There are definitely things that can be done in a chiropractor's office- lots of chiros offer physical therapy and many modalities other than just manipulation. What is he offering, straight manipulation therapy?

    By the way, I was at Kaiser So Cal and they don't even let Ortho do backs there. I was treated solely by a physiatrist, for a fractured spine. Can you imagine?

  • I USED TO HAVE sciatica in both legs.

    WOW! It is so good to be able to say USED TO HAVE! :D

    I am so hopeful that this surgery has worked :-)
    Feeling better and better each week
  • Wow. Guys, I just got my records from Kaiser and they noted: Neural foraminal stenosis (disc narrowing and desiccation), central disc protrusion (bulging disc), degeneration of the spine and bone spurs. They told me nothing was wrong and that my "pain syndrome" was a behavioral problem for which they sent me to a psychiatrist for. There are also pages missing.

    Judging by the symptoms I described in detail above, would any of you suggest looking into any further issues? I am so upset that I was lied to. They kept telling me everything was "normal" and "unremarkable" yet the records indicate something quite different. Thoughts? Suggestions? Advice????
  • I'm glad you got the records. I would ask them in writing for the missing pages. Thats a big HIPPA no-no.

    As far as what's wrong - keep in mind that a scan is going to show lots of things. The only things that matter are the ones that are causing pain. So you need a neurologist who can take your symptoms and compare them to your MRI. Then you will have a starting point.

    Now another thought here since you don't have insurance....call the hospital and nicely explain to an administrator that you just got these records and you think there was a mistake made in your treatment back then. That they must have mixed things up because they didn't send you to a neurologist. And you are sure they want to correct this situation and provide you with the appropriate medical care now....since you know they want to make the situation right.

    I would lay it on thick and sweet with an undertone of you don't want me to get a lawyer. It should work. The last thing they want is a lawsuit.
  • MetalneckMetalneck Island of Misfit toysPosts: 1,364
    On reading your post and the recent information in the medical records(or lack of) ... this coupled with the previous actions (or inactions) on the part of your MVA lawyer ... three words come to my mind:


    Hoping for forward action on all fronts,


    Spine-health Moderator
    Welcome to Spine-Health  Please read the linked guidelines!!

  • I agree that you should request the missing pages. Sounds suspicious as to why they wouldn't send them to you. I would certainly want to know what was in them!

    Also agree that the things on your MRI, in some people, might not produce symptoms. But, as you have symptoms then how could they say that the scan was normal and unremarkable and send you to a psychiatrist.

    I am in the UK, so I don't know how this works, but it doesn't sound logical.

    I wish you well in sorting things out, and most of all, that you will be able to get the help that you need to deal with your pain! :D
  • Yes there could be some lawsuit possibilities. But having been down that road I can offer some thoughts.

    First it is almost impossible to prove malpractice. To even file a lawsuit you have to have another doctor sign a form saying that another doctor has acted with intentional malice. Of course there are doctors who will do anything for money but remember if you file a malpractice suit you are paying the expenses upfront. In a hospital situation it would be very difficult to pinpoint who all those years ago made this mistake. And that's what it would be considered - a mistake not intentional lack of treatment. And remember they are a huge corporation with a huge lawfirm on retainer. Good Luck winning that one.

    As far as the lawyer you had for the first accident. Sounds like he was a jerk - possibly. A few things could have been going on there. First and most probable is that there wasn't much money available under the other guys policy and your injuries up to that point may not have been that bad or that provable.

    Another unfortunate thing that happens is that if the lawyer needed money personally they will settle fast. I had this almost happen with my original lawyer. He told me I had no case and should settle for a small amount. THis was after my shoulder surgery that did almost nothing. I immediately called another lawyer I knew and changed. But many people see some cash coming and jump on it.

    I still think you best course of action is to play this nice. You want to get treatment now. So point out the mistakes that they made back then and push them to make it right by taking care of you now.
  • Also, Kaiser has a very difficult mediation program, and so you do not end up in court. You can contact a lawyer, but make sure it is one that has worked with Kaiser before.
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