Since Thursday I’ve had bouts of crippling sciatic pain, followed by my left side going completely numb. As in can’t feel most of my leg, can’t feel my foot at all and dulled sensation in my arm. The pain became constant yesterday and unbearable in the early hours of this morning so I went to the local medical centre – I need to find a GP close to home for times like this. I brought my old scans to show the severe arthritis at all levels of my lumbar spine, spondylitis, facet joint arthritis, stenosis, and herniated disks. Also spondylitis (active inflammatory arthritis) on several scans. I could only drag my left leg, on crutches. I was clearly in pain and clearly partially paralysed.
She was unsympathetic. I gave her my complex history, when I got to the part where I tell her I take daily targin (slow release oxycodone) and oxynorm (immediate release oxycodone) she interrupted and told me she would not prescribe those. I told her I didn’t want her too, I have plenty.
She asked what I did want?
Gobsmacked, I said I wanted her to examine me and tell me whether she agreed I have an impinged nerve, because I’m in constant, severe pain and my left leg is numb.
She said again that she wouldn’t give me opioids. I said again I didn’t want any.
She told me to present to the emergency room. I told her I’d come here for help, that it would be agonising to sit in the ER for 10 hours and be ignored. Because the ER ignores people like me too, because they too think that I want oxycodone.
She said there was nothing she could do for me.
I said again she could examine me, confirm the problem and refer me for a cortisone shot into my SI joints. I’ve had many. I’ve never had the degree of numbness and paralysis that I had today, but cortisone will calm the inflammation and hopefully give me back leg function.
I had to beg.
She relented, because I refused to leave. I could barely stand. I think she decided it was going to be easier to do the examination. So she did. And she wrote a referral for an MRI. She made it clear that she would not see me as a regular patient, not to return.
Because I take opioids daily.
The stigma against opioids, and the discrimination pain patients are facing has become insane and beyond cruel.
I can’t move the lower part of my left leg. All the reflexes in that leg are depressed…she couldn’t find any. Hard to fake. My foot is dropped. I am on crutches and drag my leg behind me. And she treated me with suspicion and clear distaste.
I live with horrible pain, every single day. And I have done for more than ten years (despite the fact that I smile a lot). The pain isn’t touched by anything less than morphine or oxycodone or fentanyl. Without it, my life isn’t worth living. With it, I am disabled by pain.
Despite an established history, several scans showing pathology, and a long-standing diagnosis of a few well known to be very painful diseases, most doctors won’t treat me.
Won’t. Treat. Me.
Apparently it’s a choice. I always thought doctors were sworn to help…but they aren’t. They treat me like a drug addict.
I’m not an addict.
They think I should meditate and exercise and do physio and lose weight. Guess what, I do all of that, and more. The only way I can do any of that is with opioid pain medication.
I couldn’t get to my GP today, because its now a 15 minute drive to get to him. My left leg is paralysed, down the outer side, and I have sharp, excruciating, constant pain in my hip, buttocks and shooting down my leg. It’s electric, clearly nerve pain and it’s been there for many days now. It’s quite unbearable.
And she treated me like dirt, and wanted to send me away without doing anything. Only because I knew exactly what I needed, and it was easier for her to send me for the MRI (but not the cortisone shot) than to keep debating why she didn’t want to touch a half-paralysed person whom she had decided was a drug seeker.
She must have believed I was faking. Why would I do that? What’s in it for me? I have enough oxycodone to kill two elephants. Oxy doesn’t do much for nerve pain. I needed actual treatment, not drugs. She had zero compassion.
Yes, there are oxycodone addicts. I am not one. My life is hard enough, I don’t need the stigma and to be treated like dirt.
I need to find a doctor close to my home for when things like this happen. This isn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. My closest friends refused to help me because they thought my adrenal crisis was me passed out on oxycodone. Yes, I was passed out cold. And they walked out and left me there.
The ‘opioid epidemic’ bullshit has to stop. If you can’t tell the difference between a junkie and a pain patient, you have no right to call yourself a doctor. If you wouldn’t help a friend, even if you think (wrongly) that they have OD-ed on drugs then you aren’t even a person. Because addicts are people who need help too. I just don’t happen to be one.
Doctors should not be able to ignore a person in severe pain. Doctors should not be believing the bullshit about the ‘opioid epidemic’. And organisations like Pain Australia should not be pushing their agenda of opioids never being appropriate for diseases that cause long term, persistent, severe pain.
People like me are suffering already. And its getting worse. Some of us need opioids. How is that any different to needing Panadol, needing insulin, needing antidepressants, needing statins, needing antihypertensives…how?