Death of Pain Patient Blamed on DEA Raid

By Pat Anson, Editor

The Montana pain community is in mourning over the tragic death of Jennifer Adams, a 41-year old Helena woman who suffered from intractable chronic pain. The Lewis and Clark County coroner has not yet released a cause of death, but friends say Adams died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound April 25.

Adams, a former police officer and mother of an 11-year old boy, lived with severe back pain from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) and arachnoiditis, two painful and incurable diseases in her spine.

Friends say in her final months Adams suffered from extreme anxiety – fearing that her relatively high dose of opioid pain medication would be reduced or stopped by doctors.

“Jennifer had horrible anxiety that was eating her alive,” says Kate Lamport, a close friend who also has arachnoiditis. “She hadn’t lost her meds. But the fear of it drove her crazy. Every day she was so afraid.

“She was beautiful, inside and out. Her little boy was her everything. And I know she felt like the walls were just closing around her.”

Adams was a patient of Dr. Forest Tennant, a prominent California pain physician, whose home and office were raided last November by agents with the Drug Enforcement Administration. A DEA search warrant alleged that Tennant must be running a drug trafficking organization because many of his patients came from out-of-state and were on high doses of opioid medication.

JENNIFER ADAMS

JENNIFER ADAMS

Tennant, who has not been charged with a crime and denies any wrongdoing, recently announced plans to retire and close his clinic, in part because of the DEA investigation. Tennant is a revered figure in the pain community because of his willingness to see patients like Adams who have intractable pain from rare diseases like arachnoiditis.

“She’s a patient I saw in consultation. She was on a very good (pain) regimen, had a very good nurse practitioner and had good support,” said Tennant. “It’s a tragic situation. She was a lovely person. She was ill, no question about it.”

Several of Adams’ friends and fellow patients told PNN that the DEA raid frightened her. Like many others in the pain community, Adams feared losing access to opioid medication because many doctors have cut back on prescribing or stopped treating pain altogether.  

KATE LAMPORT AND JENNIFER ADAMS

KATE LAMPORT AND JENNIFER ADAMS

“There’s more (suicides) coming. I don’t know how many people I’ve talked to that have a backup plan. We are the unintended consequences of the DEA’s actions,” said Lamport.

“Every day you get online and there’s another chronic pain patient that took their life. There’s another 20 that lost their medication. And she knew she couldn’t be a mom or work without it. And she didn’t want to be a burden. She was very prideful.”

“Before the raid she was very positive, keep fighting, that type of attitude. And the last couple of months she hasn't really been talking to anyone really consistently like she was,” said Heather Ramsdell. “I would characterize her mood as somber and scared with what's going on in this world and with her pain progressing, worrying about care.”

“She did not deserve to die. It’s just ridiculous. An entirely preventable loss of life. I think she was just totally freaked out over what was happening,” said Gary Snook. “We’re not drug addicts. We’re just sick people.”

“I think that Jennifer is collateral damage in that heinous DEA raid on Dr. Tennant,” says Dr. Mark Ibsen, a Helena physician who used to treat Adams. “We have a way to prevent these suicides and we’re completely ignoring it. Treating the patients in pain would prevent these suicides.”

Tennant does not believe Adams’ death is connected to the DEA raid.

“People who want to make that claim, that’s just simply false,” Tennant told PNN. “I think she was upset by the raid, like a lot of people, but I don’t believe you can make any assumption that there’s any connection.

“People have a lot of complaints about the government, but I think in this case and I want to make it abundantly clear, there is no connection to her pain care, her practitioners, or the DEA. This appears to be an independent, random event in a state that’s got a very, very high suicide rate.”

Adams’ last appointment with Tennant was in January. He said she was responding well to treatment and did not have a return appointment.

‘Disgusted’ by DEA Search Warrant

PNN has obtained a copy of an email that Adams sent to one of Tennant’s lawyers. Adams wrote that she was “truly disgusted” by the DEA raid and the allegations made against Tennant. Her patient records were among those seized by DEA agents. The search warrant claimed patients must be selling their opioid medication and funneling the profits back to Tennant. 

“My intention was and is to let you know a bit about myself and let you know that I am truly disgusted after reading the search warrant. I am NOT a drug dealer! I am not part of a drug cartel. I do not provide kickbacks to Dr. Tennant and I do not share my prescriptions. This whole situation has turned my life upside down once again,” Adams wrote. 

“It needs to stop. Legally speaking, someone has got to put an end to this obscene attack on patients with intractable pain, in particular; Adhesive Arachnoiditis.”

Adams said she developed adhesive arachnoiditis – a chronic inflammation of spinal nerves that causes them to stick together – after a failed back surgery and dozens of failed epidural injections. She also suffered a stroke during the birth of her son because of a botched epidural.

Before her career in law enforcement was cut short by chronic pain, Adams was a police officer in Helena and the first female deputy in Rosebud County, Montana.  She graduated third in her class at the Montana Law Enforcement Academy.

FB_IMG_1524759333762.jpg

She was proud of her career and felt the DEA raid unfairly stigmatized her and other Tennant patients. 

“I also have had all my accomplishments stained!” she wrote. “I have had to fight day after day to survive the devastation of this ever-changing disease! Please do not dismiss me.”

Donations to a college trust fund for Jennifer's son, Joshua "Tuff" Adams, can be made to First Interstate Bank, 3401 N. Montana Avenue, Helena, MT 59602. You can also call the bank at (406) 457-7171.

What Next for Arachnoiditis Patients?

By Pat Anson, Editor

A pioneering two-day conference on arachnoiditis has ended in Helena, Montana with dozens of  patients armed with new information about the chronic and disabling spinal disease.

Many are also left wondering who will treat them and how to pay for it.

"We practitioners need your help and you need our help," says Forest Tennant, MD, who is the world's foremost authority on arachnoiditis, a progressive and incurable inflammation of the spinal cord that leaves most people who have it with severe chronic pain.

Tennant, who treats about 60 arachnoiditis patients from around the country at his pain clinic in West Covina, California, has developed a complex and unique therapy for arachnoiditis that combines pain medication, anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamins and hormones. Once bedridden or using walkers, several of his patients were healthy enough to make the long trip to Montana to hear him speak.

"I would not dare prescribe these drugs if I didn't have control of the opioids and everything else you're doing. These things are hazardous in the hands of the inexperienced," he warned.

At age 75, Tennant knows it is time for other doctors to learn and start practicing his treatment methods.  But he and his patients face a dilemma. Most pain management doctors and specialists already have a full patient load and Tennant himself is not taking new patients.

"Every good specialist in this country is booked. They're not available and they don't know anything about this anyway," says Tennant.

"Pain management really is its own specialty now and if they're not in that field, they're not going to help you do this. These hormones are going to have to be done by the same doctor that manages your pain and manages your inflammation. It's going to have to be done by the same practitioner."   

If attendance at the conference is any indication, finding doctors willing to learn and practice Tennant's treatment protocol will be difficult. Invitations went out to over two thousand practitioners in Montana, but only a handful showed up.  No one from the Montana Medical Association or the Montana Board of Medical Examiners attended.

"The problem with this protocol in the conventional medical world is that this crosses disciplines. We're talking rheumatologists, we're talking endocrinologists, and that's where conventional medicine gets stuck," says Christine White, ND, a naturopathic physician from Missoula who attended the conference. "Conventional medicine has evolved into this realm where the general practitioner doesn't do a lot. They refer out (to specialists) and what we need to do as physicians is get general practitioners willing to take on more rings of this problem."

The problem may be a bigger one that anyone imagines. Tennant estimates as many as one million Americans may suffer from arachnoiditis, many of them misdiagnosed with “failed back syndrome” or other spinal problems.

Most people get the disease when the arachnoid membrane that surrounds their spinal cord is damaged during surgery or punctured by a needle during an epidural steroid injection. Inflammation sets in and can spiral out of control, forming scar tissue that cause spinal nerves to stick together. That leads to adhesive arachnoiditis and neurological problems, which can cause burning or stinging pain that can be felt from head to toe.

Insurance Won't Pay the Bills

Besides getting treatment, another common problem faced by arachnoiditis sufferers is their insurance coverage.

"The reimbursement structure is part of the problem and the reason why I ended up with adhesive arachnoiditis," says Terri Anderson, who as a federal employee was covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield when she went to get treatment for back pain.

"I think the doctors and surgeons looked at my Blue Cross Blue Shield and they wanted to do epidural steroid injections and spinal surgery. Blue Cross had good coverage for all these invasive procedures, so I think they have some culpability," she said

Like many arachnoiditis patients, Anderson is not reimbursed for the unusual drugs and hormone therapy that she gets "off label" from Dr. Tennant or for the cost of traveling to see him in California. Her out of pocket expenses add up to about $200 a month.

"My co-pays for my medications are about $500 a month," says Nancy Marr of Los Angeles, who is insured through Medicare and a supplemental policy with AARP. Marr doesn't have to travel far to see Tennant, but she does have to pay out-of-pocket for his services.

"To participate in this kind of a program at this point in time would end up costing people a tremendous amount of out-of-pocket costs," she says.

While all of this is discouraging, the mood was anything but gloomy at the conference. For many, including this reporter, it was their first chance to meet and interact with people they've been communicating with online for years. That sense of community and a common goal stirs optimism. And so does the knowledge that the conference may have laid the groundwork for a treatment that could ultimately benefit thousands of people who are suffering.

Our Search for a New Pain Doctor

By Marlee Hanson, Guest Columnist

I am 31, and my husband Ray is 34.  Ray is disabled.  His biggest daily struggle is chronic pain from  a serious back injury. Adding to our troubles is that we live in Montana, a state where there is an acute shortage of doctors willing to treat chronic pain with pain medication.
 
Ray has undergone multiple surgeries to fuse his spine.  We went into these surgeries knowing he would lose some range of motion, but hopeful that they would lessen his pain, allowing Ray to be the husband and father he desperately wants to be.  Sadly, the surgeries were difficult, the recoveries were long, and his pain has only worsened postoperatively.  The disappointment has been crushing.
 
Interventional pain procedures have sadly failed to help my husband as well.  He has endured diagnostic CT myelograms and developed post-procedure cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks.  One was severe enough to require an epidural blood patch.  A CSF leak causes vomiting and a severe headache commonly known as a spinal headache.  These are not only painful, but can lead to meningitis.  The primary treatment is bed-rest.  When this fails, an epidural blood patch is performed.  Though it relieves the headache in most cases, it puts the patient at further risk of developing meningitis.

On many days my husband is not able to move, get out of bed, prepare food, or even take a simple shower because the pain is so severe.  Thankfully, Ray has found relief through opioids. Oxycodone allows him to function so he can be a husband and father.  It gives him enough relief that he is able to stretch and do physical therapy exercises. 

Exercise has also allowed him to rebuild muscle, improve stamina and helped decrease his pain.  None of this would be possible without the pain relief opioids provide him. Unfortunately, we fear my husband is weeks away from losing access to the one medication that truly gives him relief, as his physician’s license has been suspended.

Once we knew this was a possibility, Ray and I began seeking a new doctor to treat him. I believe my husband is a low risk patient.  He takes his medication as prescribed, does not abuse it, and has never been discharged by a doctor for misusing his medication. He has never overdosed. 

ray and marlee hanson

ray and marlee hanson

So far we have scheduled appointments with two doctors. The first one neither examined my husband nor reviewed the X-Rays and MRI’s we brought to the appointment. This physician made his treatment decision based on the prescription monitoring database and gave my disabled husband a prescription for one quarter of what he usually takes in a month, along with a pamphlet on vocational rehabilitation. 

We told the doctor Ray had already consulted vocational rehabilitation when it was suggested by his workers compensation caseworker.  We explained to the doctor how much opioids have reduced his pain and improved his ability to function.  The doctor said it was simply not worth the risk of his license being suspended.

Years ago, workers’ compensation and Social Security deemed that Ray was disabled, based on input from several physicians.  We felt this new doctor was not listening, and we were disappointed when he refused to provide the chronic pain management my husband needs. 
 
We were still hopeful that the second doctor, who was recommended by a friend, would assume responsibility for his care.  Ray waited five months for this appointment.  The day before the appointment, the doctor's office called to cancel, stating she would not see Ray for pain management. She also refused to fill his prescription.  He has taken these medications with good functional benefit for the past eight years.

We used to travel to Missoula for chronic pain management.  The trip was inconvenient and the long drive exacerbated his pain.  Eventually we were fortunate enough to find a physician in Helena near our home.  Unfortunately, we will now be forced to travel for appointments once again and deal with all that this entails.  Our next appointment will be in Great Falls.  If Ray does not receive care there, not only will we be forced to travel out of state, but my husband will also have exhausted his supply of medication. 

Ray is a law abiding citizen with a chronic pain condition that needs to be addressed.  Finding care is nearly impossible in the current regulatory climate.  I fear deeply that one day he will escape his pain by suicide.  Ray is not suicidal at all, but I fear if he is forced to go without medication, he will become bound to bed in pain, and I fear that suicide will be the outcome.

The government is looking at opioid pain relievers as harmful substances.  When these medications are illicitly used and abused there is a problem.  That problem does need to be addressed.  However, as harmful as those medications have been for some, they are just as helpful for others.  We do not need laws restricting or banning opioids; we need a nationwide effort to ease the suffering of those who are in pain.  We need doctors and practitioners who are trained in proper use & dosage of pain medication, as well as alternative pain treatment. 

Physicians need to look at chronic pain patients as individuals, just as they do with other patients.  Each condition varies in severity and everyone metabolizes drugs differently.  Please allow doctors to prescribe the medications Ray needs to survive so can be the husband and father he wants to be.  His children and I deserve that, as does he. 

Marlee and Ray Hanson live in Montana.

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 represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

My Life is Not My Own

By Michell Freeman, Guest Columnist

A little over two years ago I was in an automobile accident that involved a fatality. I was hit by a car that ran a red light.

I was unable to walk without great pain. When I arrived at the hospital, my legs felt very cold and I had lost feeling in my saddle area and later down my left leg. The doctor came in and told my family that I had a sequestered disc fragment in my spine.

The doctor told my husband that I was to lie flat on my back and only to get up to use the restroom. If I lost control of my bowel or bladder, I was to call 911. I was released the same day with a follow up appointment with a neurosurgeon.

I was able to see the neurosurgeon the next day, and was instructed to take a steroid for seven days and given opiate pain medication. He wanted to get the inflammation down. About a week later, I returned to his office unable to walk. The pain had me screaming for help.

I was told that I needed to undergo an emergency laminectomy and discectomy to remove the damaged disc. On my follow up, I let my surgeon know something wasn't right. I was leaking and having sudden urges to urinate. I was also having electric sensations go down my back and legs. I was burning. I had another MRI and was told I had a lot of inflammation involving the nerve roots.

michell freeman

michell freeman

I was referred to a pain management doctor for a series of selective nerve root injections. On my first appointment I was nervous and was given a Valium. I laid flat face down and the nurse said that she was going to walk me through it. The doctor didn’t speak, only to say who he was.

As the procedure began, the pain was terrible. The nurse said he was about to inject Depo-Medrol steroid. I felt a shock of electricity go down my leg and I began to cry. The nurse assured me this was normal and the doctor cleaned my back and walked out the room. I had no feeling in my leg and was placed in a wheelchair.

My pain was not better but increased and my head would hurt so bad I would put an ice pack on it. For a while my body ached. Two weeks later in I went for a second injection. On my third injection while on the table my doctor started the procedure and inserted the catheter. It was very painful. He moved the table up higher with the needle inserted to get a better view using fluoroscopy.

Tears were falling and the nurse said it was almost over. Just as she said that I screamed out loud as my back jerked. The pain was excruciating. The doctor finished and walked out the room without speaking.

The following summer, I went back to the neurosurgeon and he told me my pain may possibly be permanent. He said he was out of options and my primary care physician would need to take over; either helping with pain medication or a referral to another pain management specialist because I refused to get anymore injections. The neurosurgeon, imaging and pain management were all in the same complex.

Last February, I was finally diagnosed with Adhesive Arachnoiditis. I had sent my MRI scans to be reviewed, and the scan taken two months after my surgery confirmed that the Arachnoiditis had already advanced to the adhesive stage.

I have since developed colitis, bradycardia with syncope, and fluctuating blood pressure. I no longer can go to activities with my children at home nor play the same with my four grandchildren. I break plans often due to unrelenting pain.

I have days of not being able to get out of bed. My life is no longer my own. I have lost control of deciding what I am able to do each day. I have to take opiate medications in order to have some life, relief and function. Before finding the correct dosage and keeping it as low as possible, I would constantly cry out and beg to die.

Pain altered my brain and I had thoughts of suicide daily. I lost the life I once knew as an employee with USPS, an active wife, mother, and grandmother. I now live a life of having to learn how to adapt, improvise and overcome.

Michell Freeman lives in South Carolina. She is a member of the Facebook support groups Arachnoiditis Together We Fight and Arachnoiditis Everyday.

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 represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

Opioids Saved My Life

By Rebecca Roberts, Guest Columnist

My new life of chronic pain started in May of 2005. After being diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, I was given a series of 3 epidural steroid injections with a corticosteroid made by Pfizer called Depo-Medrol.

I had no relief from the first two injections, but my doctor insisted that I try a third one. He struggled to get the needle into the epidural space, probably because of scar tissue in my back caused by a prior back surgery, a laminectomy.

After the 3rd steroid injection, I had a severe, instant headache, which was relieved somewhat when I laid down. The doctor had punctured my dura, the outer lining of the spinal cord, which caused a spinal leak.

He was defensive when I told him about my headache pain, saying, “No way, there was no fluid in my syringe.”

After an unsuccessful blood patch, I ended up in the ER a week later with the worst, throbbing headache I ever suffered. Every time I lifted my head I vomited violently.

The doctor ordered numerous tests and he finally diagnosed me with too much STRESS! I knew something had gone wrong during the epidural steroid injection, yet my doctor blamed me for the harm he did to my spine. My pain worsened over time and it became so intense that I thought about suicide.

Luckily, I found a doctor who prescribed opioids for my intractable pain or I would not be here. Opioids saved my life.

rebecca roberts

rebecca roberts

I tried many other drugs, including Lyrica, which is much more expensive, made me tired and affected my thinking abilities.  Opioids allow me to do my grocery shopping and care for myself.  If I don't have access to my pain meds, I have no quality of life. Opioids keep my pain at tolerable levels. It does not get rid of my pain totally, nothing ever will.

Opioids are often blamed for accidental overdoses, but I know better as I have arachnoiditis friends who committed suicide because their pain was so bad.  Some families deny it was suicide because insurance companies will not pay if a family member commits suicide.

Eventually I found a doctor who diagnosed me with arachnoiditis. There is no cure for this pain condition. It is mainly iatrogenic, which means it is caused by a medical procedure.

I also found out arachnoiditis is caused by Depo-Medrol. Pfizer warns against the use of this drug in epidurals in Australia and New Zealand. The New Zealand datasheet states that Depo-Medrol must not be used in epidurals and on page 18 it says it can cause arachnoiditis.  Patients need to read the datasheet for themselves before they agree to allow a doctor to do an injection near their spinal cord.

Three months after my epidurals, I could no longer work and had to leave my quality control job at a manufacturing plant, making transmission parts for Honda, which I had done successfully for four years. I loved my job and worked 60 to 70 hours per week.  Now I rely on social security disability. 

Luckily, my disability was quickly approved. Many of my arachnoiditis friends struggled for years to get their diagnosis.  Some never do.  According to one estimate, there are 11,000 new cases of arachnoiditis each year, but I think it is much more than that because doctors will not admit to harm.

My medical injury was 10 years ago.  I have been on a high stable dose of opioids with no increases. Now there is so much talk with the Centers for Disease Control Prevention creating guidelines to control opioid prescribing.

The CDC is clueless because they are recommending a cap on the daily dosages. How can they estimate a person’s pain levels? Everyone is different, and there are genetic differences and high metabolizers who need higher doses to control their pain. If that happens, my pain will be uncontrolled again, and I worry about my future. 

Is this fair to the thousands or even millions of pain patients who may suffer from arachnoiditis, who have have been harmed by the medical community and incompetence of the Food and Drug Administration? Even though the FDA issued a warning on steroids used for back pain, doctors are ignoring it and not telling their patients. We were harmed and now we suffer because doctors are turning us away.

Thank you to producer Gerri Constant and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles for reporting on the dangers of epidural injections.  We agree with Dr. Forest Tennant that this pain condition is no longer rare.

Rebecca Roberts lives in Indiana. She is a member and supporter of the Arachnoiditis Society for Awareness and Prevention (ASAP)  and the Facebook group Arachnoiditis Together We Fight.

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 represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

My Life with Arachnoiditis

By Tom Bresnahan

Let me tell you briefly about my past before I describe the hell I live with every day.

Before moving to Florida in 2000, I owned and operated a 6 store Domino's Pizza franchise in Tacoma, Washington. I served as an elected fire commissioner, belonged to two search and rescue groups, and was trained and certified as a swift water rescue technician. As you can see, I'm no couch potato.

tom bresnahan

tom bresnahan

After selling my business and moving to Florida I decided to pursue a career in healthcare, something I had wanted to do for many years. I went back to school and received a degree in Radiological Technology.

While attending school I fell off of a roof, damaged my back, and required surgery. In 2003, I had a triple fusion of my lumbar region performed by a local orthopedic surgeon. Everything went well and I went on to work as cardiac catheter technician, a fast paced, adrenaline junkie’s dream job! I took a lot of calls and enjoyed the challenge of working with a team trying to save the life of someone having a heart attack. 

In 2009, I started to have sciatica pain in my right leg. It was interfering with my work, so I went back to the doctor who had performed my surgery. He suggested a series of epidural steroid injections. He said they were extremely safe and could eliminate my pain.

When I arrived for my first injection, I reminded the nurse to tell the doctor of the “outpouching” I had on my spinal cord. This is known as a pseudomeningoceale. It was caused when the doctor doing my first back surgery performed a laminectomy and didn't take the right steps to keep the pouch from forming. When I discovered this on an MRI and asked him about it, I was told that it was completely normal and that I shouldn't be concerned. 

The image on the right shows the pouch as a white mass on my spine.

The first steroid injection had no effect, so a few months later I went in for a second. Again I reminded the nurse about the outpouching. This message was never shared with the doctor, although he should have looked at my chart prior to the procedure.  The injection was given and within hours my pain became elevated. I called the doctor and was told this is normal and not to be concerned.

Over the next several days my pain increased, and it was difficult to concentrate and perform my job. I was seen again by the doctor and he scheduled a discogram, a test is to see if a disk is ruptured or torn. It is a very painful test. The results came back stating I had a torn disk above the level of my first surgery. The doctor said I would need another fusion. 

I went in for surgery on September 8, 2009. By then the pain was quite bad and I was looking for anything to give me some relief. After I was partially sedated the doctor came in and told my wife that this surgery would most likely not help with my pain. I was nearly out and she didn't know what to do, so in I went for what would be a totally unnecessary procedure. 

As the pain medication from surgery wore off, the pain was so bad it made me scream out loud. This went on for months! My wife took me to the ER and back to the doctor’s office, where I was told, “We don't know what’s wrong." 

I couldn't work and after being out for 90 days I was terminated. I was devastated that I was losing a job I loved and spending every moment in horrific pain.  I finally went to see a neurosurgeon who ordered a myelogram, an image of my spine that was performed at the hospital where I had worked.

The neurosuregon, who I had worked with on several occasions, did the test. Afterward he came into the recovery room and said, "Tom, you're screwed!" 

I laughed thinking he was joking. 

“You have a condition known as Adhesive Arachnoiditis,” the doctor told me. “You're going to be in pain the rest of your life!" 

I was shocked and couldn't believe this was happening. He told me the nerves within my spine were all clumped together. He said over time scar tissue would form and probably make the pain worse and cause things like bladder and bowel dysfunction. And there was no cure.

The test was done and I learned my fate on Dec 31, 2009. Happy New Year!   

Over the next few months I went through many medications, trying to get the pain under control. The drugs did very little to help. I also ordered copies of the dictations from all of the procedures I had done by my surgeon. On the dictation done for my last injection the surgeon stated, "I did get withdrawal so I repositioned the needle and did 4 injections.” 

The "withdrawal" was spinal fluid. He had punctured my spinal cord, yet continued to inject the steroid Depo-Medrol into my spine. When I confronted him at what was to be my last appointment, he told me, "You would have a hard time proving it!" 

Since that time I've been through the 5 stages of grief, with anger being the hardest to overcome.  I was determined to find a fix, but eventually realized there was none. 

I came close to ending my life on two occasions. My wife of 3 years told me, "I didn't sign up for this!" We divorced shortly after that. 

I have spent the last 2 years trying to effect a change and educating people on the dangers of epidural steroid injections. I have tried to help others with Arachnoiditis find medications, support and the faith to continue on each day.

I have a phrase that I tell those who feel the desire to end their pain and their life, "As long as we are breathing there is hope!" 

The pain has gotten worse over the last 2 years. I have had episodes of not being able to move my legs when I wake up in the morning. This alone will scare a person terribly! My legs go numb if I sit for more than 15 minutes.  The pain now extends into my arms and hands. 

Because this condition affects the nervous system I have developed an internal thermostat problem. I will feel cold and actually shiver in a room that is 76 degrees. At other times I will break into a sweat that's so bad I'm drenched within a few minutes, to the point that I have to change shirts. I can't tell you how many times I've lain in bed screaming because the pain is so bad. 

I have never in my life been one to take it easy, yet I've had people actually tell me, "It couldn't be that bad!" 

This is demoralizing, frustrating and depressing. Steroid injections are a band aid at best and the destroyer of life at worst. Please help us put a stop to these injections that are causing so many to suffer so much!

I want to thank you for taking the time to read my story. I pray every night that if we can stop anyone else from ending up with this hellish pain then I will feel that I have made a difference. 

Tom Bresnahan lives in Florida. He is a patient advocate and activist with the Arachnoiditis Society for Awareness and Prevention.

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.