Wednesday, August 5, 2009

My Curse

I blogged about my aching back a few days ago and am sad to say the situation has not improved. At all.

In fact it got worse. Way worse.

The pain got intense, ranking right up there with the intensity of childbirth and kidney stones. Not only did the pain get worse but the numbness got worse as well. You know the shocking, jarring feeling when you whack your funny bone and it sends that stunned arc of pain through your entire arm? Ya, that began happening all of the time. I lost the ability to use the last two fingers in my right hand and had severe weakness in my arm. It was pretty scary to say the least. After speaking to the urgent care center, Jeff took me to the ER since this met the definition of an emergency and was outside the scope of an office visit.

Now, this is where I should fill in some back-story so you'll see what I mean when I say "my curse". See, I have a high pain tolerance. One doctor, my urologist, called it "freakishly high". And what always happens when I am in severe pain one believes me. Ever. I don't writhe. I don't cry. I don't lose it or show it outwardly. I sit there dealing with it by going inside my own head. I cannot show it for some reason. I don't know why but I just can't. And it never fails, because I don't show pain, even the most severe, medical personnel do not believe me. It's frustrating.

When I had appendicitis during my pregnancy with my oldest my OB sent me to the hospital for a surgeon to evaluate me. Both the nurse who admitted me and the surgeon felt nothing was wrong because when I said my pain was a level 10 (on their little pain scale 1=fine 10=worst pain of your life) they said, "It doesn't look like it." Long story short, I went in to have the appendectomy and they found it inflamed and ready to burst and both nurse and doctor stepped all over themselves apologizing to me for not believing me. "You didn't look like it hurt that bad." No shit.

Another example, after my second was born I went to the doctor with severe pain in the lower right side of my back. My doctor sent me to the emergency room where I was, of course, asked what my pain level was. I answered "10". After a bit I was admitted and the next day an IVP showed three kidney stones. Long story short (it was a very long stay filled with lots of horrible events) my urologist had to do surgery to remove one last stone. I was in serious pain but they didn't believe me because I wasn't showing it outwardly. After the surgery was finished, he came to me and apologized for not really understanding how uncomfortable I was as he just pulled a 9mm stone out of me and that had to be excruciating.

I have a lot of those stories. It never fails. Medical professionals have an idea of what they think severe pain looks like then I come along, in severe pain, and am discounted as someone who isn't really in any pain at all. So back to yesterday...

Yesterday in the ER, I was asked the question about my pain level. I said, "Eight." I have felt worse but it was pretty bad. They gave me a shot of morphine (lovely stuff!) The doctor examined me...well, not so much examined but moved my head from side-to-side and said it's a compressed nerve and he wanted to take x-rays of my neck. I came back, the morphine had worn off...rather it only barely took the edge off of the pain and Jeff went out and told the nurse I was in bad shape again. And we waited...

The doctor came in and explained the results of the films. The x-rays come back showing extra bone growth that is compressing my spinal column. And told me that he thought the acute pain was controlled so I could go. I asked if the damage to my hand was permanent and that I was still in severe pain but he said, "I don't know." and walked out of the room. A minute later a nurse came in to check me out. I signed my name...well, what I was passing as my name because I could not control my hand. He handed me a list of prescriptions then said, "the pharmacy will put the instructions on the bottle" and walked out. That was it.

I spent all last night trying to will the Lortab to work better than it does. It's not. But I got enough of my hand movement back to type! I am very grateful for backspace though, my fingers are not quite going where I ask them's still a bit unsettling!

So the moral of this post:

If you are in severe pain, medical emergency pain, whine and cry and carry on about it because having a high pain tolerance does nothing for you. I am tired of doctors and nurses coming back to me after tests confirm that ya, I'm pretty miserable and apologizing. And if I am lucky enough to influence a medical professional--if you use the pain scale then USE it and believe your patients when they tell you it is severe. People don't display pain the same way and some people don't show it at all! Especially if your patient has zero history of abusing pain medicine or ER frequent fliers!

I'm going back to sleep now.



Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Laurie! I hope it gets much better soon :(

Lisa said...

(((hugs Laurie)))