As a public health science major I hear the term chronic illness on a daily basis. Chronic pain however, is new to me, which is strange considering I now know that 100 million of U.S adults alone suffer from chronic pain. Why is chronic pain not being discussed as it should be? What barriers are preventing chronic pain from getting the recognition is deserves? What is it like to live with chronic pain?
I will explore these questions and gain a better understanding of chronic pain throughout my time spent as an intern at Pain Connection, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of individuals living with chronic pain by decreasing their sense of isolation and encouraging a more active role in their pain management.
First I would like to share how chronic pain suddenly came into my life-
On July 14, 2015, I was enthusiastically preparing for a trip to Yellowstone, going over a list of things I needed to complete before leaving when I received a call from my mom. When I picked up the phone my mom informed me that she was at Frederick Memorial Hospital waiting to hear word whether or not my Dad needed to be flown into emergency surgery. She then calmly explained to me that my dad had just fallen on the job and cannot walk. The conversation was very brief as she needed to continue getting in contact with the rest of my five siblings. She hung up the phone and everything around me stopped.
I was beyond shocked, I was petrified. My mind couldn’t get past the words cannot walk. A million thoughts raced through my mind until we got word that emergency surgery was not needed. The doctors came in and explained that my dad’s L4 and L5 vertebra (which are the two lowest vertebra in the spine) had burst. I didn’t even realize bones could “burst” but at the time my only question was whether or not there had been neurological damage.
A wave of relief washed over me as soon as I heard the doctors say there should be no permanent neurological damage, the shattered bone had missed the spinal cord! And on top of that, back surgery might be possible to avoid with the right precautions. Things were finally looking bright after being consumed in so much fear.
However, with that being said the road to recovery was a long and difficult. It was very hard for me to see my dad in so much pain and so immobile.
One thing I have learned about pain thus far is that pain is personal. Everyone experiences and deals with pain differently which is why I would like to leave the rest of the story for my dad to tell in a future interview.