Welcome back! Last week we heard from our new Guest DO, Dr. Maureen Sacon, regarding our new topic, Pain and Suffering. She gave us a lot to think about, didn’t she? This week, we hear from a young lady who is only 29 years old, and has been through so much…please welcome her…. and enjoy Part II of Pain and Suffering.
Late last September, 2016, I left to a normal day to my normal schedule. I had no idea it was going to be a day that changed my life completely. The car accident happened before I even got to my first stop. Details aside, there was a rear-ending. I thought I was fine. I went about my day, to my appointment and then to work. However, about two hours into work, I had the worst stomach pain imaginable. That started the spiral of everything. Between then and sitting here over a year later with an ice pack wrapped around my neck, I’ve been through so much.
As I walked into my regular chiropractor’s office the day after my accident, they knew right away something was wrong. They immediately discovered I had suffered a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, or an mTBI. I was a mess. Over the next few weeks, and months, I was a sobbing , painful mess. They decided to refer me out, in what they thought was my best interest, to a functional neurologist. I saw this man, along with my chiropractors, for a short while. To be candid, making the drive from Salem to Sherwood wasn’t my biggest problem in seeing my new doctor. It was when his care went too far the moment he slid his hand down the back of my pants that seeing him became an issue. So, with that, in just a couple short visits, I was referred out again, to a different functional neurologist on the preface that he was “closer to home”. I was now on doctor number five of what soon became a much, much longer list.
My new functional neurologist helped me navigate so much in the next few months of care. I was at least thankful that the course of events brought me to him. Now, with my core, wonderful team, I was figuring out what kind of other help I needed. I had pain all over my body, from my head to my foot that was braking at the time of the accident. Symptoms kept arising every day… every week. The worst pain was in my left arm, but the hardest thing to conquer, at first, was the mTBI.
I started acupuncture. That helped my pain, and stress, but I also started having counseling sessions directed towards the stress surrounding my accident. Since I was taken off of work soon after the accident, the stress of not knowing how I was going to pay my bills quite literally kept me up at night. If I did finally get to sleep from the pain I was in, you could have made a winning bet on the fact that I would wake up from terror in the middle of the night.
My list grew: Chiropractors, Functional Neurologists, Acupuncturist, Counselor, Psychiatrists, Physiatrists, Physical Therapist, Orthopedist, PCPs, RNs, LPNs, PAs, MAs, Neurosurgeon, and specialists of all sorts. I stopped adding to the list after seeing 16 doctors and specialists. Not to mention a countless number of urgent care visits due to uncontrolled pain, and countless advice nurse calls. Hours and hours of my time – my life – trying just to merely find out what’s wrong with my body; meanwhile, unable to work. My job *was* my healthcare.
On top of barely being able to get out of bed, not being able to work, and with the growing pain that just kept making things more difficult, I also had people questioning my truthfulness. I felt attacked – by my insurance company, but also by some of my care team, and definitely by urgent care. It was like they didn’t believe I could possibly be in as much pain as I was in, and if I was in that much pain, their hands were tied by management to give me the proper meds that would help me.
I often felt like a drug seeker, even though my entire life I have been anti-medications and anti-drugs. I haven’t so much as smoked a single cigarette in my entire 29 years of life. Addictions run in my family, and I have vowed to not be one more person added to that list. And yet, there I was, being treated just the same. It made me so mad.
I was mad at my care providers, and their bosses, I was mad at the system, and every single addicted person that ever made it this difficult for me to get the proper care that I needed – when I legitimately needed it.
My pain was so bad that I wanted to cut my arm off. It got to the point where I literally told my care team I would figure out how to self-medicate if they weren’t going to help me. It’s so easy to get anything you want off the streets. Way easier than getting it from them, obviously, and if they wouldn’t help me, even though I was desperately trying to do it the legitimate way, that I would figure it out myself, if I needed to. And their response to me? That there was nothing they could do.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t get the help I needed for a very long time. Even though I cried, I pleaded, I literally shook in front of them in pain, and they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, help me. I was forced to help myself in the easiest way I could think of… I drank. Before they started giving me Percocet regularly, I was on 1000mg of Naproxen, 2000mg of Tylenol, 800mg of Gabapentin, 20mg of Nortriptyline, and those were just my daily pain meds. Then, I drank. Not every night, but when I would go to urgent care and they would tell me to get over it (aka, “there’s nothing we can do”), I would drink; and cry, of course… my only solace; my only solution.
Finally, through many referrals, I was sent to a neurosurgeon who said I should have had neck surgery three months into this fiasco.
People finally started seeing me as truthful. They actually started to see that I legitimately needed help. Of course, it was 10 and a half months later. Even with a solution, I still encountered so many problems. People didn’t believe my pain was that bad. For eight months, up until my surgery was scheduled and there was a means to an end, did things finally start looking up. Until then, however, the problems ensued. Even with MRI results in hand and a nerve study test on file, the medical exam done by my car insurance concluded that I was *not* injured. So… they cut off my care. Just in time for surgery, no less. That left me pursuing insurance through my private healthcare, which denied me and I had to appeal.
I had my surgery just two weeks ago. I’ve had some complications, but I’m hopeful that I can resume, or create, my life again soon. I lost so much in all of this. So many things not mentioned that I can’t get back. I can only move forward. I just wish that there would have been a way to get the help I needed sooner. That people would have believed me when I told them my reality. Maybe if that would have been the case, I wouldn’t have lost so much of myself and my life. Maybe I could have gotten better sooner and salvaged something. I may have been spared a life of addiction because no one would help me, but I lost possibly just as much by not getting the help I needed sooner.
Life is a two-sided coin, isn’t it? You just never know what the right path is – or when a normal day can change your life.
Here is Dr. Maureen Sacon’s response to Lisa’s Blog. You don’t want to skip this part, as it applies to us all. Osteopathic Medicine is unique, and many fail to understand the healing that can take place in a DO’s office.
When new patients come into my office I spend a whole hour with them so I can truly listen to their stories. I make my living by watching people move and feeling their tissues. I’m like a hunter looking for things that aren’t moving well. Where is the “hitch in the get along” ? That’s what I would do if you walked into my office as a new patient tomorrow. I would watch you walk and move around. I might ask you to move a certain part in a certain way while I feel your tissues and make an educated guess where I should start.
We usually start with a trial of three treatments of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM). Most of the time people get some pain relief and range of motion usually improves. While we are spending time together we get to know each other. We will talk about your spiritual and emotional well-being as well as your physical health and come up with your unique healing plan. I use a baseball analogy when meeting new patients. I like to get up to bat three times. Sometimes I strike out. Sometimes I get a base hit. Occasionally I hit a home run. If the bases are loaded when I get my home run hit that’s called a grand slam. That doesn’t happen every day! Which is OK because life is a bit like baseball. Steady play and consistent base hits is what wins the World Series and recovering from an injury like yours is more of a season of play than a single game. Our whole culture is based on a quick fix. Get injured – no problem. Find the perfect medication, surgery, or procedure and you’re back in business after a long weekend. In reality recovery requires hard work.
You expressed a lot of loss, frustration and anger. This might be the first string that I give a little tug. This is going to be a hard conversation and I can be very direct. This is where some new patients walk out and never come back. And that’s OK. I don’t want patients who expect me to do all the heavy lifting. After 20 years in practice I find that one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is to help patients regain some of what they have lost after trauma AND to accept that some things are lost and you just never get them back.
A mind that is constantly focused on pain is unable to shift gears in order to participate fully in the present moment. One of my favorite Osteopathic mentors, Stan Schiowitz, DO, used to say: “if it can move it will fix itself.” This is just as valid when talking about a cervical vertebrae unable to move because of muscle strain as it is a mind that is so focused on pain that it is unable to focus on anything else.
You might do well to start with some kind of therapy to help with your terrors. Or maybe you need to change your habits; eat less or better; develop whatever stretching and strengthening plan you can do for 30 minutes twice a day; start a mindfulness or meditative practice where you sit for an hour a day; or spend more time communing with nature.
One of my most important first steps after meeting a patient like you would be to help you establish a medical team. I might send you to see some surgeons or acupuncturists. A team is a group of people working together towards a common goal. When every team member gets to use their unique skills and express their brilliance then the end result is bigger and better than the sum of everyone’s individual efforts.
I have some trail guides. But you have to actually get out of the house and do the hiking. Pack the picnic, break in the new shoes, tolerate some blisters. Together we’ll set some priorities and goals. I might recommend starting with just sitting on a yoga ball for 5 minutes a day or maybe just floating around with some noodles in a pool. Are there some specific yoga stretches or strengthening exercises for you that we can figure out together?
Along the way you will get to know my staff. I get a lot of compliments about my staff. They are truly great. They understand loving kindness. And teamwork. And how valuable it can be to gain insight which is what happens when the same problem is looked at from many different perspectives. This allows a deeper and more complete understanding of the problem.
The most rewarding aspect of my professional life is reducing people’s pain and suffering with Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT). Often patients who have failed other modalities are surprised that they respond to such a gentle subtle technique. In addition to this hands on treatment I work towards changing the goal away from eliminating pain and towards improving function.
It is such a joy to watch people learn to move their pain to the background and their joy to the foreground. Getting patients back to socializing with friends, exercising, engaging their minds and bodies again, and ultimately enjoying life again. Sometimes I say they have learned not to take their pain personally.
I frequently ask my patients the same questions: Have you tried every possible treatment for your emotional and spiritual health as well? Do you love to be in nature? Are you working as hard as you can to constantly push the limits of your exercise practice? Eating well? Sleeping? Practicing mindfulness, working through adversity, not taking random events personally? Have you turned to drink or drugs in an attempt to numb your mind? You know that’s a distraction not a cure, right?
I have always wanted to write a book titled: “God uses funny wrapping paper so sometimes we don’t recognize a gift right away.” Eventually most of my patients end up believing in the healing potential of injuries. Many say they would not want the life they had before the injury.
I hope that you have a great result from your neck surgery and that your arm pain resolves completely. If you are left with some lingering pain then I hope that you are able to adapt and figure out how to have pain without suffering. I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your healing journey and I hope that these blog posts help more patients discover the world’s best kept secret: Osteopathic Medicine.
For an appointment with Dr. Sacon, click HERE