By Sheryl Donnell, Guest Columnist
Up until recently, I thought I was coming through this opioid crisis unscathed. My pain management doctor has been with a top clinic for many years and is highly respected and generally above reproach.
We did not have that dreaded conversation virtually everyone else with chronic pain I know has had -- until September 13th, 2016.
That night, I fell and broke 5 bones in my foot, which was already affected with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). The pain was so incredibly severe.
I laid on the floor from 2 am to 10 am before I could stay alert enough, and not pass out from shock and pain, to get to a phone to call my husband upstairs for help (he is deaf in one ear). It took 4 paramedics to get me off the floor and into an ambulance.
Once at the hospital, even though I was writhing in agony and still passing out literally from pain, the doctor never examined me or my foot. She didn't care I had been on an ice cold floor for 6 hours. All she heard was "chronic pain patient" and she was done with me.
I begged her to call the pain experts my doctor worked with so she could get some guidelines for treating me, but she didn't see a reason. I asked if she was familiar with CRPS, and she proudly said no and it didn't matter. She sent me for x-rays. No sooner did I get back in my room from another horrifyingly painful experience did she announce nothing was broken and to go home.
I sat there stunned. I had heard the bones break. I knew there were fractures. I begged the nurses to do something. I had not even been given a single Tylenol. This doctor firmly believed I was a drug seeker and wanted to bounce me.
The nurse started reading my discharge papers, which said, "Come back if you have any of these symptoms." I started crying harder. I said I have every one of those right now! She was practically in tears herself.
Then my husband asked, “What will he do when we get home? We can't even get her into the house!” The nurse told him to call the paramedics again to help get me back inside my home, which we did.
My husband called in 24-hour care workers to help me so I could manage a bit. It was agony going to the bathroom, even with a bedside commode my mother brought.
The following morning, the paramedics came back and helped me into the car. We went downtown for a pain injection to try to stop a progression of my CRPS. While there I insisted on new x-rays, which my pain doctor of 9 years grudgingly agreed to -- mostly to shut me up. He said come back in a week for another shot.
I asked for an increase in my pain medication. My biggest shock that day was his response. He said there was no reason for an increase! What? We went home to 24-hour care and instructions to start weight bearing exercises asap!
A full week later with not a single call, we returned to my pain management doctor for my second injection. He casually mentioned the results of my x-rays, which showed that I had 5 broken bones in my foot. No call for an entire week. I was left to think I was nuts and was trying to bear weight on a severely fractured foot!
I was not offered, nor were my requests for additional pain medication granted. I was told to come in every week for four more weeks (in great agony and great difficulty) for pain injections which did very little. However, I did not have a spread of my CRPS.
I did lose about 8 weeks of my life again. My pain levels were so extreme I did nothing but sit in my recliner and do a lot of crying. And realize how lucky I was to have family support, the ability to pay for 24-hour caregivers, and to be believed I was in the kind of pain I said I was in. My adult daughter moved home for a month to help me and my husband with caregiving duties.
What do other people do?
Even after my 6 weeks of pain injections, when I requested a short term increase in pain medication to help me rehab my still very painful foot once I was cleared by my orthopedist, I was again turned down by my pain management doctor.
It is now 5 months after I broke my foot and I cannot complete my rehabilitation because my pain is still so intense. I know if this had happened 5 years ago, I would not be suffering like this.
Even though my pain has worsened and I need to rehabilitate my injury, the CDC has arbitrarily changed the rules and I must suffer. My doctor's hands are tied.
I lose more and more days spent doing things I enjoy or need to do because the CDC’s “experts” sat in a room and made decisions based on flawed data and street drugs; not real patients who follow the rules of their pain contracts and don't seek out multiple doctors or illegal methods to get medication. I follow all the rules, just like 99.5% of my peers.
We are suffering and living in fear that we will be next to have our medication stripped away from us, through no fault of our own. And then the real terror begins.
Sheryl Donnell lives in Illinois. She suffers from CRPS and fibromyalgia.
Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us. Send them to: editor@PainNewsNetwork.org.
The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.