Friday, September 3, 2010


Post traumatic stress disorder is real. It gets kicked awake by things like Christmas lights and, recently, a schemer's try at grabbing money for a bill long since paid.

Three and a half years ago my son, then 27, was ill. What we thought was bad bronchitis or pneumonia was congestive heart failure. The ER doctors thought it likely he would code. He had no health insurance. Two young residents worthy of being trailed by documentarians, deserving of gifts of luxury automobiles from grateful patients, finally diagnosed myocarditis. It is an auto-immune condition in which the body perceives the heart muscle as an intruder and attacks it. Organs begin to fail.

He spent 8 days in the ICU, then was the youngest patient by decades in the CCU for another two weeks, during which Christmas passed like just another day. He was off work for 10 months. His medical bills were a substantial portion of a million dollars. Through more than 2 years of hearings, applications, appeals and legal representation, his acute disability was acknowledged, benefits were awarded for a finite period and all his bills were paid. Because the process began when he was still adjusting to being alive, I put my years of administrative skills to work and dealt with the business aspects of his illness.

Two weeks ago an alleged attorney sent a threatening letter in an attempt to collect for part of his treatment. I knew the bill had been paid and had copies of all documents to prove it. In telling a friend of this new plot turn, we learned that this is something that happens all the time, that crooks find information - like cars that changed hands many years before - in data bases and see if they can frighten regular people into sending them money.

Two days ago a woman's recorded voice, an English accent to lend a touch of class or legitimacy, no doubt, called demanding payment. I was shaking when I phoned to tell them no money was owed. I am shaking as I write of it and I realize that unease comes from two sources. I am saddened and horrified by the magnitude of fraud, or attempts of it, around us and anything that yanks me back to those frightening weeks slaps me stupid.

The arthritis which had a clamp on me before this emotional time escalated into near immobilization once the adrenalin subsided. The connection between mind and body has been clear to me for more than 20 years. This wasn't my first encounter with traumatic stress, after which disorder sets in. Time does smarten us up. I am taking a long look at the ways in which I respond physically to so much fear.

I believe that, as our minds have the power to bring us to our knees, they are also capable of lifting us from the trenches where we've been huddled. Grudgingly, I acknowledge that a notice from crooks illuminated an aspect of life that I want very much to see become better, to heal as much as it can. Awareness is a beginning. I have no defense for not connecting my infirmity with events that preceded it until now. I was occupied being relieved by and grateful for his recovery. We know when we know. But Christmas is another beast. I have accepted that it will never look or feel the same again.


Sultan said...

Gosh how awful!

Here is a copy of the fair debt collection act, of which the conduct you describe violates -

California also has a similar States act. Here is a site with information concerning that act -

An informative site about this act and its provisions can be found here -

There are some time sensitive provisions in here, so read carefully.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Seriously, I hope you have turned this incident over to your local District Attorney. It looks like Laoch has given you some great resources to this end, though these rules likely cover legitimate debt collection, not attempted fraud.

Take it from a guy who used to repossess cars for a living... you can make them sorry they tried that!

Marylinn Kelly said...

Laoch - I so appreciate your links and first I didn't know why such a thing left me feeling so smacked around. Thank you for helpful advice. It is far more civilized than my thoughts and will be, I'm sure, much more effective.

Robert - I haven't yet turned it over to anybody...the bill indicates they are located in Colorado - which may or may not be true - and I thought of starting there...but the energy had not yet come to take action. I would like very much to see them be sorry for trying that, the way I feel about the phishing attempts that have popped up this week. Thank you.

Beloved Snail said...

The stress from events of my past can be brought back by something as easy and simple as a stray smell, or a song. Something like that crooked lawyer would be absolutely terrifying.

Thank goodness you have the organisation and presence of mind not to be affected by their tactics.

Sultan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sultan said...

I have clipped out some pertinent parts of the Federal statute -
I have clipped some pertinent parts of the Federal Statute

§ 807 15 USC 1692e
§ 807. False or misleading representations
A debt collector may not use any false, deceptive, or misleading representation or means in connection with the collection of any debt. Without limiting the general application
of the foregoing, the following conduct is a violation of this
(1) The false representation or implication that the debt
collector is vouched for, bonded by, or affiliated with
the United States or any State, including the use of any
badge, uniform, or facsimile thereof.
(2) The false representation of—
(A) the character, amount, or legal status of any debt; or
(B) any services rendered or compensation which may
be lawfully received by any debt collector for the
collection of a debt.

(5) The threat to take any action that cannot legally be
taken or that is not intended to be taken.

(10) The use of any false representation or deceptive means
to collect or attempt to collect any debt or to obtain
information concerning a consumer.
(11) The failure to disclose in the initial written communication with the consumer and, in addition, if the initial
communication with the consumer is oral, in that initial
oral communication, that the debt collector is attempting to collect a debt and that any information obtained
will be used for that purpose, and the failure to disclose
in subsequent communications that the communication
is from a debt collector, except that this paragraph shall
not apply to a formal pleading made in connection with
a legal action.
(12) The false representation or implication that accounts
have been turned over to innocent purchasers for value.
(13) The false representation or implication that documents
are legal process.

Sultan said...


§ 808. Unfair practices
A debt collector may not use unfair or unconscionable
means to collect or attempt to collect any debt. Without limiting the general application of the foregoing, the following
conduct is a violation of this section:
(1) The collection of any amount (including any interest,
fee, charge, or expense incidental to the principal obligation) unless such amount is expressly authorized by law.

Sultan said...

also all of

§ 809. Validation of debts

is pertinent

Erin in Morro Bay said...

PTS is real,frightening and incapacitating. The triggers can be seemingly small or large, and are often unfathomable to those on the outside. Having been there (and knowing I probably will be again)I realize that writing about it should help a bit You know we're all around you with love and support.

Donna B. said...

Oh the blessings of such great blog friends! Laoch is always there it seems with such pertinent information and compassion. Robert should know and would be a great resource..

I totally agree with Beloved Snail. PTS can recoil itself in a scent or a sound... I am so angry at those #@%&*#'s for bothering you! I would unleash the hounds from hell on them!!! I'll help! What can I do?

It is bad enough when scammers attack us, but our loved ones? Spare no mercy on them.

I am wrapping you in my arms for a huge, long hug. Be gentle and kind with yourself and keep your wits about you, which you are blessed to have plenty.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Beloved Snail - Hello, welcome. It didn't feel quite like presence of mind in the moment. Thank you. Yes, just as sensory experiences can bring pleasant memories, they can also leave us vulnerable to the other sorts. And we never know when or what.

Laoch - I am humbled and so grateful for all your efforts to provide me with useful information. I will cut and paste it into a document and go from there. Your kindness and willingness to assist me are heart-warming, the strongest affirmation one could have of the beauty of the ties we created here through our dialogues. Thank you very much.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - I do know and appreciate all of you who are around me with love and support. I feel it run up my arms through the keys, it is that strong. I am so touched by the outpouring of goodness. I can't say that I had any expectation when I wrote this. I knew, mostly by how uncomfortable it made me, that I needed to write about it. The responses are reminders I would like to carry around in my pocket. Thank you, may it be a very long time before anything that even looks like PTSD is in your neighborhood.

Donna - Thank you for your fierce response. In difficult times, I wish for my maternal grandfather, who never passed the bar but worked at what would now be a paralegal. He had also been a sheriff in LA County and was best at writing letters that made people pay attention. You have done all that I could ask for, standing in my corner, giving me that hug. These are some extraordinary blog friends, I agree, My son was, not shocked, but surprised and pleased when I told him of the practical and emotional help you had all offered.

***You are all wonderful. My love and gratitude. Now I feel suitably armed.***

Radish King said...

Dear God. I am so thankful your son and you have each other. A loving son a caring mother, priceless in a world of crooks and carnies.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Rebecca - We are very fortunate. I am clear what a gift I have in him. Crooks and carnies, a pox upon them. Thank you, my Radish friend. Love, Marylinn

Anonymous said...


I live with PTSD every day, and have done since it was diagnosed over ten years ago.

The gift has been far greater awareness than the average bear, along with skills and techniques to stay sane not many other average bears have too.

Breathing helps...

Marylinn Kelly said...

Denise - I am sorry that you have to belong to this club. Breathing does help, as does gathering one's wits and connecting the dots...sooner rather than later, it is hoped. xoxo

TC said...
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TC said...


Well, yes, breathing helps... as long as you're breathing. I've found that the body/mind connection is so intimate that there are times when reality becomes almost intolerable, and merely thinking about one's troubles impedes breathing.

But then what? One always wants that next breath. One can't be trained out of that.

Three years ago I lost a teaching job I'd held for 21 gruesome years. The school went under. It had been a pretty flaky outfit all along. Latterly it came out that the administrators had been raking off the student financial aid money and putting it in shady real estate investments. Then it came out that they'd also been selling degrees, one of them to a fellow who then turned out to be involved in multiple frauds and at least one homicide.(Naturally he never paid for his degree, but of course relatively speaking that was "small stuff".)

I'd hung on at the school for the sake of a meagre contractual severance arrangement. It was never more than an insulting two bit job, but one does what one must. When the ship sank, we lost not only back pay and insurance but the severance deal. I had been paying SEIU union dues for 21 years, but when the crunch came, the union wouldn't even answer phone calls. I went to the state Labor Board, played everything out in the prescribed citizen way. Hearings, arbitration. A settlement was reached. That was two and a half years ago. I couldn't afford lawyers. Not a penny was ever collected. My teaching career is nothing but a bad memory now.

The ordeal ruined my health. I had a stroke. Body and mind are inseparable.

Last month when I was badly bitten by a dog in the street, it took very little time to grasp that the owners of the dog were being protected, and that I could not even discover their identity without lawyers. Here we go again. This time I decided not to pursue the matter. I now walk with the special pain and the special scar that are the rewards of living in a country where the legal process is in the hands of the wealthy.

For you and me there are the scavengers and the sharks who will sniff out a weakness and move in to exploit it. We're having serious housing troubles here right now, and for the contractors this vulnerability is just blood on the water.

All this has led me to a close study of the relief and rehabilitation programs of the New Deal period. But "realistically speaking" it's a little like studying the Land of Oz, frankly.

Sorry to clutter your thread with all this, Marylinn. I don't like to talk about it. I guess your terrifying post shocked it out of me. Do forgive.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Tom - No forgiveness is required. I believe that is what the threads are for. We need to tell our stories. I had not imagined that readers here would have such sound and plentiful advice about our sharks. I am sorry that so much malfeasance has been visited upon you. There is and has been much of it about and it has a direct impact on health, on our whole quality of life. In my small family circle we have had the layoffs, loss of pensions due to terrible investments, benefits owed in another country which simply refuses to release the money...on and on. And still we have had great generosity in all manner of resources - somewhere, somehow I continue to trust that it balances out. It certainly affirms that what is good and right endures, in spite of what feels like ill will in distorted enormity. A liberal of somewhat militant persuasion, I also see this as a time when such programs as your postings highlight would make a great difference for so many. Should we ask the Defense Dept. if they could get by on a little less?