By Fila Paragas.
I am a chronic pain survivor from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Recently, I started thinking about pain in our lifetimes.
Pain affects all of us during our lifetimes whether we are male, female, young and old. It can come from minor occurrences such as toothaches, stomach aches, and headaches, and from more serious procedures and interventions, and from childbirth, surgeries, and acute or chronic illnesses. Pain also affects those afflicted by unanticipated incidents and accidents from sports and auto accidents, work place-related injuries, wars and humanitarian crises, among others.
Pain has been there since the history of time.
Even King Henry VIII suffered serious leg problems that caused him unbearable pain. Walt Disney experienced chronic arthritic pain having broken four cervical vertebrae in a polo accident.
So, why has pain been neglected and disregarded by those who should have been more aware for far too long and instead put in place alongside as those other diseases? Why are there no proper protocols and effective and individualized treatments in place to treat those afflicted with pain in all situations and for different diseases? Why do patients have to be branded as “addicts” and suffer unnecessarily in order to get the attention of policy makers and stakeholders to recognize the severity and damages of pain?
The burden of pain is great.
One can take aspirin or over the counter pain pills to relieve a simple headache for example. Later, one feels better and goes on with the day eventually. Or one does not have to take any medications at all. A good rest and perhaps a nice cup of warm tea will do just fine.
However, relentless pains, under or over treated, has a tremendous impact on people’s quality of life and well-being. This applies to people in all different walks of life — rich and poor, and in different circumstances of life anywhere in the world. Suffering is suffering. The definition of pain and suffering put together can conjure our subjective imagination and interpretation. Why are horses with broken legs put out of their misery? You probably know what is done in such a case, or at least you can imagine. Are human beings to be treated the same way if there is no way out? Resorting to suicide would not be surprising for the ones whose pain does not subside — those whose pain prevents them from functioning and living with some dignity.
It is rather obvious that each one of us is different in appearance, sizes, and body makeups. One can imagine that pain also comes in different sizes too. So, why do the ignorant ones and even those that set the policies, often with no proper background or personal experience with chronic pain, assume that one medicine dose of certain limit is a one-size fix-all for different patients with different pain symptoms and conditions? It is rather shameful and arrogant to put oneself above others that suffer needlessly instead of lending a helping hand at least. For those in decision making roles that affect the livelihood of patients, it is NOT OK to step on or bash down the already vulnerable ones.
Walk in their shoes before making judgments.
Europe has taken a major step to help patients with pain through the recent efforts of June 2017 conference in Malta. The event called for action “on access to treatment for patients suffering from chronic pain” and brought together health care systems, pain stakeholders, and policymakers from European countries. According to Societal Impact of Pain (SIP), “This is a substantial step for pain patients throughout the EU towards getting pain recognized as a disease in its own right.” It was a long-awaited recognition for society, patients, and relatives.
On the other hand, with hardworking taxpayers’ monies for funding and foremost from the US taxpayers, it is a shame that the World Health Organization (WHO), now with zero credibility from several scandals surrounding their deteriorating ethics and integrity, has failed yet again to take the leadership role for the health of the world as it trails behind the bandwagon of the others. Meanwhile and sadly, the US government is still embroiled in the healthcare bill. Nevertheless, let’s make the commitments into a reality. Let’s put patients first and, above all, listen attentively and take good care of them!
Fila Paragas is a former UN/WHO officer with specialization in budget, program planning, and finance. She wrote her illness memoir after her long suffering from chronic pain conditions from a minor bone fracture in the foot and her efforts for recognition of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), by her former employer, the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Her memoir recounted her long journey with the medical community to reflect the poor knowledge of pain by those involved. The E-book, Hear My Voice, Living with CRPS: A Chronic Pain Journey is available on Amazon Kindle.
Her contact email is email@example.com.