copyright 1985

     It was July when they hit Miami. The merciless humidity could melt the skin off your face. A long span of street known as Flagler was indolent, lined with squat, bleached buildings. Papo got off the bus and started walking like he knew where he was going. Juanita followed him because she didn't. Neither one of them knew anyone in Miami  except Papo's brother, and he didn't want to know them....


For Michelle, Gina and Amanda


Out of the house
Blackened, broken house
Honeycombed with secrets
Wandered the spirit
It was lost.

Into the day
Screaming morning light
Desert dry cold
Staggered the spirit
It nearly died.

Through the deep,
Dark waters swirling
Bottomless night
Swam the spirit
Rudderless, pale.

Somewhere above
Shone the light
Faint at first,
Almost not there.
Spirit kicked free
Toward the light.

Trees sway with breeze
Musk of earth
Music of sky
Spirit sighs, rustles leaves,
unsettles dust.

This will be continued...

copyright 1994 CD.


A Poem


In a garden
A place of life flourishing
Of trees and flora
And steel shimmering in moonlight.
Blood spills, mixes with mud
beneath the street.

A life
Ebbs away before it began:
the full moon witnessed all,
I would forget it if I could.

It grips my heart
like the terror
must have held you

At your sentencing
and your execution.

On a summer night

The still hot air
charged with hatred
sentenced you at 21
to die
For being you.

copyright CD 1985....2013 "Sunrise In the Cornfield" 



Copyright 1992
The Ride

Maybe I shouldn’t have been hitchhiking that night, but I did, and there’s no going back now. I was a hippie, a sometimes stoner, a street punk; young and broke. At night I slept in an empty apartment that I climbed up a fire escape to get into. One thing I wasn’t doing that night in late 1970 or early ‘71 was getting high. I was straight as an arrow that night and I’m very clear on what happened.
I had just turned eighteen. I’d been warned by well meaning friends not to hitchhike in certain parts of the city, but I was broke, not to mention homeless, so I got around the best way I could. That night I’d been hanging out in the Square, then a major hippie haven. It was my social life, I guess. My survival skills weren’t much—yet. I had grown up in a sheltered Catholic home. But there was trouble behind the scenes, and after graduating high school at age seventeen, I split for parts unknown.
Life on the streets was bad, but not bad enough to send me back home. Two gay guys I’d met told me there was an empty apartment in the building next to theirs. They showed me how I could access the vacant apartment by walking through the alley and climbing up the fire escape. The apartment had sky blue walls and a mattress on the hard wood floor. The lights were on and the shower worked. What more could a homeless flower child want?
This became my home for awhile, and I guarded its location. It was my shelter from the too friendly predators who offered a place to stay in exchange for instant intimacy. It was a safe place to unwind and regroup for the daily battle of living on the streets of a major metropolitan area.
Secondary to a roof over my head was food. I lived on junk food, scrounged from the leavings of fast food customers. Sometimes groups of us spread out and panhandled in the square: roving, ragged, child beggars.
Sometimes the money went for food, sometimes for a high. The steady diet of junk food took its toll. At age eighteen, I developed acne, something I’d never had during my middle class younger teens. To those moms who nag their teenagers about eating too much fast food: keep nagging, your concerns are valid.
By day, I carried my clothes around in an army back pack, just in case the empty apartment got rented while I was out. By night, I hung out in the square, connected with other lost souls, took trips to other places, and other states of mind. Buses were unknown to me, and I only occasionally rode the trains. When I needed to get away or get home, I hitchhiked. It was a common way to get around back then, and the world was very different. It was dangerous enough then; I wouldn’t recommend it at all today.
It was a mild night. I don’t remember if it was spring or summer. Nobody was around, and not much was happening on the street. It was peculiarly quiet, in fact. I decided to go home early, to my blue sky apartment.
I got a ride right away. The car was an older white sedan. The driver was a middle aged man, forty to fiftyish. Or maybe he just looked older because of his hair. His hair was the first thing I noticed about him, not that I really paid him that much mind. I had hitched dozens of rides before. This was routine stuff, I thought.
He was no hippie, but his hair was wild: all over the place. It was dark, maybe black, and streaked with a lot of white: Bride of Frankenstein hair. He was a white man with Don King hair. It was electric, charged—like the air that night. I was not paying attention. I thought he was a middle aged man who would give me a ride home, and I turned my attention to the street ahead to give him directions. He knew where my street was—he was driving that way—and he passed it.
“Hey, you passed my street,” I said.
That’s when he speeded up, and I noticed his eyes for the first time.
In the moment I looked into them, his eyes told me everything. They were black and bright, and--this is no judgment call, just an observation—they were truly crazy.
 Then I saw the knife shining in the darkness. It was probably a hunting knife. The blade must have been six inches long. The fear settled into me like a long winter cold. Time raced, and it stood still. Absurdly, I reasoned he would stop for a red light. I scanned the street for a red light, but ahead of us in the nearly empty street, like a string of carnival lights against the black sky, stretched a long line of green lights. I put my hand on the door handle, and he spoke with desperation in his voice:
“You can’t jump out. You can’t.” His arm reached across the front seat, holding the knife in front of my neck. “Get down!” he ordered.
Stalling for time, I tried to show cooperation. I slouched a little in my seat, keeping my hand on the door handle, while searching the blackness ahead for red lights. There were none. He drove faster, heading out of the city.
“Get down,” he said again. I knew if I went to the end of this ride I would not get out alive. I lifted the door handle. The door flew open, and I hurled myself through it. I rolled in the street a few times, before I landed in a roadside ditch. A Volkswagen van driving in the other direction slammed on its brakes, and stopped in the middle of the street. The driver asked if I was all right. I think I said yes.
The people in the van were long haired hippie types. I knew instinctively I could trust them. I’ve always distinguished between two kinds of “hippies:” the health food eating, working for positive social change types who had jobs and places to live, and the drug addicted, wandering, burnout street people types. The people in the van, I surmised, were the first type. They brought me safely to my “home.”
I didn’t go up to my apartment that night. Somehow I just couldn’t be alone. Instead, I went to the next building and knocked on the door of my two gay friends, who were already sleeping. They welcomed me into their tiny one-room apartment, made tea, listened to my story, looked at my scrapes, and then one of them shared his narrow twin bed with me. Through the night he held me, like a mother holds a child. In this world you don’t have a fighting chance unless you have a mother or somebody who loves you.
Weeks or months later, I saw a newspaper article. They were calling it the “Hitchhike Murders,” or something like that. I didn’t go to the police with what I knew. I must have been too far gone, too absorbed by my own problems. I guess I thought then that they wouldn’t believe me anyway.
You probably wonder why, after all these years, I’d write this story. Actually, I’ve written it dozens of times in my head, and I’ve told it scores of times to others—women and men and kids—to warn them. It’s because he might still be out there, never caught, that I write this, and because I wonder how many others before me and after me, went on this ride and never came back.
This is a true story.
If there are any lessons here it’s these:
1. Listen to your inner voice and always trust your instincts.
2. The driver had no gun-- that I saw, and he would have killed me.



Let's Talk

Today a new message arrived about the latest threat to our right to privacy. Say hello to CISPA -the Cybersecurity Information and Sharing Protection Act.

It's an attempt to give the government and military agencies unprecedented power to snoop through people's personal information. This includes medical records, private emails, financial information — and the government can do it without a warrant, proper oversight or limits.

Whoa! Hold on there, cyber cowboys! If I can't pry my own medical records outa the hands of that dirtbag doctor (in my opinion) or get my lab results from Quest, then neither should you!

The ACLU has more info http://www.aclu.org/. Hit the link under stop cyber spying to speak up about this legislation.

Here's my take on all this snooping by corporations in partnership with the government:
It's precisely because I have nothing to hide that I regard this as extremely irritating and insulting.

Dig all you want, but you won't uncover any offshore banking accounts linked to me. No, I'm not growing cannabis in my closet, either-even though I believe it's in every one's interest (except the pharmaceutical industry) to LEGALIZE IT. Why don't you go snoop on somebody who's selling weapons to rogue governments?

And because Google and Fakebook want more and more information about me and every other person who ever opened a web page or posted on Fakebook, (so they can sell our info to companies that want to sell us more crap), the government is happy to oblige? Or, because some security queen doesn't like my (ex) Fakebook pics, or finds me suspicious because I'm a vegetarian, let the Internet spying games begin.

What is the government-corporate gluttony for all our information really about? Maybe to appear omnipotent to compensate for the utter impotency of the government to enforce its own laws.

When government tells you it is instituting a new law to "protect" your rights, beware!

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 was supposed to protect our privacy. It was supposed to protect our medical information from prying eyes. It was supposed to guarantee patients rights to their own health records. It was promoted as "consumer protection." It failed.

Insurance companies, in collusion with doctors and Big Pharma have no problem getting the goods on your medical records, and using that info to deny you health insurance, life insurance, jobs. Your health information is freely available to a wide audience of "exceptions."  You know it. I know it.

Some states--like Florida-- passed their own laws circumventing HIPAA by restricting medical testing labs from releasing patients' lab test results to anyone but the doctor. If the patient doesn't want to see the doctor again, too bad. If the doctor doesn't cooperate with the patient, too bad. If the doctor wants to keep that patient coming back (and paying more ) just to get his/her lab results, there's no government agency that will enforce the patients' rights to his/her records.

HIPAA law states that doctors cannot hold patient medical records hostage for an unpaid bill. Some doctors do it anyway, and the same government that signed HIPAA into law refuses to enforce it.

The same government  that gave us HIPAA does nothing to protect patients rights that are supposedly guaranteed by this law.

Why would CISPA be any different?

Just like a sweetheart union contract, these laws exist only on paper. They are not enforced. Dirtbag doctors and labs can flip them the finger.

Don't be fooled by pseudo protection laws. CISPA will protect the moneyed interests of the corporations that back it, and their government puppets.

Yeah, we got laws. But no rights. Unless we stand up and speak up.


Why People Don't Like Government Agencies

Today's mail brought a surprise. A letter from the County Expressway Authority. It contained a toll-by - plate invoice for $3.75 for the license plate I surrendered in November 2010.

I don't own a car. I had a bike, but it rusted. I still like bikes.

I turned the license plate in to the tag office where I signed over the car to the current owner. That was in the fall of 2010--before November 2--because November 2, 2010 was the date my car insurances policy would expire.

I asked the woman behind the desk at the tag office for a receipt, and she said the surrender license plate notice would be mailed to me. It was. I have it.

The expressway is taking photos of my old license plate (if that's even my old license plate number; I'm still investigating that)-- on some unknown car driven by an unknown person. I want to know who that person is and why they're driving around with my old license plate, and why I got their bill from the county government that oversees such things.

And btw- even when I did own a car, I never ever drove on the Selmon Expressway.

So I went to the website listed on the invoice because of course, government offices close at 6 p.m. (or earlier).

On their website this is what I found:

21.   What if I get an invoice for a license plate I no longer have?
If you no longer own the vehicle, you will need to contact the appropriate vehicle registry to correct their registration information. You will also need to provide an affidavit verifying that you are no longer the vehicle owner. This affidavit form is available by clicking this link: Affidavit Form. ( don't click on it--it's corrupted)
Mail the Affidavit Form to:
THEA Correspondence
PO Box 22806
Hialeah, FL 33002-2806
Unfortunately, when I clicked the link, the Affadavit Form could not be printed, copied, saved or emailed, because..."This operation is not permitted."
So tomorrow I'll try the phone number. Stay tuned. More fun to come.

Another government screw up. Although I contend that behind every government screw up is an individual with access to a government computer--an individual either incompetent, lazy or malicious.

An individual that fuels the anti government fire.

Those individuals should be doxed.

So it turns out that one letter of the license plate was "mis-typed." Funny that, because "U" and "Q" are far apart on the keyboard.

Also, according to the courteous person known as "Laz" at the Expressway Authority in Miami, the photographed car was a Toyota Avalon. I've never owned a Toyota Avalon.
To digress for a minute...
I tend to regard suspiciously those career politicians that stomp 'n' holler 'n' campaign vigorously  for elected office because they want to represent "The People." These are the same elected officials who won't answer their phones when "The People" come calling. This is you too, democrats.

In the end it is exactly as an embattled southern factory worker said back in 2000.

When he was handed a campaign leaflet showing Al Gore and George W. Bush with the caption "Who will fight for working people?" this wise citizen said, "Nobody. We fight for ourselves."

Oh hey, government, ever wonder why tea partiers and other citizens are so fed up with you?



Nine month old Scruffy, beloved cat of  Daniel Dockery didn't have to die.


A few years ago, a woman I worked with stated she thought the Humane Society would rather put cats down than allow them to be adopted. because her friend's application for pet adoption had been turned down with no reason given. That wasn't the first time I'd heard about this happening.

In 2008 I expressed concern to the Stevens-Swann Humane Society about a pit bull pup that was kept chained to a tree in the back yard of an unoccupied rental house in Utica, New York. The dog was left alone all day and all night for days at a time, through summer heat and pouring rain. It cried constantly. My landlady called the city codes department. I called them. The police were called. The landlord was notified. Nobody gave a damn. There's big money to be made in dog fighting. Epic #FAIL

All those donations from caring people; what do they pay for--TV commercials? Or hiring P.R. spin doctors like the one hired by the humane society after Scruffy was killed. And isn't it interesting that Daniel, a "recovering heroin addict," takes responsibility for "failing" Scruffy upon himself.

It was NOT Daniel Dockery who failed Scruffy.

It was a huge organization that has too often shown itself to be heartless.

Here's another viewpoint from inside the shelter industry.

And here's my experience. In 2001 I was unjustly fired from my job because of a health issue. Although I was eligible for unemployment benefits it wasn't enough to pay my rent so I moved out. When I became homeless, so did my dog. During a two week period, in November we spent days in my car and at night slept wherever we could. During those two weeks I called (among others) the Humane Society and asked them to find a temporary foster home for my dog until I could find a job and a new apartment. I let them know I could pay for his dog food, shots and whatever vet bills he might have. 

On November 10th I called the Humane Society at 9 A.M. I told them I would pay for my dog's food and any vet visits he needed, but I needed a temporary home for him. The person who answered at the Humane Society said to call back at 10 A.M. and ask for "Pam." I did-- twice . Nobody picked up so I left a message. My calls were never returned.

Two days later, the animal police came banging on the door of the apartment where I was using somebody's computer to send my resume. I got a ticket for ANIMAL CRUELTY because somebody had reported seeing my dog in the car in the early morning. He was, with all four windows down all the way, the car parked under a large tree, and his bowl of water on the seat. If the nosy neighbors were so concerned about my dog, why the FFFFKKKK didn't they open the car door and let him out?  He was leashed. He wore a rabies tag. The windows were wide open, with manual locks on the doors.

BTW, he was in the apartment with me when the animal police came knocking.

When I went to "animal court" to answer the ticket, I started to read off the names and phone numbers of all the people and organizations I had contacted asking for help to temporarily shelter my dog. But when I got to humane society, the judge abruptly cut me off. Apparently she didn't want this information entered into the court transcript by the court reporter. Whatever. It's entered now, right here. She then reduced my ticket.

Where were the animal police when I and my co-workers reported the dogs locked in a van with the window cracked an inch in the extremely hot, airport parking garage? The engine was not running; the ac was not on.

My dog was a happy, healthy ten year old when we became homeless due to job loss. By the time I found work nine months later, and an apartment six months after that, he had developed significant health issues and his fur was flecked with gray.

Rest in peace, Butch & Scruffy.


More Copyright Idiocy

It's been said, as long as they are remembered, a loved one never dies. Photos are a way to remember.

In the 90's my father sent me a photocopy he made of a faded newspaper clipping, with four people pictured: himself and three of his brothers. It was a story about the brothers' contribution during WWII. My father and two uncles were shown in their service uniforms and the fourth uncle wore a suit. These were professional sitting portraits. I remember the same photos of two of my uncles in my grandma's house. Maybe that's where the newspaper got its pictures from. There was a paragraph about each brother describing what branch he served in, his rank and where he was stationed. I estimate the news story's date to be mid to late 1944.

These uncles were my angels, and this faded clip is all I have left of them. It's all I have to show my granddaughters and son who these angels of my life were. They are all connected.

I asked my local CVS photo department if they could restore these old photos. That is a service CVS advertises, but no-- not for my pics. News photos are protected by copyright law, explained the CVS clerk, they can't reproduce these old newspaper photos. It doesn't matter if the newspaper got these photos of my father and uncles from their mother and/or sisters in the first place, which is likely.

The truth about copyright? Your work is automatically copyrighted as soon as you publish it with your name attached to it. That's why I say all writing on this blog is copyrighted. Copyright common law. And if somebody reads it and cares to share it, no problem. Just let them know who wrote this. More about copyright: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Public_domain#When_does_copyright_expire.3F

Another truth about copyright. They'll try one day, but right now they can't copyright my dead relatives. They're my blood and I'll copy their photos and share them to honor their memories. They were good people. Unknown--not rich, not famous--but good people.

There are all kinds of laws to protect the rights of companies and corporations to share (or not share) information, records, music, books and other creative works. For profit. But when Citizen Nobody wants access to his or her records, information, or wants to download a song or a video for the pure enjoyment of it, that's a whole 'nother thing.

They want us to pay them for our information. And if we listen to free music and watch movies or TV for free, we are criminals?


Florida Doctor Thinks He's Above the Law (IMO)

It started with itching. The itching went on for several months, got worse and turned into a rash. A rash on my neck. Unprecedented. Drove me nuts. I resisted the urge to scratch it, knowing that would only make it worse. I tried cortisone cream from Walgreen's, then chlortrimazole --something from WalMart, then Noxzema, zinc oxide, aloe vera gel...The rash--on my neck-- was spreading. I didn't know if it was contagious.

On the Medicare website I found a dermatologist that accepted medicare and made an appointment. March 17,  2011 the day of the appointment there was long wait in the doctor's waiting room. Then a door opened and I was whisked into a back room, where a nurse rapidly recited a list of don'ts: don't use washcloths, don't take long showers, don't take hot showers. I later heard the nurse recite the same litany to another patient-- like it was scripted. Before any diagnosis, two prescriptions were handed to me: one for an antibiotic cream, the other an anti fungal. "Put both of them on at the same time," instructed the nurse; mix them together. Also: the nurse said buy Hibaclens liquid soap over the counter and wash the rash with it first, as she scribbled a name on another piece of paper.

The doctor showed up, looked at my afflicted neck, swiped at it twice with cotton tipped swab, left the room. Total face time: less than 5 minutes.

Looking back, I would've been better off going to a Saint Patrick's Day parade and getting drunk. But you know what they say about hindsight...

On my way out, as always I halted at the nurses station. I know the drill. "How much do I owe?" I asked the nurse/staff member. "Nothing," was her answer.

A paper was pressed into my hand, and I was urged to come back for another appointment in a week to "find out the lab results."

Why, I wanted to know. "I can't afford to come back for multiple appointments," I told her. Just tell me when to pick up my lab results.

"Two weeks," she said.

Two weeks passed and I called the doctor's office and was told: lab results were not in yet. 'kay. Bye.

Three weeks. The staffer by the name of "Kat" said come in and get the lab results on Thursday. April 7.

On Thursday, I drove to the dermatologist's office with a signed HIPAA form in hand, (downloaded from a legal website) to pick up my lab results. Again, the office gatekeeper told me the labs weren't back yet. I handed her the HIPAA form and asked for what medical records they did have, waited while they were copied, and left saying mail the lab results to me.

The rash was a little better by this time--or at least not any worse, but not because of anything the doctor had prescribed. His prescription potions made the rash worse and I discontinued use.

When I got home I looked at the "medical records" the doctor's office staffer ( nurse? office manager, billing diva? ) had given me. The print was so light it was practically invisible. I couldn't even determine what lab tests the doctor had ordered. I didn't find out what lab tests were done on the skin swab from my neck until I got a copy of my Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) that listed the lab tests done and the amount charged and paid for them. I had to request this information several times before Medicare released it. The skin cultures were done 3/17/11 and I received the MSN in May, 2011

Still, I wanted to know what had caused this rash in the first place. More importantly, I wanted to know if it is/was contagious.

I had made a decision not to mix both prescription medicated creams together, because how would I know which one worked, if I used them both at the same time? Instead I tried first one, (mupirocin) then the other (triamcinolone). The first one made the rash look like raw hamburger and feel like freshly ground meat.  I washed it off, let the skin calm down, and tried the cream again. Same result.

I tried the second prescription cream, after thoroughly washing  my neck. It did not go well. Skin stayed irritated and got more irritated the longer the stuff (which contained steroids) stayed on my skin. I tried more of the same later. No improvement. Using this cream was like throwing grease on a campfire. It flared. I gave up after three tries.

It took at least a month of trial and error self treatment, using non prescription common remedies, doing my own research, protecting my neck from sun light, wearing scarves and hoodies in the summer time, switching to non-perfumed no dye laundry detergent, unscented Dove soap, taking Vitamin E, and gradually my skin returned to normal. What helped a lot: a $1 bottle of calamine lotion.

Soon after I dropped off the HIPAA request ( 4/7/11) for my medical records, the doctor's office sent me a bill for $59. It said: if payment is not made within 20 days, a ten dollar late fee will be added to this amount.  I shot off the following letter:


June 5, 2011

John Cottam, MD
Tampa, FL
June 5, 2011
Re: Billing Statement

Dear Sir/Madam:
First, on my appointment date, March 17, 2011, I asked your office staff if I owed a co pay or any other payment at that time. She answered no. Therefore, I won’t pay a “late fee,” as referenced on your statement which I received June 4, 2011. If you expected to be paid at the time of service, you/your support staff should have asked for payment at that time. I did not ask you to extend credit to me.
Second, you took a skin culture. Medicare’s records indicate that the following tests were paid by Medicare on my behalf:
1. 87070 Culture, bacterial aerobic with isolation A.
2. 87102 Culture, fungi (mold or yeast) Isolation with presumptive identification of isolates; other.
3. 87026 Smear, primary source with interpretation: fluorescent and/or acid fast stain for bacteria.
On 4/07/2011 I hand delivered a HIPPA authorization form to your office staff for release of my lab results/records to me. I’m still waiting.
When I receive the lab results for the skin cultures listed above, I’ll send payment for your bill.
Mail the lab results to me at the address above.

Thank you for your anticipated cooperation.

There was no cooperation from the doctor or his staff. The doctor and/or his staff preferred verbal communication--as in no paper trail. One of his staff left a message on my machine saying I could get my lab records when I came in and paid the money she said I didn't owe on 3/17/11 when I asked how much I owed. 

After driving to this doctor's office when his staff  told me I could pick up my lab report and being told they didn't have them, I was not about to waste any more of my time (or gas money--almost $4 a gallon).

I sent off this letter.

July 1, 2011

John Cottam, M.D.
Tampa, FL

Dear Dr. Cottam:
This is my third request for my skin culture lab results.
Medicare’s records indicate the following tests were paid by Medicare on my behalf
Date of service was 3/17/2011. Payment was made to Quest.
1.87070 Culture, bacterial aerobic with isolation A.
2. 87102 Culture, fungi (mold or yeast) Isolation with presumptive identification of isolates; other.
3. 87026 Smear, primary source with interpretation: fluorescent and/or acid fast stain for bacteria.
I hand delivered a HIPPA authorization form for release of my lab results (to me) to your office staff on 4/07/11. I sent you a letter on June 5, 2011.
I need the lab results to be mailed to me at my home address. No phone calls. Please send legible clear copies.

Thank you for your cooperation.


The doctor didn't cooperate by sending my lab report, but he did send another bill--with a $10 late fee added on.

I looked up HIPAA law and found this:

FL statutes Title XXXII Chapter 456,
 "Any health care practitioner licensed by the department or a board within the department who makes a physical or mental examination of, or administers treatment or dispenses legend drugs to, any person shall, upon request of such person or the person’s legal representative, furnish, in a timely manner, without delays for legal review, copies of all reports and records relating to such examination or treatment, including X rays and insurance information. (However, when a patient’s psychiatric, chapter 490 psychological, or chapter 491 psychotherapeutic records are requested by the patient or the patient’s legal representative, the health care practitioner may provide a report of examination and treatment in lieu of copies of records. Upon a patient’s written request, complete copies of the patient’s psychiatric records shall be provided directly to a subsequent treating psychiatrist.) The furnishing of such report or copies shall not be conditioned upon payment of a fee for services rendered."

On July 5th, 2011 I sent the doctor another HIPAA compliant Authorization For Release of Information. I enclosed a copy of my driver's license and a self addressed stamped envelope.

On 7/12/11 I downloaded a Health Information Privacy Complaint form here: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/  I filled it out and mailed it.

August 25, 2011 I got this letter in reply:

In September 2011, I got the exact same letter. It was undated, so I kept the envelope.

Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights did not provide an email address so I could communicate with them. I don't have long distance on my phone. The toll free number at OCS refers you to download and print out a complaint form, which I already had done.

It was becoming clear that the Dept of Health and Human Services was going to provide NO services to this human. And the Office of Civil Rights didn't give a damn about mine.

I found this on wikipedia:
"According to the Wall Street Journal, the DHHS takes no action on complaints under HIPAA..." No surprise there. Maybe.

So I took my request directly to Quest, the lab that processed my tests.
On 8/22/11 I sent Quest Diagnostics a HIPAA form with a copy of my driver's license and requested my lab reports from 3/17/11.
On 10/10/11 Quest Diagnostics sent me a reply. It said:

Thank you for your recent communication to Quest Diagnostics. We received your request for your laboratory test results. In order to maintain privacy,  the billing department does not have access to patients' laboratory test results.

So that results are properly interpreted and explained, we encourage patients to request this information from the ordering physician (so the doctor can charge for another office visit?)  However, if you wish to request a copy of your laboratory test results directly from Quest Diagnostics, please contact our client services department, located at the laboratory where your tests were performed, by calling 1-800-282-6613 EXT 4000. Our client services department will release this information directly to you if state law permits. ( Hmmm I thought HIPAA was a federal law)

Thank you for using Quest Diagnostics. We look forward to serving you in the future. #Fail

So I called their 800 number and was told that my state's law does not permit a patient's  lab records to be released to the patient--only to the doctor. In the matter of access to our own health records, it seems state law overrules federal law. This medical-legal-government gridlock was running over me.
Let me tell you, I was running OUT of patience.

Medicare hooked me up with this agency whose letterhead says: Quality Improvement Organizations, Sharing Knowledge, Improving Health Care. (aka Quality Assurance). It isn't clear whether this is a state agency or a federal agency. Maybe it's an experimental agency. After many calls, back and forth, I got this letter on or around October 21, 2011:

Despite what the letter says, the Doctor's office did not mail the the lab results to my home address. And no, I haven't moved.

I called Quality Assurance again, got an answering machine. Played phone tag for a couple months. My latest message to Janis Wolf , the letter sender, was returned a month later. She said she would call the doctor again, and then vanished. Ever notice that when people don't want to solve a problem, they prefer verbal communication to written?

(Or when somebody's rights get trashed, the violaters try to block cameras and video recording?)

I called Quality Assurance again, and this time I got someone named "Laura" who said "Janis" worked somewhere else now. 'kay

Laura didn't seem at all surprised that I had been trying to get my records mailed for 9 months. She asked for the doctor's phone number. I gave it to her. She called me back and said the "nurse" said I could have my records if I went there in person and signed "their" form. Been there. Not falling for that again.

Quality? It most assuredly is NOT.
Assurance? I'm assured that my rights are being stomped on...

I asked my Senator for help getting my lab report from doctor. Three months ago. They asked for--and received-- a consent to release information form signed by me. They #failed to do anything. My last two phone calls to my Senator's office were never returned, by Miss Peggy or by anyone else....

It didn't end there.

From my state's attorney general website  I emailed a consumer complaint. Their answer arrived within days. The attorney general doesn't have "jurisdiction" over docotors that violate HIPPA laws. The letter directed me to a website where I could look up information on how to file a complaint.
Public servants, really. I think not.

Finally I called a legal aid office on the advice of somebody else. The woman took all my information over the phone and gave me an appointment. The same day.

If it sounds too good to be true....

After speaking to the young paralegal, for an hour, who then brought my information to the flock of lawyers in the back room, he returned to say they couldn't help me. It wasn't that I didn't "qualify." I'm poor enough to meet their standards...

The intake paper states: "I need help concerning..."
On this line I wrote: "Getting my lab report from skin culture done 3/17/2011."

Before I left the legal clinic, I had to FIGHT for a copy of my intake form.

On Statement of Facts, WHAT CLIENT WANTS, the paralegal wrote: Get lab reports from Dr. Cottam.  
A question occurs to me here and that is: What is so special about my lab results that compels this doctor of dermatology to withold them from me, to lie to Medicare, and to break the law.
By the time the lawyers in the back room were through with it, they produced a paper that concluded the following:

5. Due to the great number of people seeking our services and our limited resources, BAVLP does not have sufficient resources to accept you for representation. We suggest you contact the following: Consumer affairs over the medical bill. 

By the time the lawyers in the back room got through with the paralegal and my documentation, they had turned a blatant violation of my HIPAA mandated legal right to my own medical records into:

Legal problem code 9--"dispute over medical bill."

By now a $59 co-pay had increased to $91 and change...

Heartwarming. Lawyers 'n' doctors watching each other's financial backsides. It's what it's all about.
There are laws in the land. To protect the rich and well connected. But rights? Right.

So I bring it to the Internet. For free. For information. For all.

Here's to our health--- all 99% of us.

Oh hey, doc u superstitious?

Quality Assurance letter
In August 2012, one year after receiving my complaint against Doctor John Cottam, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights contacted said doctor regarding a violation of 45 C.F.R. 164.524(a)(1).

The communication from OCR investigator Andrew Mahler nudged the doctor into finally doing the right thing. My lab reports were mailed to me within the week.

So the Wall Street Journal was wrong. (see above)

The lab results were negative for both bacterial and fungal infection, leading me to ask:

Why would the doctor, before sending my skin swab to the testing lab, prescribe both an anti fungal and an antibacterial cream to be applied to my rash at the same time. (which made the rash worse!)

And knowing the lab results came back negative, why wouldn't the doctor contact me and tell me to discontinue use of these medications that I didn't need?

Why in the great state of Florida-- and maybe some others-- is a testing lab allowed by law to withhold a patient's own health information from her?

Why do some doctors use their patients as human lab rats, prescribing potentially harmful drugs and/or surgery before they figure out --if they ever do--what is causing the symptoms,.

So I told you doc, I never give up. And you made the rip off report.