Dr. Patty's Pain Journey Of 31 Years Updated on July 19, 2014 (Part 2)

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    Dr. Patty’s Pain Journey Of 31 Years Updated on July 19, 2014 (Part 2)

    In May, 1987 I graduated from Chapman College with my Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. While going through ceremonies, I remember being in this body! Cast under my cap and gown. I had to use a cane at the time also. I was continued on very strong medication also. After graduation, I stayed in the on campus apartments as long as I could. I decided to continue my schooling and go for my Master of Arts degree in psychology. I went through many classes and I loved school.

    In 1989 I applied for social security. It was granted with Medi-cal and Medicare. In 1989, I met a spinal specialist at UCI and he thought that he could fix my back. He said that I needed to lose at least 100 pounds. I had done everything at that time. I decided to have a vertical band gastroplasty with a gastric intestinal bypass. It was a new procedure at that time. It was a very invasive surgery. I had to be on baby food for 6 months after the surgery. After leaving the hospital, I went home to my school apartment and hoped to start a new life with this new procedure.

    After starting solid foods I had a lot of problems. I vomited every day and had dumping syndrome. The benefits of the surgery at that time outweighed the bad stuff. Everyone was complimenting me on how I looked. Those made me want to keep losing.
    In 1990, I had lost the 100 pounds and the spinal specialist operated. He did an anterior and posterior fusion, with isola rods and pedicle screws and titanium plates. I was in surgery for more than 8 hours. When I awoke, I was told I had to lie flat for 24 hours. I was still out of it from the anesthesia so it was hard for my mother to get me to understand that. I got up and started walking after the 24-hour period was up. I still had a lot of pain, but I thought that it would pass.

    After coming home, I did everything the doctors told me to do. It took a long time to feel any better. I was placed in a special Kydex Jacket (I called it the turtle shell) to limit movement. Well, needless to say, I went back to classes and continued my education. I was only taking Lortab after my surgery. Eventually, I was only taking classes part-time so I had to move off of campus. I found an apartment right across the street from the psychology department. I tried very hard not to miss classes because of my pain. I went through the majority of my Master of Arts degree in psychology and it was time to advance to candidacy. At this point, if advanced, I would be able to work in the community clinic.

    Well, after trying to advance several times, I was never advanced from that school. I did not understand. Most of the professors knew me well. I even had a publication that was submitted without my knowing to the Chapman College Psychology Journal. I was surprised that a paper that I wrote on morphine was published in 1987. Still, that did not make a difference. I found in later years that most probably the reason why I was not advanced was because I was on pain medication to help my severe chronic pain. Of course, that hurt emotionally. At that point, I stopped school to reassess what I wanted to do with my life.

    I stayed in my apartment and just existed. I did not have a computer at the time, I had very little money (just my social security & work comp), and I just had the television and my phone. In 1993, a boyfriend that I had had since 1983 decided he didn’t wish to be with me anymore. Actually, it was a blessing in disguise. We broke up on Labor Day, 1993. In 1994 I got really ill and a friend got me to a hospital in time. I developed a problem called metabolic acidosis. This happens to diabetics (I am not a diabetic).

    The emergency room doctor asked me to stay in the hospital so that they can find out how I got this. At this time, I was on heavier med such as Soma (yuck!), Dilaudid, etc. I thank the Lord that I stayed. The next day while going to the restroom in my hospital room, I apparently passed out in the bathroom, hit the floor and had a cardiac arrest. I have no memory of that except waking up in the bed and not knowing how I got there.

    It was recommended that I enter a detoxification unit at the hospital that I was in because at that time doctors believed that if someone had to take narcotics daily, they were addicted. I decided to try the program. I entered in February 1994. I stayed in the hospital 1 month and then continued with aftercare while at home. I was completely withdrawn from all of my medications. I was so sick. I didn’t sleep for over 30 days. The pain was horrible. They brainwashed me very well. I believed that I was an addict. I felt that if I took one more pain medication that I would die instantly!!!(Nice phobia don’t you think??). I went through Pills Anonymous, which is a group similar to AA.

    After finishing the program, I came back to visit and ask some questions about a dental procedure that required anesthesia and pain medication. At that time one of the counselors asked me to volunteer at the unit. I was excited because I thought if I increased my sitting tolerance, then I could go back to school again. Soon after starting to volunteer, I was talking on the phone with the chairman of the department. He also had back pain. He was trying to teach me about the computer in the office and was extremely patient. About 2 weeks passed and this older gentleman walked in the office. I thought he looked like an old geezer. He thought I walked like a guy. Well, that gentleman was the chairman of the Department and his name was Dennis. He was 22 years older than I, had kids, was married (thinking about separation). We talked and talked and talked. We had so much in common it was uncanny.

    One morning I woke up to go volunteer and I felt like I had a bad case of the flu. I decided to rest and go back to volunteer the next day. I was dizzy when I got up. Eventually, I went to the doctor and I had a gastrointestinal bleed. I was quickly brought to the hospital to blood transfusion (6 pints) because my hemoglobin was 3.0. After the transfusion, the doctors did some tests to see where the bleed was coming from. They could not find it. So after the weekend, I went back to volunteering. That morning I started feeling funny and decided to go back home. I started to bleed again and one of the nurses in the hospital got me to the emergency room quickly. I went into shock and started losing consciousness by the time I got there.

    During that time, I noticed that the clock had stopped in the emergency room. I heard a voice telling me that I was not going to die and that I was going to follow a path after I got through this. Soon after, the clock started. I had asked the ER doctor if the clocked stopped and if there was someone visiting me. He said no and that I was just in shock. What I realized soon after was that an angel was visiting me.

    Soon after, my parents were called and I was put in Intensive Care. I was told that another endoscopy needed to be done to try and find where the bleed was. I had refused sedation a few days before because I thought I would explode and die. My mom held my hand and said that will not happen. So I eventually had the test with sedation and the bleed was found. I also did not blow up. Surgery was soon scheduled. Before surgery, I was told that I needed to reverse the weight loss surgery if I needed to take anti-inflammatories again. Before surgery, I had said that I would not take any med after surgery. So, they brought counselors over from the detox unit to tell me it was all right. They said to me this is under a doctor’s care. I said it was also under a doctor’s care before going into detox, so what is the difference? Well, I ended up having the surgery with pain medications.

    When I awoke from surgery, my mom and dad told me that the anesthesiologist lost a catheter tip when starting a central line. They were able to locate it, but said it would be better to just leave it there. I remember while recovering in the hospital that I wanted off IV med quickly. They tried to give me Vicodin for pain but I refused and only accepted Tylenol with Codeine. I went home to my sister’s home, ”where my mom was staying” to recuperate. During recuperation this gentleman, Dennis called me every day to check on me. I only stayed at my sister’s home for 2 weeks and then went home to my apartment.

    Dennis and I got to know each other very well. We were like brother and sister. We found more things that we had in common. On Labor Day, 1994 we went to Stateline Nevada for a break away. I remembered my pain getting worse again. I had to start using crutches. Soon after, I got accepted to another school and went to school again. During this time before surgery, I was studying hard to get my Master of Arts degree in psychology. Dennis helped me move to another apartment in Anaheim, CA where I was on the second floor. The complex had a pool and much more room than what I had in Orange. He eventually moved in with me in 1995.

    About 6 months after moving, the surgery was being scheduled. So I had to find another apartment on the first floor. We found an apartment in Huntington Beach California and moved there right before the surgery that was scheduled in December 1995. I had the surgery in December and I was sent to physical rehabilitation right after for one month. I had to stop school and internship while recovering. It turned out that I needed another fusion from L1-S1. I had had some broken titanium screws and I had problems fusing again. I had the surgery and attempted to go back to my life.

    I graduated with my Master of Arts degree in clinical psychology in 1996 and was scholar shipped for my doctorate, in which I graduated 1 year after my master’s because I had a lot of transfer credits. I became a Doctor of Psychology in 1997. While I was finishing school, I went to another pain management clinic. This doctor believed in treating pain with opiates. I learned a lot during this time about pain treatment with opiates. I had been diagnosed with multiple pain disorders early on such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Osteoporosis (due to steroids), and the list goes on.

    In school I specialized in the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of chemical dependency (thought I may need that knowledge while dealing with pain patients) and pain management. I also decided to advocate for people in pain. While in the early days when I was alone, I felt like I didn’t want to stay on this earth anymore. I was so depressed. I never wanted anyone to feel the way that I did. While I was working as a therapist, I learned that not everything is like what is in the books.

    In late 1997 I began having pain in my shoulder. I went through many tests but the doctors couldn’t figure it out. Finally, during that time, I developed a problem with my left pinkie. It was a bone infection called osteomyelitis. I was in the hospital for a short time and was given high dose antibiotics. About 6 months after, I woke up one morning and could not get out of bed. I screamed for Dennis who was staying with me. I was taken to the hospital and was told that the infection from my shoulder and pinkie spread to my spine. I had gone through several biopsies and tests just to try to get rid of this infection.

    My spinal specialist eventually told me that there was nothing that could be done. What usually happens is that an individual gets the infection, clears it up with antibiotics and then they have surgery. For me, nothing else could be done. I was told that it was too dangerous to attempt to clean the infection out of my spine and the chances of me surviving were not good. Also, the broken hardware eventually became encased in bone and that meant that it would be too difficult, if not impossible to get those out.

    I was also told that I would fuse in a non-physiological angle. Unfortunately, it did. My chin/brow line (when I stand) is parallel to the floor. I am now fused at a 90-degree angle. I am unable to lie flat on my back or on my left side. I am also unable to sit for more than 10-15 minutes without causing my pain to go wild. When I was seeing the pain doctor in 1997 it was discovered that due to the previous stomach stapling and gastric intestinal bypass (even with the reversal) that I had a malabsorption problem so that my meds (antibiotics, pain meds) have to be administered through other means such as intravenous, through patch, pop, sublingual, etc.


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