It’s been a heck of a week, friends.
Friday was a trip to the pain management clinic, which — per usual — was wholeheartedly depressing. I find that I feel even worse whenever I come out of those appointments because I realize how useless they are. Pain management clinics, that is. Massachusetts as a whole is now attempting to curb prescription drug addiction. That’s great. That’s dandy. But now my clinic’s stance is that they will not prescribe opioid pain medication to anyone except for cancer patients. We’re talking even something like Tylenol 3, which my pediatrician used to prescribe to me after the First Accident. Patients who’ve (responsibly) used Percocet or Vicodin for years are now finding themselves wanting and in withdrawal. Actual pain patients are being treated as addicts.
So I get my nerve medication and antidepressants, but then the big gaping black hole they don’t cover is alive and writhing and screaming in my head all day, every day. When I asked how to handle that hole, the nurse practitioner, oblivious to the fact that she has never experienced a decade’s worth of pain, actually had the gall to say, “You have to learn to live with the new you.”
I could’ve kicked her teeth in, but that probably would’ve been labeled “pill-seeking behavior.” This is also what she said to me before my spine surgery, so I decided to take a year-long sabbatical from their clinic until I became too complicated for my surgeon’s pain management office. I didn’t want to start all over again with new doctors, so I returned, my pain now widespread and diffuse.
The problem is that there is no specific genesis for this pain I have. It started in my neck and back, sure. But now it’s in my head. It’s in my legs. It’s in my arms. It snakes throughout my trunk. How do you treat that? You can’t just inject something and expect it to reach the rest of the body.
Except you can. You can do an IV of lidocaine, apparently. That is what Monday’s adventure was. The pain team infused me with three syringes of lidocaine, which can at most be repeated once a month, and at its best will last about three to four weeks. The goal was to calm down my central nervous system enough for me to function properly. Sensors were applied to my chest so they could monitor my heart rate, and the blood pressure cuff kept constricting my arm every few minutes.
During the procedure? Heaven.
The drug was injected over the span of about twenty minutes. The doctor kept asking me questions, waiting for side effects to kick in — which happened almost immediately. I swooned back into the pillow on the hospital bed, wagging my tongue around; it’d gone numb. My face was tingling. My eyes slid around in their sockets like pool balls. Suddenly every word I tried to say became a picture in my head, and the spaces in between sentences, in between syllables, became gargantuan. They came out of my mouth like a trail of drool. My body was jelly and seeped down the cot, collecting in a puddle on the stark white sheets. They kept asking me what my pain was on the normal one-to-ten scale. I started at about a six; I slurred my way to a one, which I haven’t experienced in more than ten years, and then ended at about a three. I was crying. The pain was almost gone. The pain was almost gone.
But not for long, naturally. Barely an hour after the procedure, once Husband had poured me into the car and then chauffeured me home, the base of my head was alight. My spine was crackling with fire. My hands and feet were jolting. What I think happened was that once they stopped injecting the medication, my body went from zero to sixty. No pain to all the pain. I spent the afternoon and evening snuggled up in bed with Fattie, waiting for the lidocaine to stop swirling around my bloodstream and settle down like the doctors said it would.
Now it’s Thursday. Tuesday was all kinds of awful. Yesterday I was better, I actually felt good. And today, I’ve crashed. It’s been an emotional week, to say the least. It’s hard to have your hope dashed over and over again. The worst part is that this pain clinic said if the IV lidocaine doesn’t work, they would attempt an infusion of lidocaine mixed with ketamine. If that doesn’t work… shrug.
It’s been a very trying time for both Husband and me. It’s difficult to stay optimistic when it seems that the pain management clinic is being so thoroughly unhelpful, refusing to prescribe pain pills in order to protect themselves from government crackdowns. The problem is that modern medicine doesn’t understand pain very well. It’s entirely subjective. Every person experiences it differently, and what is trite to one individual might crush another.
Every day this week has been depressing, so guess what? We’re ending on kittens.