First of all I was a former employee of the company for almost one year. I have 19 years of safe driving under my belt and also live in Wisconsin. Been tired of driving over-the-road, I saw that Schneider was looking for a driver that lived in my area to go onto a dedicated account and be home every weekend. I applied on Sunday night and was getting a call back that Monday morning. By Friday I was scheduled to go to Green Bay (drove my personal vehicle there) and had orientation.
Fast forward now...
All was going great till I asked my doctor to give me a referral to get a sleep study done. I don't sleep that great (do the toss and turn every 45-minutes like clock-work). After three requests my personal doctor gave in (grudlying I might add...saying he doesn't feel I have sleep apnea) for a sleep study.
A short history lesson is needed before I go further....
I suffered a major head injury in late 1994 when I was stuck in the driver's door by a dump truck which was traveling at 55 mph (was driving a semi at the time in Minnesota) and was airlifted to Rochester, MN with numerous injuries including a head injury. I progressed thru the system in record time (amazed the hospital staff that I progressed so quickly) and within a year was back to driving a semi and finished my schooling at a medic also. Also I have enlarged tonsils (mom never had them removed when I was a child), my family (excluding me) smoked when I was a child and I have a birth defect to my chest (compressed ribcage...when they do an x-ray..makes it appear that I have an enlarged heart).
Anyway, back to the issue at hand now.
So with this referral I saw the sleep study department at the clinic and found out that a sleep study there was over $4,000 but my employer at the time (Schneider National) was offering the driver's them for free. Well being that the economy still is sluggish, I took free...right?
Boy that was a major mistake...LOL
So after notifying the employeer of my request to have a sleep study done. They scheduled me to have it completed at the Hammond Clinic in Hammond, IN during a week night. This is where I should have seen the warning signs and all current or potential employees heed my further warnings now please.
When I was preparing to do the study, the clinic furnished me numerous papers to read and sign. One of them said that at the conclusion of the study, they will forward the results to a physician that Schneider contracts thru out of Houston, TX - Precision Pulmonary Diagnostics (google the name you will see all about them and Schneider if you wish. Anyway, that after the bill for testing services are complete, the clinic destroyes all records of the test; which I didn't think was legal or ethical. The technician told me that if I wished to get a copy of any of the testing done here I would need to contact this doctor out of Houston, TX or ask my employer. OK???
Then the technician told me that they will monitor my sleep and if it appears that I have sleep apnea (somewhere in the middle of the night) they would come in with a CPAP machine and have me wear that and see if that improves my sleep issues.
The technician used a automated blood pressure machine to read my B/P. I have low blood pressure (which was documented on my DOT physician which was done two month prior) but per this machine..I now have high blood pressure. I told him that was wrong and please do it manually. He refused to do so.
Well eight hours later, he came in to wake me up...no CPAP strapped to my face so I assumed I don't have sleep apnea. Boy was I wrong...as I was getting dressed here comes the boxes when he told me I have mild sleep apnea. When I questioned him what does he mean and how many times did I stop breathing thru-out the night...he told me he was not "allowed" to tell me such information.
I was like, dude...I am medically trained and if you are going to force me to do something that might affect my health...I need to know the whole story. He grudely told me he observed that I stopped breathing for 8 times that night. But again stressed that he couldn't tell me about this...that he would would get in trouble if he talked to me about this...(strange I was thinking and well...I was upset).
So anyway, I left the clinic and went back to work. I told the clinic and my immediate Schneider supervisor that before I start using the CPAP machine, that I need to talk to another doctor of mine (other long-term medical issues that affect me) and make sure that this will not further increase harm. They all agreed and understood my concern.
The other doctor gave me a green-light and so I began my CPAP usage. Prior to using the CPAP machine...a clinical specialist with Precision Pulmonary Specialist called and spoke to me. I explained my concerns with the clinic destroying records and the technician not allowed to talk to me after the test.
She explained that yes, this was common required practice that they mandate with their testing centers that records be sent to them and the testing center destroy further records. That also the technicians do not talk about the test results with the drivers since they don't want wrong information being fed to the driver. I understand that point...but at the same time...what is with all the secrets? RED FLAG again raised here.
I told her my "complete medical history" and told her that I do not feel I have sleep apnea. That there is numerous other issues that are playing into the whole picture here that could be affecting me..including the head injury (long-term effects). She agreed and told me that the director (a phyisican) would call my back from Precision Pulmonary.
Two days later, I received a phone call from a Houston based number which I answered. Being that I can speak some french, I normally speak french when I do not know the caller as to defer telemarkers. The person that called was a male and asked if I was there. I answered in french that I was...again the called spoke my name to which I answered in french "yes". This question/answer session of if I was there happened about three times when the male called started to tell me my sleep study information. Mind you I have no idea who this was and never once spoke french back to me or asked if I could speak english to him.
At this time I was upset and stopped the caller in mid-sentence demanding in english who this was. The caller told me he was the director of this clinic that Schneider contacts thru and was returning my requested call back and then started back with my medical history.
Ok I was now really upset...any of you that know anything about medical privacy laws see the violations here already. Those that don't I will explain. First the callers did not verify that I was the caller he was looking for...only assumed that. Secondly never told me who he was and thirdly never asked me for consent to talk to me (didn't know who I was yet) to disclose my medical information on the phone. Yes at this point I was very upset.
So I let him talk and when done (he never gave me medical information about me)...the call was a sales pitch about what sleep apnea was, what the trucking industry is trying to do to combat the situation and how this company (his company) can prove to the industry, including the drivers.
He explained that with my high blood pressure and being over weight (50 pounds over standard accepted weight for body frame/height) that these are proof positive that I was prone to have sleep apnea. I told him I do not have high blood pressure. That I have normal to low blood pressure. I have 30-some years of medical records that will prove that and that the machine was faulty and the technician denied redoing the measurement with a standard B/P cuff.
Great, to bad that didn't help or answer anything I want to know about. I then started to ask the tough questions like why did he immediately violate patient confidentality laws when he called me and started to discuss my medical history to me with out verifying I was the intented person he wished to talk with. What was Hammond Clinic ordered to destroy all the testing information after payment was made in full to them and why is the technician (which is in the next room from me when I was sleeping) not allowed to tell me anything other then..."congratulations you have sleep apnea, here is your equipment".
The doctor had no real answers and keep trying to side-step the questions back to sleep apnea and what they could do for me. Hmm hello...got that..thanks but that is not what I want to know. At this point I knew I wasn't going to get much out of him so I asked for his Texas medical license number....all medical personnel that are licensed in the state that they practice medicine (including me as a medic) have license numbers. He refused to give that to me..RED FLAG. So I warned him that I could easily find that out by calling the TX medical board or looking it up on the web. He still refused. So then I asked him...so how many times did I stop breathing.
(Hang on to your chairs folks)
The doctor told me I stopped breathing a total of 350 times that night. WHAT? (Simple math time....350 times in one night divided by an 8 hour sleep study period...that means I stopped breathing 43.75 times an hour). Ok.....but the technician which was in the next room told me I stopped breathing 8 times that night. Excuse me...that is like saying the world is flat and the world is round. Sure we are talking about the world here but clearly not the same outcome.
I let him know that he was lying and that I knew he wasn't looking at my sleep study. He admitted that he didn't have my sleep study results in front of him at that moment. WHAT? you call and don't have the patients information in front of you to discuss the information with them? I them demanded again for his medical license number since I was going to file a complaint with the Texas health board. To which he denied telling me what it is. OK..scam time? this is clearly not a doctor or a doctor want-to-be. We never did get anything resolved other than more questions then answers.
I told Schneider of the problems that I had with this doctor to which they told me that this was the first time they ever had anyone complain about them. That other big trucking companies use them with no issues. I replied, well maybe you all didn't do your homework and possiblity being scammed.
I did find the doctors information via the Texas health board in good standing...ok good he is a real doctor...I think. I to this day have no way of knowing if this was the real doctor I was talking with or someone else claiming it was him. I did file a complaint with the Texas health board and they are still investigating the matter.
So I spoke to my other doctor and she gave me the green light to use the CPAP machine. Mistake number...oh hell I have lost count what number that is. Anyway, started to use it and new issues immediately appeared, including unable to wake up...stuck in-between half awake/half asleep. Disorientated for the first hour after waking up, heaviness in my lungs, unexplained head aches, change in my right eye vision, falling asleep on my back while inspecting the undercarrage of the trailer (never can sleep on my back prior) and unable to speak for the first 15 minutes after using CPAP machine...all which are major head issues.
I voiced my concerns with the company out of Houston to which they readjusted the pressures and told me to wait it out. Nothing changed...only got worse. Not getting any relief, I called Schneider headquarters and talked to the health department there....mistake again.
They listened and would talk with the Houston, TX company and see what they could do for me. Great...more pressure changes.
Now normally I do not leave the unit plugged in and unsecured in the sleep berth (no way to secure the unit). In the event of a sudden stop or crash..this 20 pound unit which sits behind my seat...will not become a 100+ missle in the cab. The head injury doctors in Rochester, MN has said that I will "not live or be normal or have this good of an outcome" if I suffer another head injury.
Being a medic...I have seen the horrible outcomes of folks that don't use their seatbelts or the injuries from unsecured objects in with a moving vehicle. So I disconnected the unit daily and put the unit away in the closet. Both as a safety issue and for a fire hazard prevention issue.
Well a two months into the usage of the CPAP machine, the Houston company called me and asked why they were not able to read the CPAP machine. I told them they could when I was using it otherwise I have it stored during the day (while I am working) as not to be a safety issue. The called then told me "well then since you are not using the CPAP as ordered by the physician, we will tell Schneider you are not using it and they will determine what they will do with you". WHAT? I didn't say I wasn't using it...I just said I dont have it plugged in right now and its put away.
FYI: they have a wireless transmitter to the unit so this company can download information off of it at will or change settings.
I told them that I will have to start recording my calls since I never said that...and will talk with Schneider about this since you are clearly mixing my words now. They said we can get Schneider on the phone with us if you like. I said please do....
So they brought in Kristine Schneider (head manager of the health department of Schneider National. I told her what is going on and how this company is changing my words around. How the unit is unable to be secured in a moving vehicle so for my safety and the safety of others, I secure the unit till I need it nightly.
Oh how quickly the double back now...but Kristine Schneider told me that they never had anyone have this issue. That every driver leaves the units plugged in all the time and unsecured. I explained to her that this was a safety issue, fire hazard issue and I was taking simple steps to protect everyone (including the truck) here.
Kristine ordered me to leave the unit plugged in since no one else ever had issues with the units plugged in (yet). Key word here is yet folks.
I did and three days later my immeidate supervisor messaged me that this company in Texas was not able to download any information from the CPAP machine. I texted the boss back telling them it has been plugged in for the last three days now...that I am taking a nap in the middle of an abandoned truckstop here in lower Minnesota and there is no one here...hell no trees even to block the satellite signal. So if they can't download information...its not my fault. He called the company in Texas and got back to me and said...his fault...they got the information.
Oh we are not done yet.
In October of last year...I was still suffering from what I saw was the feeling of a small 5 year old child sitting on my chest after using the CPAP machine all-night. The feelings would go away after a few hours later...so clearly a cause and effect here.
Spoke to the Houston company out this and they suggested that I stop using the CPAP machine and seek my doctor advise now. The next day, I was pulled out of the truck per Schneider nurses after I made the second stop of a three stop delivery in Superior, WI (or about 100 miles from home).
I explained the issues to the nurse at Schneider and she said that they feel I was having a heart attack and it was my issue to find my own way home from there. I was to leave the truck/trailer and load there and not move. They had another driver come and get the load and finish the delivery and my mother on her day off (thank goodness) come and got me. Mind you there is no way home from there...no buses, no train, no airport...
Well when I got home Schneider has faxed a doctor release form to my doctor to fill out and fax back. I had already filed for unemployment while I was waiting for my mother to come and get me. My personal doctor was clearly upset at how the sleep study was done, the lack of information and the handling of the whole situtation.
He filed out the medical release form and faxed it back to Schneider...reason? A complete heart exam was done prior to the sleep study and they found my heart to be in great shape. An EKG was done in office...no issues seen. My personal doctor felt that if I continue to use the CPAP machine the issues that I was feeling in my chest will go away...that the pressure settings at this time were to high...like over inflating a balloon and my lungs were under stress.
So it was faxes back and two days later Schneider denied my doctor exam. Further placed new restrictions and demands that I see the following specialists:
a pulomanarolist (a lung doctor)
a cardiologist (a heart doctor)
a neurologist (brain and nerves doctor)
a mental health technician
great and who is going to pay for this and why? My personal doctor was really upset now and the nurse called me to say that Schneider was seeking all my medical records. That I should call them and ask them what they want since they would not release everything...(doctors since I was a baby).
When I called Schneider I was told that they want "records of interest". Ok so define that...what does that mean? You want my date of birth records...since that is of interest...right? She go upset and told me to quit playing games if I want a job here and hung-up on me after never explaining what records of interest means.
So I called back and demanded to speak to Kristian Schneider. I told her I that I have no idea what "records of interest" means and I don't like being belittled and hung-up on. She agreed and told me if I had a EKG done that would be records of interest. If I had another sleep study done, that would be records of interest. Thanks, now I have an idea what your asking for.
When I went to the my doctor's nurse I told her this...so she forward the only thing we have...the EKG results. Which further upset Schneider and they sent back another request of medical records. So I said...screw it...sign it all over...I have no idea what they want to just give it to them. The head injury records from Rochester, MN they don't have nor can this clinic release anything they might have that came from them anyway.
And the story get thicker now....
Four days later the record department of the clinic called me back and explained that they would release the records but Schneider is refusing to pay the records copy charge...what should I do? I told her...well there is nothing you can do...if they don't want to pay, then I am not going to pay it for them. End of issue.
The neurologist and the pulomaroglist is not a fast doctor to get into folks...waiting list of atleast two months.
When I did get into to do the breathing tests...the pulomorogist had another medical emergency to tend to so that was another 2 month delay to get my results back.
During which time..the mental health exam....covered under the EAP program. I spoke to the EAP coordinator and told her the issues I was having. She agreed that this was not a mental health issue but clearly a medical issue but that I needed to see this councelor just to please Schneider.
This is where the road turns hard left...those that are drivers hang-on to the keyboard.
The first session was strange and also opened my eyes to why Schneider had sent me here. When I questioned the reason I was here...the counselor explained that he has the legal right per FMCSA regulations to evaulate me under Drug and Alchohol regulations. WHAT? Who said I was doing drugs and/or drinking? He kept thru out the first session telling me "come on now...you can tell me your secrets" and that "Im your friend...its safe to tell me everything". WHAT? Later when the nice guy tacts didn't work..he told me "how would you feel or react if I threw a brick on the floor which hit your foot?". WHAT? I told him would that be before or after I put you into the wall for just assualting me (the threat to harm someone) or battery (to do the act) or after I called the cops?
That was the end of that meeting..I was upset sure...what counselor is this quack? I saw this guy three times before he told me that I wasn't qualified to evaulate me and would have me see a phycologist. Told him that my insurance doesnt pay for that and per the EEOC (equal employment opprotunity commissions) prior decisions...that Schneider would have to pay for this treatment since the were the ones that directed me to see you...were at the other doctors...they left it up to me who I could see...(doctors that is). If Schneider will not pay for my medical records, I know darn well they aren't going to pay for some mental health doctor. Plus this whole evaluation is illegal per FMCSA regulations anyway. They skipped the suspision drug testing and convicting me of something I don't do by sending to to a drug/alchohol counselor for evaluation?
If they felt that my issues with the CPAP machine was due to drugs/alchohol...FMCSA regulations are very well defined as to what the employer has to do...but no...two months later after they boot me from the truck now they are skipping the rules? This is illegal and I will file an complaint to protect my rights in court and with the EEOC.
I called my good friend and employment law (trucking attorney) right from this quacks office and told him the news. He suggested that I document everything and get copies of the doctor's notes prior to leaving the office and we will talk later. After I got off the phone the counselor told me he will tell Schneider that he will not see me any longer (really?...LOL)
In January of this year...I had filed an ADA violations complaint with the FMCSA after Schneider terminated my employment. I finally was able to see the lung doctor and "again" was told that I breathe with about 70% lung capacity...a outcome from my family smoking when I was a child and the accident (chest injury). That I am getting plenty of oxygen to my body...just can't do something things like run a mile like others with normal lung capacities can do.
Yesterday I was finally able to see the neurologist....and great news here.
The neurologist downloaded the CPAP data card and said.."your pressures on that CPAP are way to high". I am to bring the CPAP machine in next week so he can auto set it and see let it run for a month before making a determination on what setting the pressure should be at.
When he examed me...he remarked.."wow you have large tonsils". If I got a dollar from every time I heard that I would be rich by now and also noted that I am a mouth breather since I can bearly breath thru my nose. At night I use to drool on my pillow and my dentist hates that I breath thru my mouth. So I have taught myself to keep my mouth closed when I sleep and this will explain why my oxygen level drops at night when I sleep and I wake up and turn over...only to do this again and again.
He suggested that I see the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor and get the tonsils removed and open up my nasal passages. Then lose the extra weight and the sleep apnea issues will be gone.
He describes my sleep apneas as so mild as if I fell down and my face crossed over the tresh-hold of what is classified as sleep apnea. Oh wait...didn't I say that I don't think I have sleep apnea and all this maybe a symptom of other issues?
So now this next Monday...I will schedule an appointment with the EENT doctor and go down this path.
My point here to this on-godly long post is:
1) when did trucking companies get into the business of playing medical doctors and start prescribing treatments as if each trucker is created from the same cookie cutter mold?
2) what is with all the secrets? ranging from the clinic, the medical staff that one driver will ever see and the company itself?
3) when someone starts questioning stuff or raising the alarm that we are deviating from the standard? that they get rid of the vocal driver?
Folks, I am not saying this is just an issues with Schneider...its an issue with the whole industry. Sure there are some driver's that really do have undocumented sleep apnea out there...I am not denying that....but I being one...didn't fall into that group. I don't snore, I am slightly over weight (all around the gut only...a side effect of another medical issue I have to take medications for) and have low to normal blood pressure. The only issue I had was the unexplained sleep pattern which every doctor I am seeing believes is a symptom of enlarge tonsils, narrow nasal passage ways and maybe a sligh effect from my prior head injury.
It stands to reason that the industry wants to lower sleep depraved accidents (which I have no accidents in my 19 years career) and the sleep apnea industry sees a cash cow of money if they can mandate that every CDL holder gets a sleep study done at least once in their career. But there is no one size fits all cookie cutter mold out here and the only folks that will benefit from this cookie cutter mold is the sleep study industry.
Think about it and post your comments below.