I suffer from Chronic Pain. Its taking all the strength I have not to delete that statement. I feel that as soon as someone knows I have chronic health issues they make assumptions about me. I’m lazy, or over-dramatic, or I just want attention. Full Disclosure, I am TOTALLy lazy and overdramatic, but those things have nothing do with my illness. More like exist in SPITE of my illness. Everything I do is in spite of my illness.
One of the issues that causes me daily pain is my herniated discs. I have them in my back and neck. Its debilitating. I’ve had all the treatments, nerve medication, lidocaine patches, dozens of epidurals, physical therapy, you name it, I’ve tried it over the past nine years. I know EXACTLY what it feels like to get an epidural and how excruciating it is. I wouldn’t wish that pain on my worst enemy much less my dearest friend.
My friend, Rachel, (Whats that Internet? I shouldn’t use her real name? Listen, a five year old with a chrome book and two free minutes can find all your secrets, it won’t matter if I use her name or not. Plus I’ll ask her. Update: She said yes. Let me start again.)
My friend, Rachel, (Just kidding. Hahaha, you thought it was starting and you’re still reading this?)
My friend, Rachel, has some pain issues. Recently while skiing on vacation she injured her back resulting in L4L5-S1 disc herniation. I have the same disc herniation on my list of spine issues, and I’m well aware of the hell that it is. I’d really like to know who I screwed over in a former life so badly that Karma feels the need to kick me in the Vagina on the regular. This pain is some nasty shit so I must have been a Grade A World Class Bitch in my last life. Anyway, Rachel is tough, but this pain has been killing her. She even broke down and went to the ER. Last weekend, the day after I’d had oral surgery and had a tooth extracted, she was doing SO badly I went over cleaned her house and did her laundry. She was in so much pain she’d cry when trying to stand or sit. Her doctor referred her to an Orthopedic Surgeon and scheduled him to do her epidural.
I’ve had so many epidurals. The medical people inject a local anesthetic that will mostly numb you, but if you have nerve pain its much harder to numb and you have more pain after. The pain after the infection is intense. Its a burning hot flush coming from the injection site and spreading across your back like gasoline on fire. Then the nurse reminds you to keep breathing and you didn’t realize you were holding your breath. The pain with each breath is excruciating. You breathe less. Then they ask you to get up. As if you posses the power of movement after they injected liquid fire into your spine. They’re supposed to monitor you for 15 minutes. This means the nurse STANDS THERE, holding her chart and writing shit down. Personally I don’t think they’re actually charting, I would’t be shocked to look over their shoulder and find them writing “Mrs. Ryan Reynolds” over and over, or creating Supernatural fan fic. Anyway, they keep a BP cuff on you and take your BP over and over and ask your pain level. You have to be SO careful or you’ll make your pain worse, or you can get super dizzy and pass out, so the recovery is as important as the shot itself or the only effects you’ll have from the shot are negative ones.
Rachel was afraid she’d be mistreated or unable to speak up for herself so she asked me to accompany her during whatever they’d allow. She was in so much pain she was totally exhausted and had lost the energy needed to assert herself. A male surgeon came in. He was small in stature, probably mid 50s to early 60s, white, and obviously pompous. Its always the old white male doctors that are asshats. You can’t change my mind. I agree there are others of various gender, cultural background and relegation that also suck, but these elderly white gentleman (its sarcasm) are the worst the most often. While we’re listening to him mansplain the procedure and what to expect I listened quietly. Remember, I’ve had many epidural shots over several years. If anyone knows about the complications or side effects of the process, its me. I’ve had many of those “Sometimes it happens but almost never does, so don’t worry about it” side effects I just roll my eyes when they say how wonderful and easy it is. Rachel’s face was pure white with fear and pain. She looked at me with her eyebrows raised like she was saying, “Help me with this idiot please” So I explained how Rachel’s pain had been so severe she went to the ER but wasn’t able to walk in on her own, she needed a wheel chair. In the week since Rachel had a steady diet of percocet, and the pain was STILL severe. I reminded the Doctor that Rachel would need more pain medication, as she was out as of that morning. Thats when it really went to shit.
I said, “You’ll need to refill her pain meds, shes in so much pain now, and after the shot with as angry and inflamed as her back is right now, she’ll need it for days.” He scoffed. Yeah. Like a cartoon villain. He told her how the relief is instantaneous, or mostly he said. And then he reminded her over and over to be patient, that eventually relief would come. Wait, eventually? Didn’t he just say the shot doesn’t hurt and by the way, works instantly? He told her he couldn’t give her pain medication because if he DID, ALL his patients would want pain meds. I was dumbfounded. You mean, ALL the patients who are in so much agony they’re paying hundreds of dollars for you to INJECT shit into their SPINE? Yeah, how dare they. How dare they visit a doctor, comply with his instructions, submit to his “treatments” and yet ask for you to manage their pain for which they are SEEING YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.
So, I called him on his shit. I told him I’d had MANY shots which is one of the reasons I was there, to make sure she was treated well and got what she needed. I said I knew she was going to be in severe pain for a good week, especially because her back had really been acting up, and now it was further agitated because a needle had just been shoved into it. He said again that she didn’t need medication. He mumbled and fumbled and then started repeating that she should call her PCP if she was in pain. I held my tongue mostly because this pass-the-buck habit with patients is COMMON PRACTICE. The PCP says they don’t want to rx pain meds, sends you to a specialist. The specialist will treat you for the issue but wants you to ask your PCP for the pain meds. You end up going to the ER for out of control pain and the ER doctor gives you five days worth of medication and tells you to talk to your PCP for pain control and recommends you see a specialist what could be simpler?
We both sat there and listened to him belittle her injury and recite bogus statistics. He said her herniation wasn’t that bad, so he was sure shots were the way to go, he’d pause and sort of ramble about how all his patients with pain want pain meds and how he just can’t give out pain medication to people in pain. Then he started asking me why I hadn’t had surgery, so I was honest in that I’d never met a person who didn’t regret their surgery. Please understand, I know they are out there, those rainbow unicorns running pain free. But No, I’m not going to have that surgery for an entire list of reasons. One being it sounds like not only does it not IMPROVE it, it makes it much worse. He needled me the rest of the way through his patient check in and then left. As soon he was gone Rachel looked like she was in a panic. She was frantic at the thought of going through the pain with no medication. I got her Doctor’s phone number and promised to call on her behalf and ask for medication. When she was wheeled back into the room less than five minutes later she was dizzy and in pain. I was glad that she’d be given time to recooperate and center herself. I was wrong.
The Doctor wouldn’t meet my gaze, repeated to her several times that she needed to “be patient” and then urged me to make an appointment with him for my back. You know the meme where the lady takes a drink of her coffee and then she hears something funny and she just spits it everywhere? That. I did that. No way in hell I’d see a Doctor who lies to my face about something as serious as pain and then refuses to do anything about when I’m having it. Philistine. NO THANK YOU PLEASE. He suggested to her again to take NSAIDs for pain, and she reminded him again that she was allergic to them, as she’d just told him a few minutes ago, as was in her chart, and on the neon orange hospital bracelet she was wearing. He sort of embarrassingly shuffled his feet and said again that she should call her PCP and left. Now, again, you’re supposed to relax and keep your feet up with an ice pack on your spine, post shot. The nurse rushed in, looked over Rachel shoulder at the BP display, scribbled in her Fan Fic File, and told Rachel to sit up and put her shoes on. Rachel was whimpering a bit every time she breathed too deeply or shifted her weight. Her eyes were pools of unshed tears. She could barely move herself an inch at a time and sure as shit couldn’t put her own shoes on much less tie them. I put them on, tied them, and then helped her up with the nurse chirping away behind her in what might have intended to be cheerful but came across as robotic and joyless. “Okay ladies lets get going!” It had not even been five minutes since her shot and we were making another appointment that I believe she fully intends to cancel. I did call her Doc who put her on pain meds. And I fully intend to give that place terrible reviews.
Here is the thing, I get that there is drug abuse. However, its not abusing drugs to give a a person with a painful condition pain medications. Rachel was treated inhumanely, and she was so consumed with the pain that she didn’t have the strength to advocate for herself, or speak up. If I hadn’t been there, or if I wasn’t assertive, she would still be in pain. That sort of thing happens every day. Those of us in chronic pain know all too well that the pain beats you down. You become the pain. To plead your case every month is exhausting and at some point you run out of spoons to keep trying. This policy of ignoring pain is disgusting and inhumane. I guarantee that these “Doctors” don’t treat those they love this way. I wouldn’t treat an animal. She is shocked about how she was treated, and while I am angry it happened I can’t say I was surprised. Frankly I thought it would have happened to her sooner.