Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V = Village (as in, "It Takes One")

"It Takes a Village" to help someone in chronic pain. Over the (almost) four years that I've been in pain, I have seen dozens of doctors, therapists, and specialists. The ones who have helped me have continued to be part of my "village." The ones who have not helped me... I don't see them again.

During the first year (starting in summer 2007), my chiropractor (Dr. Dean Meylor) was my best advocate, and he continues to help me (about once per month) stay "adjusted." I went to Dr. Henry Elsner at Vanguard, who I respect very much; he told me that I wasn't a surgical candidate, so I couldn't use his services. His physiatrist, Dr. Shawn Dalton-Bethea, tried for one year to inject a spot that would provide relief. She did not succeed.

After the first year (in the summer of 2008), I asked my wonderful Family Physician (Dr. Lisa Miller) for a recommendation on where to go next. She directed me to the High Point Pain Clinic. There, I came under the care of Dr. Maria Bodea, who continues to be my pain management provider. At the clinic, I saw Dr. John Goeke for biofeedback and relaxation techniques (which were not especially helpful, but Dr. Goeke's listening and encouragement helped a great deal). I also took 8 sessions of physical therapy there, with little success (although they were the ones to recommend a TENS unit). Dr. Miller also recommended me to a psychiatric mental health nurse, Meredith Baker, who prescribed anti-depressants (I was certainly depressed). Meredith recommended some talk therapy, so for about a year, I worked with Bonnie Kennedy. She helped me with most of the depression and adjustment issues I had during that year. (A side note: I continue to see Meredith every three months. Last week, she tole me that I look happier than she's ever seen me! And, with the pain reduced, and health on the way, I am!)

After the second year (summer 2009), I went to Duke. They had done my original spinal fusion in 1984, so I thought someone might like to study my back 25 years later! I saw Dr. Chris Brown, who referred me to the pain clinic and Dr. Lesco RogersDr. Chris Lascola gave me the first injection that provided some pain relief; he used a CAT scanner to guide his needle (rather than the traditional x-ray). This was my first indication that I could be helped, but nothing further came from his work. Dr. Rogers made appointments for me with the water/pool therapists at Lennox Baker Childrens Hospital (just down the road from him, in Durham). The therapists there were outstanding! I wish that they were more local, so that they could continue to be a part of my "village." Nonetheless, I am grateful to the women who worked with me, helping me be more comfortable with water exercise. Dr. Rogers performed a nerve ablation in an attempt to lessen my pain; the procedure (one of the most excruciating events of my life) actually made my pain worse. It took a subsequent epidural injection to relieve the extra pain. When I left Dr. Rogers after a year, I felt about the same amount of pain as when I met him. He believed that he had done a good job, because I wasn't any worse. Hmm...

During the next summer (2010), I was referred to Dr. R. W. "Chip" Watkins at Wanek Functional Medicine. His work with me was the beginning of my return to health (which is still in process). His supplements helped reduce my inflammation and returned the rest of my body chemistry to proper alignment. He recommended physical therapist Lorraine Kingham, who is the "Queen" of my "Village." Her hands-on (celtic elbows) technique of muscle and soft-tissue realignment has been nearly miraculous in my pain relief. I have seen her once per week since August 2010, and I continue to get better and better. In December, Lorraine discovered the inflamed bursas at the sacro-iliac joint, and in January Dr. Bodea injected them. This was the beginning of my return to health.

Once my pain began to subside, Lorraine recommended that I begin strength training. With the poor results from my previous efforts (YMCA and Curves), I was reluctant. But Lorraine works with a trainer who understands chronic pain. Now, I meet with Lori Gordon at Personal Fitness for a 30-minute workout per week. Mostly, she keeps me from overdoing my exercise. I have confidence in her expertise, and I have come to trust her methods.

With these wonderful people around me, I have tools to make my day-to-day living easier (and the flareups of pain more bearable). I have resources to ask questions, to make adjustments to my medications and procedures. I have encouragers who have seen me at my worst. I'm incredibly grateful to them, and I highly recommend them to you (if you have such a need)!

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