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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My life as an onion

I just got home from Lubbock, where I was seen by a pain management specialist at the Texas Tech Pain Center on the recommendation from my older brother.  His wife has been suffering from FMS and other disorders and she has been treated there for quite some time and is now doing much better and functioning!

The appointment didn't go as well as I had hoped it would.  I guess I was hoping for some miracle drug or procedure that would stop the pain completely and give me a new lease on life.  Needless to say, that didn't happen.

What did happen plummeted me into hysterical, inconsolable, and uncontrollable crying.  I was actually crying before the appointment.  We had just driven to Lubbock from El Paso (my son drove, I mainly did my best to be comfortable laying in the backseat of my tiny Saturn Ion), I was nervous about the appointment, and I just was not feeling well.

I didn't have to wait long until being called into the examination room.  My brother went with me because he has so much experience dealing with the doctors there and he remembers everything. I remember nothing...ever...so it was important to have someone there to tell me what happened later.

Texas Tech is, of course, a teaching hospital.  The "fellows" at the pain clinic are actual doctors, usually anesthesiologists, who are receiving extensive training in pain management procedures.

I lay on the uncomfortable examination table for just a few minutes before one of the "fellows" comes in to do his "examination" before I am seen by the attending doctor.  He didn't examine me, he tortured me.  He contorted my back in ways it should not have been moved (I swear he used his knee in my spine to bend me), he found every painful point on my body and manipulated it until I screamed.  I felt like I was in an inquisition and being "put to the question". I almost confessed to being a heretic and would have welcomed being garroted at that point.  I cried, I cussed, I told the "fellow" I was going to have my brother kick his ass, and I told him I didn't like him and to get away from me.

My brother and the fellow assure me that this torturous examination was necessary.  I hated both of them at that time, because I could have just told them where I hurt!

But that was it.  That was my examination that told the attending doctor what was wrong with me: I have overall body pain.  No X-rays, no MRI, no blood tests, nothing else.  Of course, they had copies of my previous tests and x-ray results; they knew I had previously had a spinal fusion surgery and scoliosis in my neck due to a car accident two years ago; but they didn't try to pinpoint why I was having the overall body pain.  Once again, the diagnosis was the dreaded Fibromyalgia.

Allow me to digress.  Ever since I received that diagnosis in 2007, I have been requesting additional tests to be done to rule out FMS. I had my doctor test for hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, renal fatigue, renal failure, hormone imbalances, and a dozen other things I can't remember right now.  All my tests came back normal, so I was stuck with this diagnosis.  I just wanted it to be something treatable!!

Back to Lubbock: the attending came in and told me things I already knew.  I had FMS and my muscles hurt.  He suggested I start taking Savella (a new drug designed only for Fibromyalgia), find a muscle relaxer with which I won't have adverse reactions (I'm allergic to many muscle relaxers), and start aquatic therapy.  He wouldn't give me the prescriptions because I don't live in Lubbock and he won't be able to follow up with me on my progress, so he gave me a note to give to my PCP to prescribe the medications for me.  Puh.  I just called my doctor's office and told them, and the prescription was called into a Lubbock Walgreens by the end of the day.  My doc is cool like that.

As I was listening to the attending doctor reiterate what he had already told me, it dawned on me that that was it.  That is all they are going to do for me.  Torture me, then prescribe a medication my doctor was going to put me on anyway (as soon as he received information about it).  Nothing more.  I started crying while the attending was speaking to me, then I started bawling, then it turned into the ugly face, uncontrollable loud bellowing that was probably heard throughout the clinic. I couldn't help it. All I felt, besides the intense pain throughout my body, was greif. Going to Lubbock was, to me, my last hope at finding relief and I got nothing.

But why the "onion" in the blog title?  I was talking with my brother the following day about how disappointed I was with the doctors at the pain center and how I didn't feel I received the right medical treatment.

My brother used a metaphor he had learned from another doctor at the pain center when his wife was being treated there: treating someone with pain management is like peeling an onion.  There are so many layers the doctors have to go through in order to get to the heart of the problem.  After you get through the first thin layers, you really have to work at getting through the rest.

My brother told me that, despite the fact I have bonafide reasons for back pain, I have to address my severe depression before I will be able to get better.  He told me that I had been depressed almost my entire life, and for good reasons (the reasons will not be discussed here).  He told me that I have to be seen by a psychiatrist as soon as possible, not just for mental health reasons but also to have my medications reviewed and, if necessary, modified.  He told me that once I am healthy mentally, I can start working on getting healthy physically.  It was the first time he spoke to me like he actually cared, and he made some great points and observations.

So now I embark on my life as an onion.  I will start psychiatric treatments soon (just waiting for the call-back), and start working on being more physically active.  I do need someone to go to water aerobics with me.  Any takers?

I think my doctors are going to have their work cut out for them.  My layers are pretty thick, as I have built walls, posted guards, and given the command to shoot at will at anyone who attempts to access certain parts of my life from which I have worked so hard to distance myself. 

But I want to get better, so let the peeling begin.

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