I have been fortunate enough to have most of my care transferred to the “Pain Clinic” at Wishard Hospital. The director of the clinic, Dr. Palmer Mackie (pronounced Ma-ki) received his M.D. from the University of Health Science, Chicago Medical School. He is blunt, and very to the point when he speaks to you. Something I prefer, and enjoy. I am one of those people who, if diagnosed with a terminal disease, would rather have the doctor tell me flatly and bluntly, “You are going to die from this,” and not dance around the elephant in the room.
I met first Mackie when I was required to attend the ten-week pain clinic classes at the end of last year. He spoke to us the first session bluntly and plainly, laying out what his philosophy was regarding chronic pain and its management. The second session he opened by apologizing to the group for having offended someone. Personally, I would have told the offended person to kiss a fat rat’s ass, but Mackie is much more of a gentleman than I.
Ironically, the class started with approximately 25 participants, and by the end of the ten-weeks, we were down too little over half that number. One of the things emphasized every class session was, if you were seeking drugs, this was not the place for you. The clinic takes an integrated pain management view, and does not dispense narcotics on a whim. I guess those that dropped out were looking for more than simply managing their pain.
The ten-weeks were actually a bore, with everyone from a physical therapist to a nutritionist to a social worker to an occupational therapist all having a go at us. I suppose it is because I have read so much about my various conditions that I was bored, and while the sessions didn’t do much for me, I hope they did something for the others. The group I was in was not, and I am being a snob here, filled with mental giants. The class was the second, third or even fourth go round for some people, and there were several that loved to hear the sound of their own voices.
As I sat there at eight in the morning, I often thought, “If these people would just shut the hell up, we could be done.” I know that chronic pain, and the problems associated with chronic pain, is wearisome, tearing at the very fiber of a person’s soul, and making one feel as if there is no relief in sight. However, and this is the cold-hearted part of me, no one wants to hear your whining story every week. Unless you have something new to add to the discussion, be quiet. Perhaps it is hypocritical of me to make such a statement as I sit here typing away, but I like to think that I am adding to the dialogue about public healthcare, along with bringing a spot of humor along the way.
Truthfully, I don’t know why I was relegated to the pain clinic. The only reason I can think of is my hostility to some of the staff in the neurology department. Since neurology didn’t know how to deal with me, or offer up any answers for me, the easiest thing to do was to pass me down the line. Truthfully, I am glad they did.
I am coming to the realization that I probably will not get all the answers I am seeking. For some reason the doctors, nurses, social workers, ad nauseum are unable to offer up the type of explanation that I desire. It is not that I am looking for some magic potion to fix all my ills, but rather I simply want to understand why my body is fighting me at every turn. I know that many of my problems could be directly linked back to all the abuse I have put myself through over 50+ years. Between injuries, bad diets, smoking, drinking, and working in stressful situations, I have set myself up for a physical break down. One can only operate a machine for so long without proper maintenance before the machine rebels and breaks. That is how things have gone with me. Too many years of letting the oil run out, or not getting a tune up, so to speak, and I am reaping the reward of my negligence.
In retrospect, I have to ask myself if all the years of injuries, long hours, seeing all the trauma, death and destruction were worth it. Knowing what I know now about how I would be physically and mentally, would I have still done the things I have done? The answer is simple. Yes. There are things that are greater than one’s self.
I can only hope since I am now in the hands of the pain clinic, they can offer up some suggestions on how to make life more bearable. There are days where I would love to be shot full of opiates and simply crawl back into bed, whiling away the hours in a fog. However, I know that is not the answer. While I don’t really know what the answer is to my problems, I do know that I have things yet to contribute to society. I’m scheduled to see the pain clinic’s social worker in the next ten days. The occupational therapist suggested that I talk with her about vocational rehab, and the possibility of going back to school.
All of my training and education has been in the law enforcement and investigations field, occupations I can no longer perform. However, there may be opportunities out there for me in other fields, if I can get the retraining or education I need. The problem with finding something is the vast amount of information that overwhelms you when you begin to search for a new career. Add to that the need to find financing to pay for any education. While there are tons of grants out there for those seeking an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s, I have yet to find anything to help pay for a master’s. Since I have a BA, it makes no sense to me to get another bachelor’s degree. I may be wrong, and that is what I need to discuss with a voc-rehab specialist.
The next few months will interesting. I am going to try diligently to find a “new path” for my life, and hopefully a new career. I do know that trying to live on a third of what I used to make annually is not working. Even with paring down all of my expenses, I still fall short month to month, and living at a subsistence level is not for me. The ride over the past several years has been rough and the road very rocky. I do not see or seek the easy way. I know that making changes in my life, whether it is going back to school after thirty years, or just learning a new skill will take time and effort. It is something that I do not look forward too, but I know it is needed. So, I guess I will just hang on, and try to enjoy the ride.