Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pain and Quality of Life

At the age of 13, I was struck by a car and thrown 50 metres. I could have been killed, but instead only my right leg was damaged. There was a nasty compound fracture of the femur.

For several weeks while I was kept in traction (crikey, that was painful!), doctors feared they'd have to amputate the leg. However, they tried to and eventually did, reach an orthopedic surgeon who was well-known for his ability to achieve the impossible. Dr. Paul McGoey agreed to see me and I was transferred by ambulance to Scarborough General Hospital.

After six months under the care of Dr. McGoey at Scarborough General and staying at St. John's Convalescent Hospital in between the numerous trips (8? 10?) by ambulance between the two institutions, my leg was saved.

I returned home.

That was something I could have done without. The people at St. John's, Scarborough General and the paramedics who drove the ambulances had cared about me. The people at home didn't.

The last trip I took by ambulance, the one that took me home, the paramedics gave me a huge bouquet of flowers. They were the same paramedics who had been with me for each trip: from Collingwood General to Scarborough General, when I was still in traction, and for all the trips between Scarborough General and St. John's. Unknown to me, they had asked their boss to be the paramedics for each of my trips.

I pushed that leg to do things that most people wouldn't have. For years, not only was I a letter carrier but also (often at the same period of time) a dance teacher. Eventually, I owned and ran three dance studios.

While the leg was 3/4 of an inch shorter than the left, I had a persistent limp and misalignment at the hip affected my turnout among other things, that didn't stop me. However, eventually I paid the price and my back suffered from making adjustments it wouldn't normally have had to do.

That's the long and short of it. Now, over the course of aging, I'm in a lot of pain and there's nothing even today's professionals can do to correct the source of it.

Given three changes recently affecting my financial resources (SAFER, Canada Pension Plan and greater Pharmacare coverage), I can now obtain prescription medication for pain.

Two weeks ago, I went to my doctor and asked her help with pain management. She prescribed Naproxen and Gabapentin.

The Gabapentin has reduced the chronic moderate pain (level 5,6) a couple of notches, enough to improve my quality of life. Now I can do daily housework - carpet and floor sweeping, light dusting and the odd wipe at the floors. It's nice to have my place returned to the cleanliness to which I was formerly accustomed. I'd missed that, but especially the ability to care for my small home.

Now I can also walk more briskly, climb stairs and go up the dreaded hill more easily. I've yet to try pulling my shopping cart up that steep incline.

The dose of Gabapentin I am was on does nothing for the flare-ups, when the chronic pain becomes acute (level 9). Neither does the Naproxen help with the swelling around the source or the arthritic stiffness further up.

I saw the doctor yesterday, having just gone through five days of level 9 pain. She has upped the Gabapentin.

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