Letter to the editor

In July 2001, I testified at an Occupational Safety and Health Administration ergonomics forum in Arlington, Va. I had carpal tunnel release surgery Aug. 23, 2001, and am appalled by the Supreme Court decision in Williams v. Toyota. Although federal workers are covered by the Rehabilitation Act and not the Americans With Disabilities Act, I am alarmed by the decision.

Perhaps if Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and her colleagues had carpal tunnel syndrome, they would have ruled differently.

The justices missed one major point: All aspects of our lives are impacted by our illness.

I cannot sleep at night. My hand pain wakes me up. Sometimes my injured sisters and brothers and I may make errors because we are so tired.

The only time I drive during the day is getting to work. It hurts me too much to move the steering wheel, and I am lucky I have only eight miles to go.

Before I go to work, I have to relax my hands after they wake me up. I have to soak both of them, and I have had operations on both of them. I then take a 30-minute walk to help my circulation. Next, I have to put my hands in a paraffin wax bath that workers' compensation paid for.

I then glove my hands so that I can have some warmth in them, and then I drive to work. All the while, I keep in mind that when I use my keyboard (and I just got a split one), my fingers are still going to throb.

For me a good day is not having my hands go numb. Then I try to repeat the same cycle.

On weekends, I don't drive whenever possible. Tasks such as carrying groceries are impossible. I pray for light because if I have to change a bulb, the pain I face unscrewing and screwing in a light bulb is intolerable.

Perhaps if Justice O'Connor and her colleagues walked in my shoes and the shoes of Ella Williams and other victims, they may have ruled differently. But then they would find that many of my colleagues and I can't tie our shoes. I use Velcro.

Carpal tunnel affects all aspects of a person's life, and the decision in the Williams case appalls me.

Howard Egerman
American Federation of Government Employees Health and Safety Representative
Oakland, Calif.

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