Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Living with pain

I suffered a serious spinal injury on Friday, February 13th, 2004.  I recall it well because I haven't had a single day free of pain since that date.  (I would say a single hour, if it weren't for a six-hour period in 2005 during which I was, indeed, pain-free.  That's when they gave me an epidural injection of corticosteroids to see if it could reduce inflammation resulting from the injury.  The shot included an anesthetic, to ease the pain as the needle was inserted.  It numbed everything below the injection site, and I do mean everything.  I couldn't walk, I couldn't even pee - but I was pain-free!  It was bliss . . . for six hours, until the anesthetic wore off.)

As a result of that injury, my life changed.  I used prescription painkillers as a matter of routine.  I could no longer sleep a full night;  my back would stiffen up and become very painful after three to four hours, so that I'd have to get up and move around.  I've adjusted to sleeping in two sessions each day, one late at night, the other after lunch.  Due to interactions between my pain medication and the drugs I was prescribed following a heart attack in 2009, I had to stop taking the former, so I've learned to live with relatively high, constant levels of pain.  Unfortunately, that familiarity with pain has just come back to bite me.

After driving down to LibertyCon in late June, my right kidney area began to hurt very badly and I noticed a lot of blood in my urine.  I didn't initially pay much attention to it.  It hurt, sure - like the dickens - but I was used to that.  I waited until I got back home before going to see my regular doctor about it, rather than go to the ER in Chattanooga (much to my wife's displeasure).  I had a relapse last week, with more of the same pain, so this week my doctor prescribed a CAT scan to see what was going on.  It didn't find what they expected, so this morning I went in for an ultrasound scan to take a closer look at whatever's going on in there.  (It's most frustrating when the technicians operating the machines won't tell you what they're seeing.  You can hear them saying "Oh!" and "Aha!" and "Ooh!", but they won't explain.  They simply claim that because they're not doctors, they can't tell you.  Oh, well . . . if I turn out to be pregnant, I expect I'll make enough money off of it that I won't mind!)

Anyway, what I'm getting to (slowly) with this screed is to caution you to take pain seriously.  If you get too accustomed to a certain level of pain (from arthritis, or an old injury, or whatever), your body's overall pain tolerance rises.  That can make it difficult to notice that something new is wrong, and you need to find out what it is before it gets any worse.  After all, pain is nothing more or less than your body telling you something's not right.  Pay attention to that - and don't just mask the signal with increased quantities or dosage levels of a good painkiller.  That, too, may prevent you noticing something important.

I don't yet know what's going on with my kidneys, or even if they're actually the problem at all;  but I thought it was worth putting this reminder out there.  I've certainly learned the hard way that I'd ceased paying sufficient attention to my body's normal warning signs.  The old proverb warns us that "Familiarity breeds contempt".  I guess it does the same with pain.



Anonymous said...

A friend of mine knew something was less-than-good when she was being wired for a cardiac stress test and the tech said, "OorEEp! Just a moment please," and trotted off. And of course would not say anything about what had been observed until the cardiologist read the testing scan (didn't go any farther with the stress test).

Ranks up there with the chief pilot leaning over your shoulder, peering at some gauges and saying, "I've never seen it do that before. I wander what that means?" (It meant we went back to [airport] and the magic box took a two-week leave of absence.]


Jon said...

Been there, done that. Due to an accident that aggravated a birth defect in my spine I didn't even know about, I walk around with 3-4 pain all the time. I hate taking painkillers, so I got used to it. I've been counseled more than once that I need to pay attention to the pain if it changes.

Blood in urine, however, is ALWAYS a signal to go straight to the ER. Do NOT mess around with it. It could be anything from an infection, to a stone (in my case) to cancer.

I'll aid my unworthy (no really :) prayers for your health.

OldAFSarge said...

Sound advice Peter. Thanks.

Stephen J. said...

God be with you and let it be nothing serious.

Anonymous said...

I concur.

I'm pretty sure I have mild pain insensitivity. It is either congenital, or related to some long standing matters.

I've never been great at evaluating my body's needs. As I grow older, "ignore it 'til it stops" becomes ever more dysfunctional.

So I need to improve how I handle things mentally. Just now, your post reminded me to check, and I took care of several things that needed it.

Peter B said...

FIDO will probably turn around and bite you in the end.

Sherm said...

Had blood in the urine the other month. It's a much clearer wake up call than pain-different pain. It helped me while away the better part of a day at same day care. (radiation cystitis.)

The rule should be, if you won't listen to your body at least listen to your wife.

richard mcenroe said...

When I was getting one of several echocardiograms while they tried to figure out how messed up my heart was, the technician kept saying "oh, dear," and "oh, my" as she made her notations. Guessing she wasn't the clinic morale officer...

Borepatch said...

Dang. I hope they find this and do what needs doing.

Dan Lane said...

Not good. I've had a bit of pain here and there all the time for a dozen years or so, but nothing *that* bad. Just enough that I tend to bleed, *then* realize I've been cut when my arm gets wet.

I'll second Jon's advice- blood anywhere outside with no *obvious* cause is worthy of immediate concern. Take care of you, sir. The people who care about you, and whom you also care about want you healthy as can be. Self-care is a duty, too.

Prayers for you and yours.

skidmark said...

Every morning I wake up and check off the chronic pains I have been living with. All there? We're good to go. Something new? Call the quack's office to share the news and a chunk of my bank account. Something missing? Better get a hard copy of the local fish wrapper and check the obits.

Most days it's Door #1. Once in a while it's been Door #2 (and twice followed by the Big White Truck arriving at the quack's behest to take me to the ER. Once definitely necessary, the other appropriately cautious.) To date (knocking on wood, rubbing foot that did the rabbit no apparent good, etc.) Door #3 eludes me.

When all you live with is pain it becomes vital to recognize something that is new and/or different. And then to do something positive and useful about it. Glad you finally were driven to get it looked at. Crack the whip to get them to figure out what it is.

stay safe.

Anonymous said...

I have a suggestion you might try. I have a compression fracture. I used to be 5'9" tall. Now, I'm 5'7" on my left side and 5'6" on my right side. Pain is continuous.

I sleep on an adjustable bed with my head at about 35 to 45 degrees and my feet up at about 20-25 degrees. The difference is amazing. If I sleep flat, the next morning I wake up and can't straighten up. I have to crab-walk to the shower and run hot water on my back before I can breathe. Sleeping at an angle makes it MUCH better. (Yes, it still hurts, but not NEARLY as bad.)

Seriously, it has made all the difference for me, and you should be able to find a hotel that has adjustable beds to try it out. They also make a blow-up pillow wedge that goes between the box-spring and the mattress. I tried one of those first and it also helped, but not nearly as much.


HeroHog said...

BTDT. I have passed 16 kidney stones and had one surgically removed. I also have severe back and joint issues resulting in constant pain. I was on the VA's Pain Management program for several years using 10mg Hydrocodone and Methadone but weaned myself off of it and now take 5mg Hydrocodone as needed which isn't often. I learned my limits and found that living in my recliner is where I hurt the least. It is my chair, my dinner table and my bed. NOT my toilet! ;-)
Like others have said, if your urine is ANY color other than clear or light yellow, GET THE TO A DOCTOR ASAP!

Stu Garfath. Sydney, Australia. said...

I'm 65 years old, my Missus is 64.
Luckily, we both have had virtually no uncommon health problems all our lives, me, not even a broken bone, she, apart from giving birth twice, pretty much the same.
Things have changed in the last 8-10 years, principally because of our activities when we were younger.
Me, lots of physical activity, as you do when in the Military.
She, very much the same, she was a Nurse, doing shitloads of heavy lifting, and it has now come back to bite both of us.
Arthritis, heart problems (genetic), and just a general degradation of whole of body systems associated with age.
Now, in the last 12 weeks since 1st of May,my Wife has started her chemo/radiation therapy for a cancer found in back of her neck.
THANKFULLY, we are Australian, we live here in New South Wales, 98 kilometres north of Sydney, we are so monumentally lucky!.
Apart from her two initial Specialist E.N.T. examinations, which cost us just on AusD$700 dollars, (with a refund of $260 dollars from that sum), the one operation to insert a tube down her throat into her stomach, so she could receive liquid food from an external tube directly into her stomach, and EVERY treatment since, plus, every day, chemo/radiation, over the last six weeks, has cost us NOTHING!.
Not One Red Cent.
Again, I'm not bragging, it's just that, our Medical system here in Australia is beyond spectacular, there's no denying that, but, it costs money, that the Governments have to find, so, when any Federal Government makes noises about adding a 0.5% increase on the Medicare levy,(tax), which every employed Australian worker has compulsorily deducted from their paychecks, a percentage of them go nuts.
They yell, How dare they!, we cannot afford it!, and so-on.
Of course, the Political party in opposition at the time rhetorically panders to the dissenters, Élect us, and you won't have to pay that terrible tax'.
And too many believe it.
Had it not been for the Government/taxpayer funded Medicare system in place here in Australia, my Wife and I would be destitute, we would've lost our house, ALL our $600,000 life savings accrued over the past 45 years, everything.
We would be just two old people comforting each other, waiting to die, together.
We know we are SO fortunate!, we are SO grateful!.

Dan said...

The technologist telling you what is wrong is called "practicing medicine without a license", which is a felony.
It is intruding on the turf of physicians, not a smart thing to do....especially if you say something and you are wrong.
It can cost a tech their job, their license and in theory their freedom. In exchange for not telling you the tech will not
send you a all the real doctors do. So yes.....we really do know what is wrong with the patient most of the time.
We just aren't allowed to tell you.