Image 1. Classic Gold Littman Stethoscope. Image Courtesy heartmonitormart.com. Doctors sometimes become patients, too.
My journey into the outer space non-earth world of chronic, severe pain began when I was assaulted by a patient while an Intern at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. They say this was the biggest hospital in the world. At its prime, it served so many patients in so many floors of the hospital that one had to literally be in good enough physical shape to walk up and down countless stairs, opening huge and heavy fire doors at each stairway. After the 1992 Northridge earthquake, the stairways were riddled with cracks and today, the iconic hospital is not used.
Image 2. LAC-USC Medical Center. This is the hospital steps used in the opening scene for the soap opera, General Hospital. I worked on the 13th Floor Jail Ward during the time that Rodney King was tried in Los Angeles. These were tremulous times. And we’re still in tremulous times as we hold on to patient’s rights, the physician:patient relationship and the very Practice of Medicine.
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I was Vice President of the entire 1200-training doctor’s advocacy group, the HouseOfficer’s Association (HOA). We regularly met with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, the Chief of Staff, and Department Chairs. One of the things we talked about was violence inflicted on medical students, interns, residents and Fellows on hospital grounds. There had been one rumored murder along the surrounding streets and a pregnant anesthesiology resident had been assaulted in the doctor’s parking lot. She left. We were never granted access to our request: data on the violence. Shortly after we received the ‘no’ to our question, I was assaulted by a patient who got me in a choke-hold. I had resulting neck pain for many years thereafter.
In 2006, a lady was distracted while driving and she hit me and my daughter (she is fine and beautiful). I suffered a traumatic brain injury, vertebral artery dissection and after the “It’s All in Your Head” scenario (See Image 3), a diagnosis of dysautonomia was made by the awesome Dr. David S. Cannom at Good Samaritan Hospital in downtown Los Angeles, California. I became severely disabled and had intractable pain after spinal stenosis surgery left me with severe migraines, unable to swallow, and in severe pain.
Image 3. It’s All in Your Head. This has to be on the Top 10 List of the worst things said to anyone, ever. Image Courtesy www.thomdunn.info
Some people live lives filled with pain from the time they open their eyes until the time they go to sleep, if they can sleep. As the #RallyAgainstPain takes place annually in Washington, DC, I want people to know there are doctors who advocate for patients in this arena. It is Thomas Kline, MD on Twitter who said,
Many of us work night and day for you.
Pain is a Biologic Process
I wouldn’t wish a painful life on anyone. There’s no Quality of Life (QoL). In the beginning, there was a tissue injury. Time can pass so gradually that days turn into more days, then months and years of brain fog. Too busy to realize the change, many don’t notice when thrust into the “The Chronic Life”. It may have started with a limb, spine, or brain injury, but now you know you’re in it, and it’s full-blown.
I Tweet about The Chronic Life all the time. And am writing The Chronic Life Diet. Because where there is inflammation, chronicity can develop, and vice versa. By eating one spoon at a time, your body can change from the inside out to counteract chronic inflammation.
You may not like the word, “chronic” (in a chronic injury over three months) but it is necessary to conjure the eye’s picture wherein a pathologic condition exists that is opposite to “acute” (just banged the toe with a hammer, for example). It is marked by a proliferation of inflammatory markers that rally in as the On Call Defense for the body, the biologic process of tissue damage and repair. The Chronic Life Diet puts you on notice that everything anti-inflammatory needs to have a certain appeal, to halt or minimize it as much as possible.
Pain is a Lifestyle
Things seem that they are somehow just not quite right, and it’s hard to put a finger on what to do to make one feel both physically and mentally better. But you stay in this limbo for an unknown time and feel exactly like you are living life on earth in an actual hell. Because every minute of every day is spent toiling to breath and beat a heart, with no hope of anything ever getting or feeling like it’s about to get better.It seems that everyone is tired of you and they laugh about you over dinner. Hope is far away, meant for others but you, and you don’t understand what you ever did to deserve this life..
Well, you never did anything wrong. Life just happens and The Rebel Patient (TM) in you can fight for your diagnosis first, then be sure it’s correct, then get the proper treatment, if available. And let’s work toward a cure.
Some days, people in pain remind themselves to just take one day at a time. Many days, though, they remind themselves to live just one hour at a time. That’s how bad they don’t want to be here anymore. The only thing that stops them from killing themselves is putting all the more pain in a loved one’s life, so the pain would never end. Suicide is a big problem in the US, and we need to reinforce what Kevin Caruso says,
Suicide is NEVER the answer,
getting help is the answer.
If you are suicidal, have attempted suicide,
or are a suicide survivor,
you will find help, hope, comfort, understanding,
support, love, and extensive resources here.
I Love You.
And I will never stop fighting for you,
Founder, Executive Director, Editor-in-Chief
Senior Writer, Forum Administrator
After spinal stenosis surgery through an incision that slashed my neck, it was over one year before I could eat a regular diet. I was so sad. My QoL was down. When my esophagus went into spasm, I literally thought I was dying of a heart attack. The Emergency Room doctor disappeared and no one rooted for me. I was discarded. Over and over again with a PICC line in for over 3 years (see Image 4), my complaints were diminished, ignored or objectionable.
Image 4. The Chronic Life. Patients in chronic pain suffer additional medical problems that make life on earth feel like hell. Some are at increased risk of committing suicide to end their hell on earth. Doctors can and should help patients so they don’t want to die to get out of pain. And no, it’s not Jennifer’s picture; it was stolen while I was sick, but that is my actual arm with my actual PICC line in it.
So I get that many patients are in pain and no one seems to care because that’s exactly how people treat you half the time. The other half of the time, they just don’t know what to say, so sometimes they say the wrong things. Be forgiving and stay strong.
No one is allowed to turn our eyes away from doing what is right. And if we established our morals early in life, then our decisions become easy. Keep fighting for what is right, even if there is no one around to see you.
It’s hard to be in pain all the time. It’s a lifestyle, a personality that sort of hits you at random times, especially when you feel halfway normal. Then there are the flares on top of the chronic condition. At the breakthrough pain – the point when life is truly miserable – many seek an escape. Continue to be there for your family and friends in pain, because they need you more than they say.
It’s very important that we support one another and put aside all our differences in life.
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