We're a little crazy, about science!

Surgery in a pandemic

A seemingly endless hallway in a hospital. The floors have a shine to them and the yellow tint to the lighting makes it feel older than it probably is.
I took this photo today. It’s my favorite hallway in the VA because it just seems so endless. It goes the full length of the hospital (I think) and today it was empty. They are limiting the number of people who can come into the VA, which was a nice surprise, although it was still far too many people for my comfort.

I was planning on having surgery over the summer. I put it off because I didn’t want to go to go to the VA hospital. It’s a depressing place in the best of times, a not so friendly reminder that as a veteran we’re better off dead and the living are an afterthought. When the pandemic hit it was, and is, the last place I want to be. Yet, I can’t put it off anymore, so I’m having surgery.

Pain is a good motivator for a lot of things. Step on a nail and your spinal cord literally reacts before your brain has a chance to process what the hell just happened (read more). Pain is needed to keep us safe and to let us know when we’ve done damage to our body. If you’re familiar with the rare cases where people have no sensation of pain (read more) then you know that it’s a begrudgingly needed gift. Pain lets us know that we’re alive and are in trouble.

Did you know that if you drink too much water you can kill yourself? It’s true and while uncommon, it happens even recently (read more). That’s the other side of the coin. Too much of a good thing, is still too much. Pain isn’t bad, it keeps us alive and safe so I would argue that it’s very much a needed sensation, even though some may disagree. The disagreement may come in because chronic pain, the other side of the coin, is very much a problem and in short, it’s a pain.

Chronic pain causes are so varying I think it would rival the list of things that cause physical pain. For anyone who has had to deal with a pain that lasts longer than, say a day, you know that it can be exhausting. Even if it doesn’t affect your sleep, pain wears on a person and can lead to mental fatigue too. We weren’t built to be in pain all the time, it’s not the natural state of things, yet so many of us are in chronic pain.

This in part lead to the opioid crisis. That caused a clashing with the “war on drugs.” So now people living with chronic pain are stuck in a purgatory of sorts. It turns out pain is tough to fix. While the medications that help tend to be addictive, they can also be life changing for the people who need them. Unfortunately because of the “war on drugs” people who need them tend to be labelled drug seeking or are grilled like criminals to determine if they really are in pain.

You know what’s worse than being in pain all the time? Being told that you’re making it up.

Now to the point of this post, yeah we took the long route, it’s my blog we do that sometimes. I’m having surgery to correct some of my chronic pain (yay). It took years to get this one and I’ve had two surgeries like clockwork every year for the past four years. Yeah, it’s a lot. I had one right before the pandemic and now I get to have a second one, so this year is no different from previous years despite my best efforts.

So why talk opioids and not being believed if I’m getting a fix? Well because this was a long road. Turns out I don’t respond to pain medication. I mean at all. Vicodin did nothing, like never felt like I was taking it. Codeine made me irrationally angry, a odd, but listed rare side effect. The list goes on and on, but it all ended the same way, no relief. When they finally gave me opioids they made me extremely nauseous, tired, but did absolutely nothing for the pain.

You know what people think when you’re taking pain killers and the pain persists? You’re faking it. That’s what they think and they will tell you this to your face.

I didn’t want opioids and I flat out explained that I’ve never had a pain medication that did a damned thing for me. I didn’t want to even try. Even when they figured out what was causing the pain, surgery was the “last option” and so I had to jump through all these hoops, be accused of lying about my pain, just to hear that I was right. That surgery was going to be the only way to solve the problem. The surgery was finally going to happen… then the pandemic hit.

Well I made it several months trying to wait it out. Could I live like this a whole year longer than I have now? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be easy. So now I’m having surgery because I can’t live like this and I really, really need it. I’m not thrilled about it, but I’m taking all the precautions I can. The VA gave me a COVID test and I’m clear there, so I will be having surgery in a week. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I won’t regret it after the fact.

Point of today’s post is simple, pain hurts. Sometimes risking your health for relief is a risk you need to take.


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