I can hear you talking.
“You don’t know anything about me. You are a doctor with all those initials after your name. What do you know about having to feed your family with this pain?”
You’re right. I am a Doctor of Nursing Practice. I have been in healthcare for over 33 years. I have been an EMT, a Fire fighter, an ER Nurse, ran a nursing home, started a cancer clinic at the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University and now I oversee an online graduate nursing education program and work with drug-addicted patients. I have seen much of this country and parts of Europe. I have had a good life.
You want to know what else?
I live with excruciating, chronic pain every single day: Just Like You.
How did I get here?
Like you, I’ve had aches and pains. I broke my thumb as a nurse and it has given me trouble ever since. I have always had a tender back and had to be careful what I did and how I did it. About 8 years ago I was deployed to help victims of the Haiti earthquake. Before leaving, I had to be vaccinated for Typhoid. The vaccine gave me a low-grade form of Typhoid and I was quarantined in an Atlanta hotel room for 48 hours and left behind while my team went on to Haiti.
Once I returned home, the pain in my back started getting worse. After many trips to my doctor and seeing several specialists, it was determined that the Typhoid vaccine had led to a chronic condition called Adhesive Arachnoiditis.
I used to hike, bike, travel and take long daily walks. I used to be able to work 12-hour days. I used to be able to not ever have to worry if I have done too much and will wake up tomorrow in great pain. I used to do a lot of things.
When the pain became so powerful that I could not stand for longer than a few minutes at a time, I was forced to quit working with cancer patients – the work was just too strenuous. That was more painful than the chronic pain in my back. What good was I if I couldn’t be bedside taking care of people? What could I possibly do in life that could match that?
With some help from my family, God and counseling, I realized I could teach the next generation of care takers. It still doesn’t have the same impact for me or patients as being at the bedside would, but that part of my life is gone now.
I’ve had many wonderful experiences in my past and I have a great deal of education; but we are exactly the same. Chronic pain has taken many things away from me. It will probably shorten my ability to really enjoy life as I age. Just like you, I curse chronic pain every single day. And just like you, I am coping with it one day at a time.
How did I get here? Just like you.
Until next time ~ Dr. JB Kirby