I suffer from something called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. It is a chronic pain condition and I am in mind numbing pain 24/7. I am told that I even moan in my sleep – and not in a good way. Standing up hurts. Sitting down hurts. Walking hurts. Climbing stairs leaves me wanting to just blow my brains out. And so far, no drug or combination of drugs has given me any relief at all. And many Doctors, no make that most Doctors have no real understanding of pain as a condition. My RSD is the result of surgery. The Doctor who did my surgery, who I kept going back to for follow up to try and make the pain stop, had absolutely no clue about pain as a condition. Because his surgery had been technically correct, he felt the pain must be in my head. In fact, the research I have done in the six years since the surgery (yes I have been in this pain for six years and it is getting progressively worse), shows that not only should this surgeon have known what my condition was, but he should have told me about the odds before surgery. Sure I heard all about the risks of anesthesia, etc., etc. But the odds they tell you about are very heavy in your favor. But it took me no time to discover reading medical papers online, after the fact, that a female of my age having the type of surgery I had, stood a 13% chance of developing chronic pain. Hey, you tell me maybe 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 100,000 and those are odds I can bet on. But if someone told me 13 out of 100 people will have this surgery and be in pain every second of their life, baby I would not have taken those odds in a million years! But in this surgeon’s eyes, it was all in my head – or I was a drug addict. On my last visit with this Doctor, I started out calm and patient. I tried to explain that it was not in my head. That I was not some junkie looking for pills. I took my bottle of Oxycodone out of my purse and showed him I was no longer even taking them. They did not work. I was looking for something that would work. And if it worked and if I had to take it every day for ever, possibly, did that make me an addict or some one who was being treated for pain? I could not make him understand and by the end of the session I was shrieking at him in a white hot combination of pain and rage. He was huddled in a corner, near tears and practically in a fetal position when I left him never to return.
And that is where I think the TV series “House” made a very bad move. They could have dealt with the serious issue of chronic pain but instead chose to make Dr. House a junkie and send him to rehab. I always watch the show and enjoy it greatly but that has always bothered me. But the other night, I had quite a laugh. Two of the other Doctors were going through records they should not have been. Files on the staff. They looked at House’s file and quickly realized that he had put in all sorts of dummied up stuff. And one commented to the other, “What goes on in his head? What’s it like in there?” The other Doctor happened to have some Vicodin he was planning to return to the pharmacy. But he decided if they wanted to understand what went on in House’s head, the best way would be to take two Vicodin each and then they would know where House’s head is at, or was, since theoretically at least, he’s now clean. Well, they got stoned. They couldn’t stand up. House didn’t get stoned. House functioned. House functioned at an above average standard.
IF YOU HAVE TO TAKE DRUGS BECAUSE YOU ARE IN CHRONIC PAIN, YOU ARE NOT A JUNKIE, YOU ARE MANAGING YOUR PAIN. And I really think it is time more people in the medical profession were educated in the field of pain management.
Sure, there are a lot of Doctors who profess to be pain specialists. Trust me, I have been going through the list. During these past years, I met one honest, compassionate pain specialist. I went to him because despite being an M.D., he did not prescribe drugs. We talked, he studied my x-rays, he examined me… I have never had any Doctor spend as much time with me as he did. This guy got to know my history back to my early childhood. After about an hour he asked me if I had ever heard about RSD. When I replied that I hadn’t, he told me I should start reading up on it. He could have had me back several times a week for PT and massages and whirlpools which my insurance would have covered. But he told me that in all honesty, it wasn’t going to help me. I was impressed – an honest man. He told me there were always new drugs coming out, combinations of drugs that some people got some degree of relief from and you just had to keep trying and hoping for the next pharmaceutical advancement. He gave me the name of a Doctor. Unfortunately, he turned out to be refusing new patients so I started on a quest to find the right Doctor. It has been frustrating. The last quack almost killed me. But now I have found a Doctor who seems thoughtful and understanding and is approaching this in a very careful way. There will be constant monitoring to see a drug is not hurting me. And he hopes that perhaps we can come up with at least a degree of relief. No promises. But I like his honesty and I can’t give up trying.
But to the script writers at House I say: House went to rehab to humor everyone. He has been self medicating all along since he came out. He finally came up with a cocktail of drugs that works for him. And an entire episode is devoted to the difference between addiction and dealing with pain.