I Thank God for Opioid Medication

By Carmen Littizzio, Guest Columnist

I was born with a rare genetic defect called Arnold Chiari Syndrome, which blocks the flow of cerebral fluid and causes pressure to build in my brain. I had brain surgery to treat it in 1999, when I was 44 years old.  

During this surgery they cut off a portion of the skull in the back of my head to make more space for cerebral fluid to flow. Lack of fluid in the brain and spinal cord causes intense pain for me from the waist down.  At times I’m not able to walk and have painful electrical sensations that are torturous.

Nineteen years after the surgery, I still suffer from high pressure headaches, chronic leg pain, thigh and buttock pain, and other symptoms. The high cerebral pressure has also caused other problems, such as retinal detachment in both eyes, vomiting, vertigo and vision issues. 

In 2008, when I was 53, I developed a crowding in my spinal cord the same as I had in the brain and had to have a spinal cord decompression. They put a titanium plate with four screws into my back to hold it all together.

This operation was so intense that for days after the surgery, I just wanted to die. It was a living hell.

I survived with the help of morphine, but eventually went back to my old pain medication, which consisted of Neurontin, Topamax, Elavil and Diamox -- all in very high doses.

 CARMEN LITTIZZIO

CARMEN LITTIZZIO

In 2009, my body started shutting down because of those meds and I was unable to urinate. I had a permanent catheter put in and all those medications were stopped. I started taking Percocet for pain. After 4 months, I began urinating again and never wanted to go back to those other meds. 

I was told of the dangers of long term opioid use, but decided to risk it for some quality of life. My other choice was to sit in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, be able to do nothing, and still die young because of being so sedentary. 

I am now 63 and next year it will be 20 years since the brain surgery. I take a time released OxyContin in the morning and evening, and oxycodone for breakthrough pain and the headaches. 

I am entering my senior years, but still walking on my own and enjoying my children and 5 grandchildren. I don't know how much longer I will live, but I feel like I’ve won the war. What war? The war for quality of life. I thank God for opioid medication. I have never been high or abused my medications. 

I feel very bad for those that abuse narcotics or overdose.  But why should I pay the price for their inability to use self-control? We don't take alcohol off the market because we have alcoholics and drunk driving.

There are many people like me that have chronic pain and illness, and we are paying the price for those who abuse. It’s not right and not fair that we should be made to stop living because of their issues.  Nobody has the right to choose for me. 

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Carmen Littizzio lives in Maine.

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.