The New Norm for Chronic Pain Patients

October 12, 2019

By Rochelle Odell, PNN Columnist

Come the new year, I will start my 28th year battling Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Like so many high impact pain patients, I have been experiencing a pain flare that isn’t improving and prevents me from doing many tasks. I am praying it will get better and not become my new norm. 

I have been a palliative care patient for a couple of months now. Palliative care is not what many people think it is. My meds did not get increased and I still live at home. A home health RN visits me twice a week, takes my vital signs, asks how I am doing, how is my pain, and what doctor do I see next. 

I was evaluated this time last year for Transitional Care Management or TCM. It’s usually for patients getting out of the hospital and is short term — only two to three months at the most. A medical doctor evaluated me and told me I was “high functioning” but needed assistance. High functioning? I have no help and only have me to depend on. I have to function to some degree just to survive.

My RN tells me palliative care is meant to help patients be as comfortable as possible. They used to be able to give their patients pain meds, but now all they can give is Toradol, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which does me no good because I am deathly allergic to NSAID’s and aspirin. She is compassionate and caring and says what is happening to me and others in pain is “Just not right.” I have to agree with her.

Perhaps part of this new norm is reading so much negativity coming from our not so illustrious leaders in DC, along with blurbs from the CDC and the FDA. To me it appears to be getting worse as opposed to getting better. 

Is my increased pain clouding what I am reading? I don’t believe so. Many of us suffering from high impact pain — about 20 million Americans – are unable to get opioid medication. Even those suffering from life ending cancer are being turned away. That is nothing but plain cruelty.

There is a core group of pain patients, probably numbering a few thousand, that is trying to change things. We call and write our elected officials and various government offices that have deemed it their duty to destroy our lives piece by piece.  Those that are physically able can attend a Don’t Punish Pain Rally. There is another DPP rally coming up October 16. I have only been able to attend one rally. It’s hard when one is in extreme pain and with limited funds to be able to travel to the rallies. 

Why Are We Being Treated This Way?

What is happening to us? Why are our physicians, those trained to treat and care for us, turning their backs on us? Why are we being shunned? Why are we being treated like we did something wrong? 

Why are people who abuse drugs being treated with compassion and care but not us? They hurt their families, they steal, they destroy their bodies, they seemingly don’t care. We don’t do any of that. Our pain is caused by diseases we never asked for. We care, we want to live and we want to participate in life.  

They get clean needles, clean rooms to shoot up in, free Narcan, and in Canada they are giving Dilaudid (hydromorphone) to those who abuse drugs. Dilaudid is an opioid used for treating severe pain. I was on Dilaudid three years ago. Not anymore. 

I just read about a county in England that is going to provide medical grade heroin twice a day to drug addicts. Why? The police are hoping it will lower crime in the area. I bet they have lines form they never expected. 

So now those who abuse are getting free heroin. Yet pain patients are kicked to the curb. How can physicians care for one who abuses their body but refuse to treat a human being suffering from intractable pain? I don’t mean to sound so cold when it comes to those who abuse, but people in pain are suffering unrelenting pain because of them.  

If we ask for meds, ask for referrals or refuse a treatment we know will have adverse effects, we are accused of being non-compliant and dropped by our doctors. I believe the loss of compassion from our physicians is why many of us are having these unexplained pain flares that are becoming our new norm. 

I have been reading on social media that patients on opioids who move or are dropped are finding it impossible to get a new primary care physician. I saw my PCP last week and asked her about it. She emphatically told me “they” would not accept new patients who are on or had been on opioids. I was afraid to ask who “they” were, but am assuming it’s all or most of the doctors in this area.

I am sorry for all my friends in pain and for those I don’t know who are in pain. I am sorry we are being treated like addicts. That those in healthcare would turn a blind eye to us. My heart breaks for those who feel the only solution is to take their life to end the pain. That is so wrong. Human beings are being pushed to that point by those elected to represent us and those in healthcare who are supposed to care but don’t. I am so very sorry.

Rochelle Odell lives in California.

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This column is for informational purposes only and represents the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.

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Tags: Pain News Network, PNN, Chronic Pain, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), Transitional Care Management, TCM, Palliative Care, Primary Care Physician, PCP

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