How Rx Opioids Saved My Firefighter Husband

By Sonia Bodie, Guest Columnist

A captain at a very busy fire department, a Homeland Security employee, and an instructor with the South Carolina Fire Academy. That was my husband’s life for 17 years. Brent and I both had busy careers in public safety. I'm a paramedic and a firefighter. 

One morning nine years ago, after getting off a particularly grueling 24-hour shift, we decided to drive to some property we own and place a trail camera to observe the wildlife. We drove our off-road vehicle many times before, but that day a grave mistake was made. Whether we were tired, careless or just from a sense of invincibility, I'll never know, but up an extremely steep hill we went!

Almost at the top, the four-wheeler lurched and rolled, throwing us both violently off. I sustained a lower leg fracture that had to be surgically repaired. Brent fractured three vertebrae in his neck. His neck was broken and life as we knew it came to a screeching halt. 

It was like a nightmare that just wouldn't end. Brent needed extensive surgery that included cadaver bones to replace his fractured ones, pins and screws, and a halo neck brace. This sort of thing happens to the people we care for, but this time it was the protector who needed protection. 

Brent’s career was put on hold, but in his mind if he did exactly what the physicians said to the letter, it would be just a matter of time before he would be back to work. He began physical therapy. Four to five days a week he attended. But the pain continued.

He was prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs, a TENS unit, ice and heat therapy. Brent tried them all, thinking his career was just a short step away. 

 BRENT AND SONIA BODIE

BRENT AND SONIA BODIE

I recovered and went back to work. But my strong, never-sick husband was slowly becoming a man I barely knew. The pain in his neck was mind boggling, along with severe numbness and constant tingling in his right arm and hand. The severity of the pain completely changed him. 

After a year, Brent’s neurosurgeon gently told him that his part in the healing was over and that he wouldn't sign any medical clearance for him to return to full time firefighting duty.  Brent looked at the doctor with something between shock, horror and bewilderment.  With tears streaming down his face, in a voice so soft and cracking, Brent asked, "What do I do now? I've been a fireman since I was 18 years old. When will this non-stop agony end?" 

I couldn't believe things could get any worse, but they did. Talk of suicide started swirling. He shut down. I cannot count how many times I'd come home from my 24-hour shifts to find Brent curled up in a ball on the floor in so much pain.  

The straw breaker occurred one cold, windy morning.  I came home from work to find Brent sitting at the kitchen table with a pistol beside him. I was frozen in fear. I couldn't find my voice! He said, in a tone I'd never heard from him, "I will NOT continue to live another day, not one single more, in this much suffering and torture! I'm done!" 

I immediately contacted the doctor, who got Brent to see a pain specialist that day.  This was the beginning of a new life for us. I’m so thankful and grateful for this physician. I cannot say that Brent’s agony ended on the spot, but after three months of trying different pain relievers and doses, they found a medication regimen that worked for him. 

Brent goes there monthly. There are urine drug tests and visits with a psychologist before he sees the physician. This is a new season, one that includes opiates. They are taken exactly as prescribed and kept secure, locked in a fire safe.

I see the opioid crisis daily. I give my all as a medic to save those who have chosen to snort, ingest or smoke opioids, most of them illegal, for a life-ending high.  Then I come home to a beloved spouse, whose opioid medication literally saved his! 

I'm very fearful what will happen if Brent’s medication is lowered or stopped because of the new, yet antiquated, opioid prescribing laws. The persecution of the innocent, who require these life-giving medications, must cease.  My husband, who saved so many lives, depends upon it. And he's important too! 

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Sonia and Milton “Brent” Bodie live in South Carolina.

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.