Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Gentleman Junkie

     It never works out in my favor when I try to force myself to blog, not once. I tried to last weekend and this post was something completely different, something that I was tripping all over. As frustrating as it is when that happens, because I'm denied a pressure-release, I've learned to ride it out. Now, it's easier, what I want to say, how I want to say it. Thank God for that.

     My husband had an appointment at his primary care physician's office this morning, but not with the doctor. Instead, he saw the awesome nurse practitioner who is empathetic and listens to him and is just an all-around incredible human being. This appointment was one that my husband didn't make for himself, but rather that the NP made for him to come in so that they could find a solution to the pain issue that's been front and center in our lives for too damn long. While our doctor's office really is that great, that they'll go out of their way to schedule you for appointments that you didn't know how to ask for, this wasn't quite an unprovoked meeting of the minds.

     A little over a week ago, not last Friday, but the one before, my husband finally decided to go to the ER to get some help for the spinal pain that hadn't allowed him to really sleep or eat for almost forty-eight hours prior. Why'd he wait so long, when I've made it clear that we frequent the emergency room like most people frequent Target? Because. Appearances matter, like it or not, and until last weekend, my husband could, with very little effort, easily be mistaken for a stereotypical homeless junkie.

     I really, really didn't want to write that last sentence, because it feels like I'm just reinforcing the image some people seem to have of anyone who's less than clean-shaven.  I myself work in a large-ish law firm and, not surprisingly, conservative, business-casual attire is required. This means I have to keep my hair a normal-ish color, not the purple I so desperately want, and I have to ignore eight of the ten piercings in my ears, because to do otherwise doesn't really present the image I'm sure my employer is going for. I like my job, want to keep it, and  I understand why I can't wear my beloved Dr. Martens and band t-shirts to the office, but it doesn't mean I'm not inwardly cringing at having to spend forty hours a week in ballet flats and cardigans.

     I've learned, over the time spent in medical adventures with my husband, that appearances matter a hell of a lot when it comes to narcotics and any treatment involving them. It sucks, it's horrible, and it's the one of the two things that's ever made my fingers itch to beat someone stupid with their own shoe, but it's also a nasty catch-22, because it's one of those things that you can't really complain about. Why? "DRUG SEEKING! DRUGSEEKINGDRUGSEEKING! ALL DAY LONG, DRUG SEEKING!" And once that particular brand is burned into your medical records, it never leaves.

     We've encountered it for a long time, my husband and I, but never with the frequency that we started running into when we got to North Carolina. I have no idea what it is about this city, but Jesus Christ, this town hates painkillers. Or maybe it likes them too much, got into trouble, and then had their hand slapped. I don't know. What I do know is that I don't feel like my husband ever had this much trouble with being treated like an addict in St. Louis as he's had since we've moved here. No idea why. None.

     He tried a pain-management doctor, and he was treated so poorly that he asked his pcp if he could refer him to another one. My husband told his doctor why, and he was happy to refer him somewhere else. Went there, and that time, my husband made sure to bring me with him. It's sad, but he gets better treatment when I'm around than when he's by himself when it comes to anything involving narcotics. I mean, to the point that he will wait for me to get home, suffering and barely able to move, so that I can go to the ER with him, because surely a true addict wouldn't have a well-dressed, wells-spoken little wife, right? That's the logic the ER doctors seem to use, so we do what we can to play the game.

     The second pain-management doctor was worse than the first, and only started treating my husband like a human being with a disorder than no one seemed to know how to accurately treat, when he brought up the fact that he'd only wanted the painkillers to be a stop-gap, not his actual treatment. It was at that point the doctor became an actual human who treated my husband in kind, after he pointed out that he'd never wanted to be on painkillers for any length of time and what other options were there?

     None, as it turns out. None that were viable, anyway. So he's just been trying to push through the pain, working and living with a screwdriver prying his vertebrae apart. That's how he describes it to me - a flathead screwdriver wedged between the still-movable pieces of his spine, trying determinedly to break it apart. Some days it's a gentle persistence, some days it's particularly indelicate maniac.

     He was afraid to go to the ER, afraid of how he knew he'd be treated if he went there seeking relief from the burning in his back, the shooting pains down his legs. Two and a half days he stayed like this, wishing for a break so he could catch his breath. It didn't come, so he finally made up his mind to drive himself to the ER while I was at work - he couldn't wait. Okay, that's cool, I'll come get you on my way home from work.

     Already-long story short, my husband had the worst experience he's yet had at a hospital. The asshat who was overseeing his "care" did nothing but take an x-ray that showed nothing except what my husband had already told him was there and send him on his way with extra-strength Tylenol and a smug, "I'm feeling generous today, or you wouldn't have gotten that." (No, really - he actually said that to his patient. Fuck. You.) I wanted to cry from the unfairness of the treatment when my husband texted me to tell me what happened.

     Part of that attitude, I get. I'm far from stupid and I know how prevalent the abuse of prescription painkillers is. It's everywhere, rich and poor, polo shirts and Ministry tees. It's both sides though! Really, it's just as much the doctors who abuse the privilege of being able to write prescriptions for those drugs fault as it is the abusers. That's what kills me, when I see them look with distaste at my husband, when they ask him pointed questions that he learned a long time ago don't really mean what they say they mean. It kills me that he's seemingly being punished for a crime not committed, and for what? Because he doesn't/does look the part, depending on how you look at it?

     I would say, "Fuck that noise," and walk away, except the noise drowns everything else out; neither of us knows what to do about that.



1 comment:

Shannon Keneson said...

My husband's pop has been awesome in prescribing his pain meds. I'm grateful for that because otherwise he wouldn't sleep. My husband is starting to feel the affects of dural ectasia. No where near as bad off as your husband. Not even in the same hemisphere of pain/surgery as yours. If you feel like driving a good 8 hours I could give you the docs number!