Wednesday, July 11, 2012

And yet another domestic crisis -- Olaf's grdauation again imperiled

Younger Daughter and her husband Olaf, the newlyweds now residing under our roof, were supposed to graduate from college in May. Younger Daughter did. Olaf did not.

Olaf does not look like a delicate flower, but he's had his challenges.

Starting in the Spring of his junior year, Olaf began suffering migraine headaches, headaches sometimes so severe that he'd lose his lunch if you so much as looked at him.

We don't know where these came from. It may have been a cumulative side effect of the ADHD medications he's taken -- he was apparently diagnosed as ADHD as a freshman in college -- and, no, I don't know why he wasn't diagnosed as ADHD sooner either.

(Usually these diagnoses come early in grammar school. It seems the education industry saddles boys with this label every time one acts up in class. We have a whole generation of over-medicated boys coming to manhood now, guilty of no more misconduct than I regularly engaged in as a youth. The nuns whacked me with a ruler or dragged me by the ears to the principal's office when I acted impulsively -- one reason why I have big ears today -- today, the nuns' successors force boys in their care into a Ritalin regimen. Don't get my wife started on the aggressive amateur diagnosticians she's encountered among her teaching colleagues.)

It doesn't matter whether Olaf's problems were caused by ADHD medicine or whether they developed independently. What matters is that they didn't go away.

He went to his doctor -- he went to his doctor repeatedly -- but his parents had an HMO. He might as well have sought out a drug pusher and attempted self-medication; all the HMO doc did for the better part of a year was prescribe increased dosages of this medicine or that one.

I'm not privy to the details.

I could see that Olaf was zonked out on some occasions, strangely animated on others.

Olaf was trying to complete his math major under this chemical cloud -- if he didn't take the medicines he was often so sick he couldn't leave his room, much less attend class -- but, on the other hand, if he did take his medicines he was so numbed that he couldn't follow his lessons.

Younger Daughter was his nurse and companion throughout all this. That she stood by him during these trials was proof to Long Suffering Spouse and me that Younger Daughter and Olaf were headed to the altar eventually. That Olaf was not always incapacitated during this stretch is evidenced by the pending birth of our first grandchild.

I've only mentioned Olaf's troubles once (in Part 7 of my "family way" series earlier this year). At that time (March 1) we still harbored hopes that Olaf would be able to complete all the work he'd missed and graduate on time. Our hopes were dashed soon thereafter.

But a new timetable was agreed upon by Olaf and his teachers: He would take some additional courses this summer, finish the incomplete classes, and take his degree in August. As a math graduate he'd be employable.

But none of this -- none of this -- would have been possible if Olaf's mother hadn't finally gotten involved with the HMO drug pusher, and gotten Olaf referred to a reputable specialist (all too many HMO docs hate making referrals to real specialists because the HMO literally docks their pay on account of these referrals, no matter how necessary). Olaf's referral to a real doctor did not occur until this spring -- around Easter, I think, or maybe later. I wish it had happened sooner -- but who was I, as merely a pending in-law, to intervene between a mother and son and her HMO?

Again, I'm not privy to the details, but I've witnessed the results: After nearly a wasted year, after seeing a real specialist, the clouds parted and Olaf was able to resume working steadily toward completion of his degree. Even with the distractions of the hastily arranged wedding, Olaf got some, though not all of his work done for this semester. At our house he has been given one task: Do whatever is necessary to finish by August. He needs to graduate. He needs to take his first actuarial exam. He needs to get a job -- a job with real insurance -- before his child is born.

The child is not going to wait.

Olaf submitted his overdue work from one class to a professor in the past week, expecting her to sign off on that as per their prior agreement. It was to be another milestone on the march to his August degree.

Instead, yesterday morning, despite the prior representations to the contrary, and despite the justifiable reliance of Olaf, his wife, and his new in-laws on those representations, the professor refused to accept the work submitted. She said Olaf would have to retake this class -- and the other pending incompletes -- NEXT SPRING, when they are next offered in the usual course. She wrote that she and her department colleagues had a meeting in May -- a meeting to which Olaf was neither invited nor given notice concerning -- at which the department had decided to fail him in all the incomplete courses. Too bad, so sad.

Oh, and she congratulated him on his marriage.

(*There will be a brief pause here as I repair my keyboard. I seem to have struck the keys with particular violence these last couple of paragraphs.*)

After he got over his shock yesterday, Olaf wanted to go to school meet with this professor -- he's had classes with her in each of his four years -- she saw first-hand the decline caused by his migraines and the inadequate HMO treatment thereof -- and she'd always seemed sympathetic.

I had to explain to Olaf, in my usual soft, dulcet tone of voice, that this woman had dropped a nuclear bomb on his life and he was not going in to see her without first launching a retaliatory strike. No windows were broken by my soft, dulcet tones, although the panes did rattle a bit. (Younger Daughter told me this morning that Olaf told her that I could be quite persuasive. That's certainly nice to hear.)

Olaf and Younger Daughter are gathering the papers today from which I will craft a letter in response. This letter (for Olaf's signature) will be copied to the department chair, the Academic Vice President, the Dean of Students, and the college President. I have referred to this sort of correspondence as a 'nut letter,' but it will not be intemperate. It will be precise, accurate and specific: Olaf is a kid who was, until his mysterious migraines began, a star in the math department, an ornament, a credit to the school. He has a sheaf of awards and commendations -- I'm told -- and this school is small enough that his professors knew him individually. They saw him deteriorate. There is a paper trail documenting his medical travails and the various promises made to accommodate him during his recuperation (I'll find out soon how well that trail is papered, but there's some stuff to work with, I know that much). It's not Olaf's fault that his parents have an HMO.

(God knows, we may all be stuck with something similar, or worse, in 2014 or shortly thereafter.)

And when I'm done, Olaf will have a letter that will persuade his math professors to have another meeting and put him back on course for an August graduation. And if that doesn't work, we'll do something else.

I have a granddaughter depending on us. (And, of course, I want my house back....)


Anonymous said...

God, Olaf is so lucky to have you! I got so angry reading this post that my BP must be some where around 190/110. I have an even worse story when it comes to kids who were diagnosed with ADHD. I've been through it all and even after almost 40 years he still suffers from much of the damage that diagnosis and medications has caused. And when the Ritalin doesn't seem to be working lets try a little Haldol with a little Cogentin on a 5th grader!!! Maybe we'll just throw in some Thorazine for good measure..Nightmares Curmy! What some of the so called educators and medical people do to our kids should be against the law.

Yes, you do whatever it takes to get this boy graduated just like this damn school promised him!

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

rats! and if that doesn't work let me know and i'll send her a pox! this is not right and he's lucky to have you!

smiles, bee

shellvester said...

Curmudgeon - It seems that there might be an ADA accommodation issue here. Has Olaf contacted Equip for Equality? They provide free legal services to people with disabilities (ADHD and migraine issues count as disability.) Visit

The telephone number for Equip for Equality is (800)537-2632. Keep us posted!

Mother of Chaos said...

Ugh! Glad he's got you there to write the Nastygram for him. These sorts of things are just...ARGH. And when you're young, you just don't know what to DO about it, what you CAN do about it. (Says the cranky old lady* who has been dictating Nastygrams to Certain Medical Billing Personnel for her babysitter, a-hem...)

*at least, that's how I appear to a very-early-twenty-something who brings all her sorrows to me for Advice and Opinions and Really Big Official Sounding Words That Magically Make Things Happen.