By Rachel Beals.
Recently, Dr. Terri Lewis wrote a provocative piece explaining to the chronic pain community how to make change in governmental policy. Here’s an example of how one Indiana woman shared her story.
I’m a 41 year old chronic pain patient who has suffered for sixteen years with severe lower back and sciatic pain due to a medical procedure which went terribly wrong causing a massive infection and leaving me in a constant state of pain. I’m also a breast cancer patient who has undergone chemo therapy and have arthritis in my hips.
Recently, I started up a Twitter group containing around seventy other chronic pain patients and doctors who would like nothing more than to make a change in regards to pain medication and all of our rights to receive or provide treatment. Because we are an advocacy group, I continually look for opportunities to have our voices heard, especially within the political arena.
I found one. I wrote my personal story to Senator Joe Donnelly and received a very positive response. I looked over a website that gives anyone the opportunity to ask for a meeting concerning a particular issue in their state. I navigated through the site and requested a meeting towards the end of November. After I had submitted the details of this request, I logged into my email account and saw that within 5 minutes they had accepted my request and were more than happy to give me an hour’s worth of time on November 30th.
I was scheduled to meet with Donnelly’s State Deputy Director, Brandon Herget.
I asked my colleague in Indiana, Ms. Stacey Fields, to join me and together we brought lots of information, including statistics, other important data, and personal stories which relayed the agony of chronic pain.
We covered the sheer terror the DEA has instilled in almost every type of doctor within the medical world. We asked why this was the case and how we could resolve it. He responded by letting us know that this was NOT the true intention of the DEA. Only clinics which were considered to be “pill mills” were in the sights of any federal organization.
We quickly explained our own problems with our own doctors prescribing pain medication and I noticed as he jotted down notes and even asked for specific names. I told him of how my own oncologist stated he wasn’t going to jail for my pain and he was clearly surprised.
Stacey showed the Deputy Director a researched article explaining that only between 1-2% of all pain patients are at risk for addiction. Brandon read the paper with interest and seemed surprised at the statistic. It was plain that he was listening.
Again, I noticed how he studied the paper which had been handed to him and looked genuinely surprised. I even had visual aids showing how the CDC guidelines were written off faulty data and studies, in addition to, the fact that one CDC doctor was federally funded by the profits he had earned from real addicts only to turn around to use this very money to work with the CDC in order to declare more patients as addicts. This was a clear conflict of interest which, again, we both pointed out to the Deputy Director.
We told him that it’s estimated 40 chronic pain patients take their lives each day. I argued we have a duty to stop these from happening and start treating these patients with the proper medical care they deserve.
The conversation was robust and covered a lot of topics.
As it was ending, we asked how we could really make a change.
He urged us to focus on changing state law. Stacey quickly handed him a draft of a new law for chronic pain patients drawn up according to Indiana guidelines. She wanted him to know we were there to not only discuss the opioid problem but that we also came with solutions, as well.
He recommended we attend bill voting meetings and be ready to speak, and have other members in our group reach out to their states too. He also informed us that phone calls were much more effective than emails. I carefully wrote every suggestion down in my notebook. I was happy to hear pain patients could really fight back if they so desired!
Stacey and I handed the Deputy our binders which truly was a wealth of fantastic information for anyone who wanted to under the chronic pain issue. He assured us Senator Donnelly would look at them.
On a personal note, I knew as we walked out of that office, aside from having my daughter, I may had just accomplished more for humankind by going to this meeting than anything I’d ever done in my life. And it felt great!
I wrote a thank you email from the both of us and received a very pleasant response from the Deputy Director. I’m encouraging my group to gather the strength and do what Stacey Fields and I had just done-set up a meeting with their state representatives and bring actual information and facts for their representatives to look upon as they considered what harsher laws would do to both patient and doctor. I couldn’t have planned a better meeting and I’m hoping this story will encourage and assist others who are fighting. This is something within our grasp, if we stay determined, focused, and educated as a group. In short, we have the power to change the world. If we only possess the desire for that change, and I’m confident we all truly do!