by Cynthia Toussaint
Despite my motto to keep a healthy distance from western healthcare professionals, I gotta admit they recently saved my ass.
As part of my CRPS/fibromyalgia self-management regimen, I stay away from healthcare professionals (except my integrative doctor and physical therapist) unless it’s an absolute emergency – in which case I still generally stay away. Over the past 34+ years with high-impact pain I’ve learned the hard way that doctors tend to make me sicker. Much sicker.
But there is the occasional exception where these men and women in blue smocks are worth their weight in gold.
About half a year ago, I had a new pain in what I feared was my right hip. Fear because sharp pain there often equals hip replacement and I can’t have surgery without a major chance of spreading my CRPS.
When the pain didn’t subside, I told, Abad, my PT, about it – and was greatly relieved when he diagnosed me with bursitis at the top of my right femur. Abad told me to ice the spot every day – which I did diligently – and to not worry.
I didn’t. That is until three weeks ago when I got out of the YMCA pool and screamed bloody murder. I’m still uncertain as to what spiked my previously low level pain. Two guesses – 1) our car wouldn’t start that morning, so my life partner John had to wheel me a mile in the cold to the Y. And/or 2) there was a group in the pool who greatly upset a number of swimmers, me included, by spewing loud, pre-election hate talk.
Whatever the reason, I had a very big problem. I worked through my regular day, but avoided standing or walking due to the severity of my worsening pain. After canceling a dinner date, it was all l could do to lie on my right side and fall asleep.
Next morning it was pure torture trying to get through my ballet pilates exercises – and by that night after work I had no choice but to go to the ER. I couldn’t move my right leg in any direction or put weight on it without screaming in pain. John suspected I had a fracture.
Six hellish waiting room hours later, I finally got to the inner sanctum. Because the ER staff couldn’t get a vein (almost no one can) to give me morphine relief, they gingerly peeled off my jeans while I moaned. To avoid further agony, the technician brought the x-ray machine to me where they ruled out a fracture. I was stunned that bursitis could create so much misery.
My physician’s assistant was frustrated because she knew a cortisone injection would relieve my torture – but didn’t have the authority to give me one. Short of that, she carefully instructed me to keep my pain at bay until I lined an injection up. She advised me to take prescription NSAIDs, stop exercising and use ice, heat and the topical Voltaren, and sent me home.
After two hours of shut-eye, I woke with enough relief (hallelujah!) to take an important meeting with a California senator. But that afternoon, I was stunned to find out that John and I needed to be in Amsterdam for work in a week. My bursitis barked in protest.
Unfortunately my pain doctor was out of country and I couldn’t get an emergency appointment with another specialist. Panicking that I’d be screaming for eleven hours on a plane without that cortisone injection, one that both my pain doctor (via email) and Abad agreed I needed, I spent two days on the phone scrambling for a shot of relief.
I finally got the appointment and almost cried with joy when my female doctor was competent, kind and caring. She gave me six injections, and hot damn, I was good to go.
Today, almost two weeks later, it still feels like a miracle to be pain-free in my upper femur. The travel to Europe was a relative breeze, the meeting went smashingly and I even got to enjoy the charm that is Amsterdam. Last week I started exercising again and am slowly but surely working up to my full workout routine.
I feel great gratitude for the healthcare professionals who provided me a life-line through this pain crisis.
It was indeed a powerful reminder that many times western doctors have the tools, knowledge and wisdom to heal those of us with pain.