Pain impacted my life so much that I was prepared to use life-threatening treatment to get rid of it.
I have a rare congenital blood clot condition called Portal Vein Thombosis, which caused severe abdominal pain over 25 years.
For most of that time, it was diagnosed as "all in my head", until advances in medicine recognised that severe abdominal pain can be ongoing and permanent.
“Pain management” was in the form of self-medicating on alcohol and over-the-counter pain medication, because no one would prescribe me anything.
Without a medical diagnosis, most of my family wouldn’t believe me, and left me to my own devices. I couldn’t keep a job, my marriages broke down, and my daughter was removed from my care.
When my pain was finally confirmed as legitimate, my pain specialist tried every drug possible: gabapanten, pethadine, spinal block medication, oxycontin, morphine, fentanyl patches, methadone, and ketamine infusions as an inpatient at the public hospital. The medications were only temporarily effective and very expensive.
Finally my specialist said there was nothing left but the morphine pump implant, which would ultimately take my life. I saw a surgeon about the procedure in January 2011 but he wouldn’t operate until I had private health insurance, so I sacrificed to have 12 months of private cover, at which time the surgeon suggested a spinal cord stimulator instead.
I was apprehensive as it isn’t usually used for abdominal pain, but I wanted to try it because it was a drug-free option. The trial machine gave me incredible pain relief, so a permanent stimulator was inserted in December 2012.
The day after the permanent implant, I asked the nurses to start weaning me off the 5 x 10mg methadone tablets and now, eight months later, I am on 1 x 10mg methadone tablet. I hope to be weaned off completely by Christmas.
I was prepared for death with the morphine pump. Instead, I was given life with the stimulator. I am now back at work and am studying at university part-time.
I consider myself a very blessed person. Being pain-free and drug-free is the most amazing feeling. Chronic pain is not “make-believe”.