Anyone around my age remembers Olan Mills Photography. The company was founded in 1932 by Olan Mills Sr. and Mary Mills to provide portrait photography and church directories. It went bankrupt in 2008, and its assets were purchased by Lifetouch in 2011 (now operating as J.C. Penney Portraits). Back in the day, Olan Mills was the place to go for family portraits. My family still has an Olan Mills portrait of my mom and sister taken in the early 1950s!
Our dear client Dawn C. (who is “no bigger than a minute,” as my mother used to say) went to work at Olan Mills in Springfield as a portrait finisher after graduating high school. She worked there for 16 years, 6–7 days per week. This position involves a lot of repetitive airbrush work, and she developed bilateral upper extremity pain as well as trouble with her neck, chest, and upper back. Though she continued working through her discomfort, her condition worsened as she developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, requiring surgery on both wrists. She also required a resection of her left first rib because of thoracic outlet syndrome. Her doctors further diagnosed her with myofascial pain syndrome in her arms and shoulders, repetitive stress syndrome, bilateral medial epicondylitis, and fibromyalgia.
Given her strong work ethic and youth, the limitations she experienced because of her occupational disease (that’s what repetitive strain injuries are often called) were very depressing. Even daily activities we all take for granted (cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, and just spending time with family) became hard, if not impossible. Fibromyalgia can cause such debilitating pain and fatigue that a person is nearly nonfunctional.
Though she can no longer work, her financial future is not in jeopardy. I helped Dawn obtain permanent total disability benefits, including access to medical treatment, for her lifetime. I think of her whenever I see a portrait with that familiar Olan Mills script in the bottom right hand corner — she’s such a delightful person!