- Shirley Phillips
The stabbing pain in my abdomen jolted me awake at 3 a.m. Four broken bones, giving birth to two babies, gallstones – all minor aches compared to this. At the hospital they found no reason for my pain. The blood tests were normal. I had no fever. They sent me home.
It went away, and then it happened again two days later. I was hospitalized and taken off food. It got better again, and then it came back. I was referred to a pain clinic. The first one refused to see me. They said that I must be drug-seeking despite a letter from my doctor. The nurse at the second clinic told me I wasn’t in pain but seeking painkillers to get high.
I ended up back at the emergency room. Without examining me, another doctor lectured me on the dangers of opioid pain medicine. When the blood tests came back normal, he sent the nurse to tell me to go home and take Tylenol. With the pain at ten out of ten, I asked her to help me get to the lobby. She left me alone after tossing the discharge papers at me. She had no time to waste on a patient she viewed as an addict – as if addiction was a matter of choice rather than deserving of treatment.
My doctor believes something is wrong but he doesn’t know what it is. He sends me to a surgeon. There is a cyst on my liver. It’s likely benign, but he’s run out of ideas. The surgeon sends me for a CT scan. When it’s over they leave in the IV and offer to push me in a wheelchair to the surgeon’s office. I don’t understand until the surgeon says “You have pancreatitis. You need to be in the hospital. You can die from this.” I vomit in the little sink in the corner while waiting to be admitted.
I know that the people who abuse pain medicine to get high have made health care providers suspicious and distrustful, and this has led to my suffering and lack of appropriate treatment. Yet we share a common need to be treated for what ails us, whether that is an inflamed pancreas or an addiction to pain medicine. Instead, we all end up being mistreated. If you do medicine right, we do not all look the same.
Nashua, New Hampshire
Nashua, New Hampshire