Jefferson County woman now battling for workers’ comp after surviving COVID-19

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — While the number of COVID-19 cases is down in Tennessee, those that contracted the virus are still fighting both the physical and financial effects.

At 45, Keniethea Tadlock had always been healthy. But last September she was admitted to Jefferson Memorial Hospital diagnosed with COVID-19, for three weeks she struggled to survive.

Many of these “COVID long-haulers” have a condition called post-COVID-19 syndrome. Tadlock is one of those still fighting the effects of the virus. The diagnosis was made by her doctor.

“From the COVID, I am still in organ failure, my heart, my lungs, and my kidneys,” Tadlock said. “I have been hit pretty hard.”

Tadlock has also been hit hard financially and received more than a thousand pages of medical bills.

“I owe the hospital $473,000 and some odd change now,” she said. “And that is just the hospital.”

Keneithea’s condition is what the American Medical Association calls a “COVID long-hauler.” She suffers from chronic pain, fatigue, shortness of breath, anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

“I have fear of sleeping because I’m afraid I’m going to die in my sleep,” Tadlock said.

“One day it’ll be good and the next day when she gets up and she’ll be down for two or three days,” her husband Steve Blankenship said.

Kenietha worked at this office in Halls for a regional propane gas supply company, Blossman Gas. She’s filed a claim with the state Bureau of Workers’ Compensation against her former employer alleging she got the virus at work.

“The burden is going to be on us to prove anything about it, that it was caused at work,” Blankenship said. “All that is going to be on us.”

Keniethea said the first worker’s comp hearing last week did not go well. She said the attorney representing Blossman’s insurance company wanted documentation of her illness.

“They said they had not gotten any form of paper saying that I was positive for COVID-19 whatsoever,” Keniethea said. “It says diagnosis on admission. COVID-19, pneumonia, acute respiratory failure.”

Yet, Keniethea says documents were dropped off to her former employer by her husband.

“With all the correspondence we have had with them between emails, me trying to get her short-term disability going, I don’t see how they couldn’t have known,” Blankenship said.

While the odds may be against her in receiving workers’ compensation benefits, Tadlock says she looks forward to the next hearing as her former employer has the next few months to examine her medical records.

“We are supposed to get together, and we’re supposed to all talk this out to see if they’re going to agree or not, whether or not they’re going to pay,” Keniethea said.

We reached out to the insurance company that represents Tadlock’s former employer. The legal team said it does not publicly comment on matters under litigation.

Tadlock’s next hearing before the workers’ compensation board is in early August. Her short-term disability ended in March. The couple is unsure how they will pay for their medical expenses.

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