Saturday, January 26, 2013

My dear friend writes about his bout with chronic pain

My friend Amanda asked if I would share my experience with some chronic pain I have, and continue to, deal with.

I am a normal, active and fairly healthy 36 year old male. I have always been hard working holding mostly manual labor jobs. I was in the Army infantry for five years and did a two year deployment to Iraq. Once home from Iraq I drove trucks over the road for a bit and then decided to go to school. In February of my second year of school I woke up one day to a sore ass. Nothing major, just felt like I had been kicked real hard in the butt. Well, I’m a health guy, and so I thought whatever was ailing me would go away. Weeks went by and this pain persisted. Now- I’m stubborn, and I am a healthy guy… So whatever this pin in my ass was, I was certain would work itself out. Day by day this pain got worse. By April I couldn’t hardly sit, stand or lay down without some serious discomfort. One day in May I had Supper with my family, and decided to lay on the bed for a bit. Well, I couldn’t lie down and I was howling in pain. The pain was in my butt and going down my leg. I went to the ER and they took an X-ray for my back. I was given some super-duper pain meds and told I had “degenerative arthritis” whatever the hell that is. So, I called my Mom as she is a nurse and told her my life was over, I had this degenerative arthritis. She laughed and said we all have that, it’s part of getting older. That answer is the answer they give when they have no idea what is actually wrong with you.

So a few more days go by and I don’t get better. I call and they set me up for a CAT scan. I do this CAT scan and it doesn’t show much. By this time I am in the ER on a every three or four day rotation. I hurt and I hurt BAD. So much for being a young health guy. I went in at one point and could hardly move. Couldn’t walk, couldn’t sit… At this point I got an MRI and an overnight stay in the hospital. They gave me dilaudid for the pain, and soon after that lil shot I felt like I was eighteen again. At this point I was told (after the MRI) that I had a bulged disk in my back and it was pinching a nerve. How the hell could this happen to me? I was young, I was healthy? I fought as an infantryman in the Army… and now I couldn’t walk. June came and went, July I was in the ER every other day. Same story, same mix of drugs. I was now on a host of meds, mostly pain meds, and I was eating them like candy. None of this helped. In August I came in and was treated like a drug seeker. Now- I am not a drug seeker. I like to drink, but in my life I have never, ever, ever been on drugs. So now that I actually need them… I get treated like some kind of drug seeker. That day I vowed never to go back to the ER no matter how much pain I was in. I took the prescribed amount of vicoden I was given, and sat on a block of ice for two weeks. I couldn’t sleep, I was in too much pain. The pain by now started in the butt and went all the way down my leg. Once in bed I couldn’t move- and I mean AT ALL. My wife started sleeping in a different room. A lot of times in the night I would wake up screaming in pain. Like blood curdling screaming. The nerve would pinch more and there was nothing I could do except live through the pain. This was hands down the worst thing I have ever dealt with. Think of being tied up and tortured. I couldn’t move, and even though I was not moving, the pain would overtake me. I couldn’t do a thing. I slept very little for about two weeks. Getting out of bed was fun too. I absolutely could not sit up- nor could I roll over without seeing stars. I am talking the worst fucking pain a human can endure here. Not some discomfort… worst pain ever. And guess what, you couldn’t see it. No broken bones, no blood, nothing, just my word saying I was in the worst pain ever. Back to getting out of bed… I would roll over, and then shimmy out of bed. I could put no weight on my left leg (the affected side of me) I would need to stretch for several minutes just to put weight on my leg. Stretch to the foot of the bed, then another stretch to the head of the bed. (This took 10 or 15 minutes) then grab my dresser and prop myself up. Then weight on my leg, then stretch more. After 25 minutes of stretching I could now, with the aid of the bed and footboard, limp to the point where my bathroom door was near, do a spin step hop thing and damn near die taking one step to my bathroom. (Hey the only reason I got out of bed was to use the bathroom) I would then stand at the toilet to relieve myself, and in order to do so I had to stand on one leg. Sitting and pooping… I will spar you the details. For June July and August I had a bucket next to the bed, because I could NOT make it the ONE STEP to my bathroom.

Did I tell you I was a young healthy guy? A bad ass in my own mind. Fit for anything. Did some of the hardest things a person can do… I have always been healthy. I am the guy who doesn’t believe in this “unseen pain.” If there isn’t blood, it can’t hurt. All these people claiming disability…. Most of them are just too lazy to work. Looking for a handout.

I went from the top of the world, to the bottom. This can’t be happening to me. I have great wife, and great kid, I am in one of the hardest schools in the country. I survived combat. My life is perfect. I went from that… to locking up my guns and giving my wife the key to the gun safe because I was that dame close to ending my life. No bullshit. I would cry and cry on my wife shoulder. She would cook, clean, mow the yard, go out with friends… I would lie in bed and cry. I couldn’t get up. I couldn’t do even the simplest things in the house with considerable effort.

So why aren’t I dead. Well, the guns were locked up silly. Here’s what I did. I quite going to the ER. I sat on ice for weeks on end. I would get up at 4:00 or 5:00 and watch tv- sitting on ice. I went on a diet (I wasn’t huge, but I had gained weight since coming home from Iraq.) I lost 15 pounds in three weeks. I went to physical therapy. I really don’t know what helped, what did the trick. I do not think it was the therapy. That just wasn’t effective for me. The Ice- maybe. The diet, could be. I really don’t know. I got off the drugs. Getting off most was no problem, like I said I never did drugs, and I don’t like them. All except for vicoden. That lil bad boy is addictive. I did get off vicoden, I need it for pain and I took it for pain, but as I tried to quit cold turkey- I found I was addicted to it. So I simply cut my doses. In three weeks I was off vicoden.

So, how am I now? Well, I hurt. Not the absolute hurt I initially had. I would say on that good ole pain scale I am at a 2 every day all day long. This is chronic. I am off the drugs, but I do have an open prescription for vicoden. At times I take it. Mostly I use it for sleep. I have a consult for surgery in a week.

My story gets very complicated when I start telling you about my health care provider. I will be brief. I go to the VA. The VA sucks and they won’t spend money on a person. I had no other insurance. I signed up with my wife’s insurance (we didn’t do this previously, because hey… I’m a healthy young man right.. what could go wrong?) and had to wait for the preexisting condition time limit to come. So now that’s up and here I am. I could write a ten page paper on the shitty treatment from the VA and the waiting and waiting I did with the regular insurance, and goddamn loopholes I had to jump through just to get a damn consult to see the surgeon… That process alone took months.

All in all I am better. The consult is in a week. I do not want surgery, but I also do not want to be in the pain I am in for the rest of my life.

My outlook on unseen pain has changed 100%. Oh, sure there are people faking it. Lots of lazy pricks looking for a free ride and a hand out, but chronic pain, unseen pain, back pain, PTSD (Ya, I have that too), and other unseen illnesses certainly exist

Remember I was young, I was healthy, I fought a fucking war… and for three months I couldn’t get out of bed. And if I could have I would have shot myself.

I’m better now- but you can bet your ass I am a believer now too. My life is getting back on track. My awesome wife endured this with me and stuck by my side. I am gaining weight again as I am back in classes and I do nothing but go to class then come home to study. I look forward to completing this semester as this is my last semester of class work and then I can more actively pursue my weight loss goals.

Life is good again.

Jason Surface