Hospital Memories Part 6 – The Pain
Forcing myself to dig into the past, confront it head-on, ain’t been an easy thing to do.
Some horrible memories.
However, I don’t want sympathy. I want to make it clear that this is a positive post.
Horrible memories or not, this story ends in victory. A reason to have hope when it seems easier to give up.
Anybody going through something similar, a pain that piggybacks every thought and every moment, you need to believe that there can be an end to the suffering. I wouldn’t have believed you but please, take it from someone who has been pushed to the edge but been allowed to step back.
It all started about 5 months after the accident when I was continuing my recovery in hospital. I began to feel a niggling sensation across the back of my head, like pins and needles. It was diagnosed as Chronic Neuropathic Spinal Cord Injury Pain. I was told I was lucky, the tingling was a very mild symptom and it could have been extremely severe.
My luck didn’t last long. Within a couple of weeks I understood just how severe it can be.
I have tried describing this pain to so many different doctors, physicians, consultants, therapists, psychiatrists, friends and family. I still cant get it right because pain is so subjective. This is the best I can do,
Starting at the top of my neck and spreading across the back of my head, from ear to ear, my skull seemed to be as soft as a sponge and felt like someone was repeatedly stabbing at it with white hot daggers.
Nobody could touch it, I couldn’t wash my hair. I couldn’t even slide a T-shirt over my head without screaming. I was in agony almost every moment of the day, only a few seconds relief now and again. Unfortunately, a more vicious pain would come at night.
I dreaded going to bed. That’s when the pain escalated, when my resistance was completely broken.
As soon as I touched the pillow the pain would drill through my head. It felt like every individual nerve ending was being shocked, like an relentless taser gun to the back of my head. I would scream at the nurses to change the pillow again and again and again, desperately hoping that the next one would provide some relief. They all felt the same, like a bed of hot coals.
At my worst I spent 7 nights a week without sleeping, desperate for the morning and the slightly lesser pain of sitting in the chair. Throughout the entire night I would scream, top of my voice. Beg, hoping that someone could do something. Cry, tears flowing down my face, snot running from my nose (attractive!).
I admit that in the early hours of the morning I would have accepted anything for the pain to stop. Even death. Chronic pain sufferers will understand that.
I remember a nurse sitting next to my bed, holding my hand and in tears. She knew nothing could help but still, offered what she had.
Treatment seemed futile. The concoction of drugs had no impact. Not on the pain anyway. They did strip away at my spirit, my personality. I lost myself.
They tried acupuncture and other holistic methods but any contact was unbearable so they pumped more drugs into my system. I can’t blame them for that, I begged for it.
This continued for over two years. I was always in some degree of pain but the bad spells were unbearable.
After leaving hospital my family and friends offered all they could but my torture through the night was new to them. I had tried to prepare them, the nurses had tried to prepare them, but I don’t think it’s possible to prepare anyone for listening to a loved one in so much pain.
I tried to hide the agony, keep it to myself, but the pain took over when being transferred to bed. My family and friends often had to sit in another room and listen to me screaming for mercy, heartbreaking for them. My carers performing the transfer were constantly apologising, it wasn’t their fault and there was nothing they could do but they still felt responsible.
The drugs were destroying me. So much morphine, a disgusting drug. I knew I was changing, a faint shadow of myself. I only wanted to be asleep or to be alone. I didn’t even believe it was helping the pain but I was completely addicted. I lost days and I lost many friends, I was a horrible person to be around.
The only thing that gave me some respite was cannabis. Judge if you wish, I hope you are never so despairing that you would try anything in the search for comfort. Then you would maybe judge differently.
I don’t remember the pain going away, it wasn’t an instant release but it did loosen its grip over time. More than two years after those tingles started I felt strong enough to cut back on the morphine and other heavy painkillers. I gradually began finding myself. I was a different person. According to those who stuck by my side through those years, I was ‘me’ again.
Like anyone who has been or is suffering from chronic pain, I understand what agony is. I thought I did before but I was far off the mark. In the past I used the word ‘agony’ so flippantly. “My headache is agony, this cough is agony, my legs are agony after playing football”. Now I give the world the respect it deserves. Now I can truly appreciate days when I am pain free.
It was a wicked lesson but I am grateful for it. I now know that during the most desperate of times, when it seems like there is no hope and the suffering will never end, things will eventually change. I’ve been to rock bottom and spent years there but I still managed to find a way back.
I still fear pain, I still suffer from it, but now I believe finding solace is a test of endurance. We just need to cling on, by our fingertips, for long enough.
The rest of my ‘memories’ can be found here.