Betrayed by My Doctors and My Government

By Jeff Watt, Guest Columnist

I was a nurse and that career gave my life purpose.  I felt like I was making a difference in my patients’ lives.  However, in October of 2014, the healthcare system that employed me destroyed me.

I was experiencing stiffness in my neck and had some red spots on my legs.  I also had a fever that broke the night before.  That was it. 

Unfortunately, because I went to the ER to figure out what was going on, they decided to do a spinal tap.  The physician attempted 3 times and failed, so another provider was called in, who did another two attempts before finally placing the needle. 

 JEFF WATT

JEFF WATT

The next day, I got the most agonizing headache of my life.  When I went back to the ER, they found the reason was a spinal fluid leak caused by all the failed attempts to collect spinal fluid.

The treatment for spinal headaches is to do an epidural blood patch, which includes another spinal puncture.  The first blood patch was placed in the wrong place, so the headache returned.  It took a second blood patch, and then ANOTHER spinal puncture to have it placed correctly and to make the headache go away.

Shortly after, I started experiencing sharp shooting pains down my right leg, causing extreme constant pain and causing me to collapse, unable to bear my own weight. 

I returned to the ER and they sent me to see a neurologist, who did an MRI and a number of other tests, in the end diagnosing me with a condition called arachnoiditis.  This is a progressive disease caused by scar tissue in the arachnoid space of the spinal cord clumping together and pinching the nerves, 24/7.  Arachnoiditis is progressive, a condition that only worsens and is incurable.  It has been described as pain as bad as that of cancer, but without the release of death.

Over the last 3 years since my injury, I have lost my job, friendships, and the ability to do sports and activities with my wife.  I have experienced increased shooting pains and weakness in my right leg, loss of bladder and bowel function causing me to wear adult briefs, balance issues, sexual dysfunction issues, and the list goes on.

Numerous specialists couldn’t provide a treatment to alleviate my pain.  I tried medication after medication with the same result -- until I was prescribed extended relief morphine and oxycodone.  These medications controlled my pain enough that I was able to get out to do events, to help out at home doing laundry and dishes, and gave me back a quality of life that I didn’t have.

In the last 6 months, I have been forced to completely taper off of these medications because of a set of guidelines released by the CDC. 

The so-called opioid “epidemic” has made persistent pain patients like myself collateral damage in the government’s attempts to stop deaths from overdosing.  The CDC even admitted it mistakenly included legal prescription opioids in the same data as overdoses caused by illicit fentanyl from China and other synthetic opioids.

I now spend my days in severe unrelenting pain.  Alternative medications prescribed by my doctor have done nothing.  I feel as though I have been abandoned and betrayed by my doctors, and my government.  My doctor is supposed to help and do no harm, and my government is supposed to do what is in the best interest of the people they represent, including patients who are dependent on opioids to give them a quality of life.

If the government is truly concerned about people’s deaths, perhaps it should look into the increase in suicides by patients who suffer from persistent pain.  We deserve effective and compassionate treatment of our pain.

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Jeff Watt lives in Oregon.

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.