The Day I was Treated Like A Drug Seeker

* This is about my personal experience not a topic to be debated about the use of narcotics.

I went to my local ER last week because I had been dealing with a migraine for almost two weeks. Sadly, is not uncommon for me to end up in the ER for a migraine. In fact that usually happens at least a handful of times every year. Unfortunately I generally end up being admitted for said migraine at least a couple times a year. So I know how things work in this ER and Hospital. Especially since I actually worked as an RN in this hospital for 9 years. But this time was different.  I had the worst experience I have ever had in that hospital. I have NEVER been treated as poorly by as many medical professionals in such a short time span as I did that visit. And that’s saying something because over the last five years I have been there MANY times and have been cared for by MANY nurses, physicians and other providers. Due to the fact that I am no stranger to the hospital, and the fact that I have MULTIPLE invisible illnesses I am not unfamiliar with being looked at like I am drug seeker.  But this visit took that to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL.

I had barely made it into the room in the Emergency Room when this male who I assumed was a nurse came in and without telling me who he was or anything his first words were “I see you take X & Y at home for pain did you try either of those?” Okay, fair question. I calmly explained that they can cause rebound headaches so I don’t always try them for headaches. He proceeded to tell me that I wasn’t going to be receiving any narcotics while I was in the ER that day.  He then went on to ask me what has worked on my migraines in the past. My mom answered that question as I was not totally able to think straight after that long with a migraine. She told him that a low dose of Ketamine has worked for me really well for me in the last. Continuing on to tell him the last time I received it the nurse had never heard of it being used for migraines either so the Doctor took him aside and showed him literature on the studies that have been done. Those studies show that Ketamine at a low dose works well for migraines. And before she finished her sentence the nurse shot that down and said there was “NO WAY” I would be getting that today because its a sedative and not for migraines.. At this point I didn’t know what to even think. Honestly, I was ready to leave and say forget it.  But that wasn’t the last run in with that nurse I would have before I was admitted.

I had a port placed three years ago due to the fact that I don’t have good veins anyway and then I took years of high dose steroids which killed the veins I did have.  So I always request that my port be accessed. He REFUSED. He said I had great veins and placed a peripheral.  I wasn’t in any condition to argue. Because he was so asinine I ended up with five sticks which should have been one.  But I did enjoy when the ER doctor put him in his place and let him know that he would in fact be giving me Ketamine for my migraine. HA!!!

I was really hoping that the Ketamine would work like it had in the past and I would be able to go home. But it didn’t……. So they called a hospitalist to come in and see me so I could be admitted to the hospital.  As he walks in the room he introduces himself and announces “I DO NOT GIVE NARCOTICS FOR HEADACHES, JUST SO YOU KNOW! Again, that word had not come out of my mouth since I arrived. He like the nurse was making an assumption of why I was there based on what he saw on the chart, without actually seeing or talking to the person behind the medical record. I really hadn’t even thought about asking for any narcotics because I know that it can actually make a headache worse. He asks me a few questions and says he won’t be admitting me its a neurology issues, and leaves. The nurse I loved so much comes back a few minutes later to tell me that they were taking me upstairs. When I asked who the admitting doctor was they told me it was Dr. Pleasant Pants that I had just seen. I was less than thrilled.

Once I was taken upstairs and settled into my room, a neurology doctor who I didn’t know showed up to see me. And AGAIN for the THIRD time in less than three hours, this doctor identifies herself and before I can say anything she says “I DO NOT GIVE NARCOTICS FOR MIGRAINES, JUST SO YOU KNOW.”  Yet again I had never asked for an narcotics or even actually thought about asking for one.  Like the two before her she was also making an assumption about why I was there and what I wanted before even seeing me. By this point in the day I had nothing to say I was so blown away that I just looked at her. I didn’t have anything to say I just agreed with her plan of care and went on with it. At that point I would have tried anything to get the headache to go away. And anything I would have said in that moment to this doctor would not have been nice or helped my case in any way.

Sadly, during my entire four day stay in the hospital there was only one nurse that would actually give me my home pain meds. In fact she actually brought them to me without me even having to ask for them. The other nurses didn’t think I needed them because I was getting “the migraine cocktail!” And that is true, I didn’t need my home meds for the headache, I needed them for the rest of my body. All the other parts that hurt besides my head.

I know, everyone is all in an uproar by the new changes that may be coming with narcotics and the doctors are being more careful with what they prescribe and to who. But anyone could look at my record if they really took the time and see that there is more than enough reason for one or even both of the medications I take. And if they looked more closely they would also see that my scripts last me on average 45 days rather than 30 because I don’t take them as often as they are prescribed. If they took time to look further than the med list they would see a person. A person who believe it or doesn’t really care for the way pain medicine makes me feel. I don’t enjoy being nauseated and itchy when I am already itchy all the time from my illness.

It just frustrates me to no end that the people in the world who have abused the drugs have totally messed things up for those of us who need them. Because people choose to take narcotics to get high it is becoming increasingly hard to get pain meds for people who really truly need them. Many of us need something to be able to get out of bed in the morning. Or to take a shower, or to do any daily task. But because of those idiots many are being refused. And sadly there have been a number of suicides in the chronic illness community due to the fact that they were refused the pain meds they relied on.

I have not shared this earlier because it took me awhile to process it. To really think about how it made me feel and how I could share this best to get my point across without sounding like I was whining. I just wish medical providers would look further than a med list. Or even the list of diagnoses. Behind those things there are people, people who never asked for these life altering diseases, people who didn’t ever do anything to deserve the fact that we are living in chronic pain. Many of us who really need the pain meds would not be able to function or have any semblance of a normal life. And if it comes to the point when none of us have access to those meds a lot of us wont be able to get out of bed, much less work and be a productive member of society. Many of us would gladly trade every last pain pill for the ability to go back to the life we had before we got sick. If i could turn in my pain meds and magically be healed i would be the first in line. Sadly, that doesn’t happen! I can’t speak for all of the people with chronic pain due to a chronic illness, but personally I have tried all other methods of pain relief. I have tried meditation, acupuncture, massage, physical therapy, water therapy, over the counter meds, pain rubs, heat, ice. You name it, I have probably tried and it just doesn’t work the same way that pain medicine does.

At this point the only thing I think we can really do is to start writing letters. Letters to those who represent us in our local, state and federal government.  I am not a political person and I normally don’t include things like this in my blog but I think this is all we have left. I think its time for a CALL TO ACTION for all of us who suffer from chronic pain. We have to be proactive and start writing letters, telling our stories and getting them out there. If we don’t share them, who will ever know what we really live through on a daily basis. They need to know that we are being treated the same as drug seekers, the same as drug addicts or not being treated at all. They need to know that we didn’t choose this life but it has happened and we are doing out best to make the best out of the hand we were dealt and having out pain medications taken away is not the way to do it.

I know in the past people have probably assumed I was drug seeking because when you present to the ER, for a migraine or back pain or a lupus flare that causes pain all over the body they can’t see it. They don’t see our pain on a lab test or an X-ray so they just assume that we are just there for the meds.  When it reality we just want to do whatever it takes to get the pain away even if that’s just a shot of steroid. Healthcare workers have sadly become so jaded by the “opioid crisis” that they can’t see past it. I know from many years of experience as a nurse that it is easy to assume that drug seeking is occurring when someone asks for pain medicine without asking any further questions.  We have to start advocating for ourselves, as I always say if we don’t advocate for ourselves no one else will.  Sadly, I did not do a good job of doing that this time around  because I felt so bad. But I wont stand to be treated like this again.

I am lucky to have a multiple people who act as advocates for me for, will stand up and fight for me when I can’t. My Mom has become my biggest advocate as she has sat in the ER waiting rooms and at my bedside hours in end without complaint. Just to make sure that i get what I need. Many times she is my voice when I can’t speak up for myself. If you are in a situation where you don’t feel as though you can stand up for yourself take someone with you. If you can, take a family member or a friend with you to the ER or to the Dr to help make sure you get the treatment and care that deserve.

If you need any help writing letters to your representatives or finding who your representatives are please let me know and I will be more than happy to help you however I can

Please take the time to also share this story in your communities. We have to get our stories out there, we have to find a way to be heard.

With Love,

Amber

Exercising with Chronic Illness

Exercise is not something I have talked a lot about in previous posts. Because it’s not something I have been doing. And it’s not something I enjoy, or to be honest know that much about. But honestly it’s time! The cardiologist cleared my heart and we are looking at my lungs. But recently a doctor that I love and respect very much reminded me that the shortness of breath and high heart rate I have been experiencing could be something as simple as deconditioning. So it’s time for me to get back to exercising. And to make getting fit a priority. As I started researching how I should get back into the fitness world I thought others could use the information as well. So today I wanted to share a bit of information on what kind of exercise is good for those with chronic illness/pain and joint issues.

Before we get into any suggestions about exercise I wanted to remind you about a few things.

  • Before beginning any exercise program you should ALWAYS contact your physician to get the okay.
  • You should always start with low impact and go slow! You can increase your impact and intensity slowly.
  • Always move at your own pace and never try to keep up with someone you are with or with a class.
  • Lastly if your pain level increases by more than 2 points from where it was at the start of the exercise you should stop &/or modify that specific exercise to try to ensure that you don’t cause a flare.

It is recommend that everyone do a combination of stretching exercises, strengthening exercises and cardiovascular exercises! Stretching will help to increase flexibility, loosen any tight or stiff muscles, as well as improve range of motion. Everyone should be doing some stretching EVERYDAY!! Strengthening will help to build up muscle strength. And cardiovascular exercise has a plethora of healing benefits. Now let’s look at what specific cardiovascular or aerobic exercises you could be doing.

1. Walking – is an excellent form of light aerobic exercise. It helps to bring oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, helps rebuild stamina, boosts energy, and will reduce stiffness and pain. Other options of low impact aerobic exercises would be riding a stationary bike or using an elliptical.

2. Yoga – Practice the most gentle kind of yoga you can, preferably the Hatha form of yoga. This kind of yoga is a combination of postures, breathing, and meditation that will reduce the physical and physiological symptoms of pain. A study that was published in the Journal of Pain states that participants reported significantly less pain when doing yoga. Yoga will also help to build endurance and energy while improving sleep and concentration.

3. Tai Chi – The benefits seen with tai chi are very similar to those seen in those who do yoga. Tai Chi is a very low impact kind of exercise where the participants slowly, gradually and gracefully preform a series of movements. Studies show that this form of exercise may even be better to relieve fibromyalgia pain than yoga!

4. Swimming & Water Aerobics – Any exercise in the water is good for people with chronic pain or joint issues. It is also an excellent alternative to walking for those with mobility issues. Being in the water provides a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that helps to keep you moving without putting added stress on joints and muscles.

The last point I want to make applies to all people. Not just those who are chronically ill. It is something I have struggled with love you whole life not just the last six years since I’ve been diagnosed. I don’t know about all of you but if I don’t have an accountability partner I am less likely to stay accountable and stay on track. If I have someone who is checking in on me a few times a week saying hey how is your diet, and how is your exercise routine going? I am more likely to actually stay on top of those things. So I strongly recommend finding someone in your life to be that person for you. So make sure you find someone to help you stay on track.

We took a brief look at some exercises that are good for those who have chronic pain or have joint issues. So maybe this will give you an idea of where you could start. I did not cover stretching directly because most people have a basic idea of how to stretch. I also didn’t cover strength training, because it can be very complicated and vary dramatically from one person to the next. However, there are articles for reference on both below. If you do plan on starting a new exercise plan please let me know what you plan on doing. I know for me having an accountability partner works best for me. If I don’t have someone to keep me accountable then I won’t stick to my plan as well as I do with that partner. So that is also something for you to keep in mind. If I can help you in any way please let me know. I would be very happy to help!!! I hope this helps some of you. Below are some articles for references on exercise with chronic illness for you.

With Love,

Amber

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-and-chronic-disease/art-20046049

Expert Advice: How to Overcome Obstacles to Exercising with Chronic Illness

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971

https://www.fmcpaware.org/exercise/strength-training-for-the-person-with-fibromyalgia.html

How I Really Feel About…….. Pain

Pain….. is something I deal with daily. And I am guessing that many of you do as well! It has just become a part of our daily lives and something many of us don’t give a second thought to. And most of us would give anything to have one pain free day where nothing hurt at all without having to take a pill to get that way. That being said it has become a BATTLE for some to actually get the medicine that they need to treat said pain. Thanks to all those who are abusing pain medicine it makes those of us who actually battle chronic pain to also be viewed as an addict to some care providers. It is so sad that people who have chronic pain and live in pain everyday have to jump through such hoops just to get the medicine that we need to be able to function.

I usually try to stay away from the highly debated issues like this, but I read something that really struck a chord with me this weekend. A fellow Lupie posted that she got to the point where she could no longer handle her pain at home with all the alternative options, and ibuprofen she has at home. So she went to the ER, simply because she didn’t know what else to do. And of course because her primary complaint was pain, she was looked at by some of the care providers that she was simply drug seeking. And I know she is not alone in this I know this happens all the time. It has happened to me when I went in to the ER with a Hemiplegic migraine, there was no test to show that I was truly in pain so its easy to assume that I really just want pain medications. I even had one doctor tell me that I was just a hypochondriac and that there was no reason for me to be seeking treatment in HIS ER.

That’s the whole problem with autoimmune conditions and chronic pain syndrome, there is not always a blood test or imaging that will show that the patient is truly hurting. Most doctors don’t understand autoimmune conditions therefore they don’t understand why we are in pain. If they can’t see a lab result change or something on an MRI or CT Scan to explain the pain they just don’t get it.  And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t be honest about my pain with some of my doctors without them looking at me and thinking I just want the drugs. When in all reality I just want a day where I can wake up and function like a normal person. I don’t like how the pain medications make me feel but if that is what I have to do to function then so be it. I think many of you would agree with me when I say I just want a day without pain. I would give almost anything to have a day, a week, a whole seven days where I didn’t hurt somewhere and I could do all the things that I want to do without having to spend the next day(s) in bed.

The government at the local, state and federal levels are trying to do what they can to change how pain medications are prescribed and filled to decrease the level of abuse. In some states you are only allowed a seven day prescription no matter what the reason for needing pain medication is. In other places you have to give a urine sample every thirty days before you can get a new script to show that you are really taking the medicine and not selling it. Pharmacies are now being linked in many states throughout their local areas to try to prevent those abusing drugs from doctor hopping and having multiple scripts from multiple different doctors. While all of this is positive and will hopefully start to decrease the abuse of pain killers. It has actually made it harder for those of us who really need it to function. We are being made to jump through more hoops then ever before.

The real question I guess is how do we change the views of these care providers, especially ER providers. Where they see a large amount of drug seekers everyday. What can we do to prove to them that we aren’t wanting more and more medications, that we just want help getting through this flare up. Even with our conditions in our charts that say LUPUS, MIGRAINES, ENDOMETRIOSIS or whatever conditions you have that cause pain, they still often times wonder. I have thought about this a lot and have come to the conclusion that we will never change the way they look at us. We just have to have tough skin and prove to them that we don’t want an extra script or something new to take at home, we just needs something to break the cycle we are in. Maybe one day more doctors and care providers will start to understand the conditions that cause chronic pain. Until then we are stuck in this horrible rut and just have to prove our self to each new provider, and show them who we are and what we stand for.

With Love,

Amber