By Ed Coghlan.
Many of our readers have recommended that more needs to be done to educate people about the chronic pain issue.
An ambitious effort is nearing completion. It is a documentary called Pandemic of Denial that has been in production for several years and is being readying for release this year.
Tina Petrova, a Canadian whose non-profit is designed to educate about chronic pain, is an award-winning filmmaker who suffers from chronic pain. She and her production partner Eugene Weis have recorded literally hundreds of hours of interviews - has virtually completed editing and is now seeking Broadcast and Distribution Partners in Canada and the U.S.
They hope to release the film this year. Recently, Petrova gave the National Pain Report some thoughts about why they decided to embark on this 4-year long project.
National Pain Report: “What impact do you hope the documentary will have?
Tina Petrova: “Navigating through the health care system in both the US and Canada can be very frustrating, upsetting and protracted. Only if you are one of the lucky ones - and I emphasize lucky - to actually have a “Pain Specialist “ treating you, can one even begin to make sense of chronic pain as a disease, and all that this entails. In both Canada and the US, we are sadly under educated when it comes to chronic pain as a lifelong disease in its own right.
“If, by making this feature film and taking an in depth look into the challenging lives of pain patients and their families we can educate, decipher, inform and help others navigate the complexity of our worlds- then we have accomplished what we set out to do as story tellers and filmmakers.
“Chronic Pain ends hopes and dreams and even lives at times - due to suicide and medical complications from managing it. 1 in 4 North Americans are reported to be living in daily chronic pain- More than cancer, heart disease and diabetes, combined. It is no small disease. - hence our title: Pandemic of Denial.”
National Pain Report: “You suffer from chronic pain - and it explains some of why you tackled this big and important topic. What else inspired you?”
Tina Petrova: “In my experience, many pain patients you speak with, will share that they had to self diagnose. It was their fervent searches on the internet that led them to understand that they had strange sounding diseases like CRPS and Arachnoiditis. It was these very patients that printed out information to bring to their primary care physicians and ask that the appropriate tests be done to determine a correct diagnoses and appropriate follow up treatment plan.
“According to recent published articles, doctors receive on average 7 hours of learning about chronic pain as a disease at medical school, while veterinarians receive some 70 hours for their animal counterparts. Note that specific bodily systems are covered in depth, such as managing and correcting pain from heart attack, pain from gall stone attack etc. - I am referring to chronic intractable pain as its own disease.
“I myself was shuffled from general practitioner to specialist after specialist - it took me 8 years of suffering undiagnosed to finally meet the pain physician who is treating me now. Hallelujah! Only 8 years. Sadly, that seems to be the norm when I reach out and dialogue with the chronic pain community.
“I want adequate and better pain care for myself as I age - I watched my mother suffer horrendously the last 2 decades of her life with chronic pain conditions and her sister, my auntie languish in hospice for back pain not dissimilar to my own, the last 18 months of her life. I also wish that for others. If not me telling this story, then who? I decided not to wait for Deus ex Machina (God to drop down from the sky) and just do it.”
National Pain Report: “You delve into the research - or lack of it - in chronic pain.”
Tina Petrova: “Sadly the field of research into pain and the brain has been severely underfunded the last several decades. Opioids have long been held the gold standard in treating severe intractable pain, end of life pain, post cancer and surgical pain - among other pain conditions. Since opioid medications were developed and came into widespread use, there have been very little significant developments made in the field of pain care medicine and treatment.
“As a result, we have large numbers of pain patients who have been under professional supervised medical care, some for decades on stable doses of opioids, that due to a hostile regulatory environment for doctors, are having those very medications being either titrated down to minute doses or being taken off their medications completely.
“While I can appreciate that overdose deaths are a deadly and disturbing trend that need to be addressed head on, I also believe that being undertreated for intractable pain is just a serious an issue.
“I have been witness to multiple suicides in our national pain community resultant of being undertreated for pain these last 2 years. It is their stories that we bring into focus in our documentary - those of abandoned pain patients, undertreated pediatric pain, and the persecution of doctors for attempting to uphold their Hippocratic oath by agreeing to continue to treat pain aggressively where indicated, even when faced with loss of license or even incarceration.”
National Pain Report: “What happens with the documentary now?”
Tina Petrova: “We began the film in 2014 with a limited amount of startup funding. Due to angel investors and donated services we were able to film multiple interviews at a myriad of locations this past year from California to the mid-West to Canada to India.
“We are now in great shape with compelling stories and stunning cinematography - to seek TV Broadcasters and Distribution to move our film to the next level of production. Our primary focus will be entering into film festivals around the world later this year 2018 and organizing community screenings both across North America and beyond.
“As filmmakers and storytellers. We hope to reach as many people as possible and begin the overdue and badly needed conversation of what is CHRONIC PAIN, how best to approach treating it and how to encourage better funding for a cure.
“We hope to exhibit the film to medical schools, front line staff such as ER and social workers and pain groups that support and encourage education of the myriad of diseases that fall under the chronic pain rubric. We are also compiling a list of interested parties who would like to co-host screenings in their local communities.”
Editor’s Note: If you want to follow this project on Facebook, you can do it here.
If you’d like to talk with Tina and her team directly, she’s offered her email: firstname.lastname@example.org