Dr. Patty's Pain Journey Of 31 Years Updated July 19, 2014 (Part 1)

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    Dr. Patty’s Pain Journey Of 31 Years Updated July 19, 2014 (Part 1)

    Hello. My name is Dr. Patty Hagler-Verdugo, PsyD.
    I am 51 years old. I am married to a wonderful man that I have known since 1995. We have been married for almost 10 years (2000). I was born in Freeport, NY and I lived on Long Island, NY for the first 11 years of my life (no, I don’t have my accent still). I graduated high school in 1980 (Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, CA).

    Upon graduation, I went to college at UCSD. I went there for 1 year. Due to financial difficulties, and the divorce of my parents, I did not return to UCSD for a second year. I worked full-time and went to Jr. College (LA Pierce College, Woodland Hills, CA). I saved money, applied for financial aid and then started a large university in LA in 1983. I worked really hard to help my mom pay for school. I had worked part-time since the beginning of my college education, then full-time before going to another school. Once at school I got 3 jobs. I worked in a law office as a clerk, worked at a preschool as an aftercare coordinator and worked in my dorm food service.

    On May 15, 1983 at 12:00pm (A date and time that are forever ingrained in my head), While I was working in food service, I was helping another student worker. We were working on dishes in the kitchen. He was taking care of the conveyor belt and I was just taking dishes off one by one. This young man was getting behind on the conveyor belt and dishes; forks, etc. were almost at the end of the conveyor belt with more behind them. I gave him some help of moving a tray of silverware to another location. Unfortunately, at the! At time employers did not educate their staff on proper body mechanics, as they do now.

    While picking up the tray of silverware and carrying to another location, I felt a pull in my back. Apparently, what I did was not take the tray of dishes off of the conveyor belt correctly. I did not use my knees. Also, while walking the silverware to their location, I carried them in front of me (placing more weight on my spine). I held them too far in front of me. I didn’t think much of it so continued with my shift.

    After the brunch rush I went to my dorm room to lie down. My roommate and I had bunk beds and I was on the top. When I awoke I had severe pain in my back and could barely move. I was told by my roommate (who also worked in food service) to go to the hospital. I felt uncomfortable about making a fuss. I thought that it was nothing. After a long discussion, I did what she said (she went to tell the supervisor). I thank the Lord she did.

    I went to the emergency room (at UCLA medical center). While I was there, x-rays were given n. I was told that it was probably just a strain or sprain. It was suggested that I stay at bed rest for 2 weeks. I was given some pain medication that made me feel so ill. The first shot of narcotics in my life (Demerol). I told the nurse I was going to be sick. She didn’t believe me (lol), so I vomited all over the place (talk about projectile vomiting˗˗LOL). Anyway, I was sent home to rest and employee health got hold of me and sent me to an orthopedic surgeon 2 weeks after my injury.

    The surgeon just gave me some medications (Tylenol…4 and some NSAIDS and was sent to a chiropractor, physical therapy, and for multiple epidurals. Eventually, because the pain was so bad an oil based myelogram was done (oil based dyes are no longer used today because they were found to cause spinal arachnoiditis). It turned out that what the doctor thought was sprain/strain was a mild disc herniation at the L5-S1 disc space. The pain never got better, just worse no matter what was tried conventionally.

    In 1983 a new surgery (experimental) was available called a chymopapain injection. (This is where a papaya enzyme is put into the disc space in the hopes that the herniation was to be dissolved. I remember going to the medical school library and looking everything up on this new procedure. All the studies that I read pointed to the fact that this was a better procedure than cutting into a person. Unfortunately, at that time, no longitudinal studies were done. I was referred by my orthopedic surgeon to a neurosurgeon so that he could do the procedure.

    I went through the surgery in August, 1983. In 1984, my original workman’s compensation case settled for Lifetime Medical and a few thousand dollars. I was released back to work and school. I worked in the public library as a clerk, worked in a psychological testing firm that scored computerized MMPIs (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory I); I also worked in a Psychiatric Hospital doing groups. I felt good for 2 years (except every month when I was menstruating).

    Then in 1985 I started hurting really horribly. I put off going to the doctor in the hopes that the pain would pass. Then I had no choice and went to see the neurosurgeon again. This doctor told me that my pain was caused by my parents˗˗ divorce (what a crock). He said that I would have to live with it. Eventually, I went back to the orthopedic surgeon that saw me at the beginning of my injury. And then I started having horrible pain again. After more tests, he recommended that I go into a pain management clinic (inpatient). I stayed in the hospital for one month.

    There were not many pain patients in there. We had group therapy (though we were not to discuss our pain out of the group), individual counseling, and physical therapy, occupational therapy, biofeedback, and yes medication reduction. I was not too thrilled by the approaches that this clinic used toward people in pain dealing with their lives. I had returned to the same pain unit every time I had to go in the hospital. I remember that the head psychologist there was trying to tell me how to live my life and deal with my pain. I was very sarcastic at that time. I asked her do you have chronic pain? She said no. My reply to her was so how can you tell me how to lead my life in pain if you have never experienced it. That stuck in my head for a long time.

    After my stay in pain management I decided to change schools and move to Orange, California. I began Chapman College (now university), to continue my studies in premed. I realized early on that I was not good in physics, Calculus, Chemistry, etc. So I decided to take more classes in psychology (strange because I failed my very first psychology class at UCSD). The difference between Chapman and the larger schools is how they teach and how you learn.

    For tests at Chapman, you had to think, not regurgitate information for a multiple choice test and then forget what you learned after the test. I found school fascinating at that time. I loved to write, do research, etc. While at Chapman, in 1986, my pain was worsening once again. I am sure the sitting in class didn’t help. The pain management psychologist did not think that I was mature enough to have surgery. So I continued school.

    In 1986 I started losing reflexes and the surgery had to be done. I had this second surgery in February, 1986. This was to be a fusion from L5-S1. At that time, I was told that I had to be at bed rest for 6 months post-op. No car, no school, no nothing. I didn’t want to lose any time with school, so Chapman had videotaped classes at that time. I took one class at a time from my on-campus apartment. I watched the classes, had someone Procter my tests, did the homework, etc. After the first fusion, I stopped all medications except for an occasional Aspirin. I was so elated! No medications were needed 2 days after surgery. The doctor had told me that for some time, he did not know whether I was drug seeking or really in that kind of pain.

    Well, to his surprise, while I was under anesthesia on the operating table, (with my spine exposed), he touched the spine and I jumped. He said that he never had seen that happen in all the time that he has been a surgeon. That proved to him how sensitive my spine was.
    Well that showed him!!!

    After going back to school in the fall, 1986 my pain started to worsen again. That was 6 months after the last surgery. I had to start on pain medications again. I had been given Dilaudid early on (Vicodin had not been on the market yet), so I was given that once more. I was also on anti-inflammatories, Muscle relaxants, you name it. The pain was horrible. I had to frequent nearby hospitals to get pain injections.

    In January 1987 I underwent another back surgery. I had facet problems, problems fusing, etc. After waking up from anesthesia, I remember how bad the pain was. This time, it never lowered, like after the first fusion. I had dreamed of that relief. While in the intensive care unit, those Ted hose that you wear after surgery did not fit me correctly. I had begun to gain so much weight since the injury. The nurse in the intensive care unit was giving my legs a break by lower them every now and then.

    On January 12, 1987 my family and friends were in the hospital with me sharing my birthday. After the guests left, I felt as if I was having an asthma attack. Eventually I pushed the call button and the nurse came in. I was also beginning to have chest pain. The doctors were called, some nuclear scans run, and it turned out that I had a Pulmonary Embolism that went to my lungs. I was told that I was lucky that it was not fatal (as a lot are). I began a year round treatment of blood thinners. I had to be so careful with shaving, etc. so that I did not cut myself.

    After my hospital stay, I returned to my campus apartment once again where I was to stay at bed rest for 6 months. I was no longer to take more video courses because I was close to graduating. The pain never seemed to get better. During this time, I had had difficulties with my stomach. It turned out that I needed surgery for what the doctors thought was appendicitis. It turned out that it was not appendicitis, but a ruptured ovarian cyst. The surgeons took out my appendix anyway and then moved to the left side and did a partial oophorectomy (took out part of my ovary). Soon after that, the orthopedic surgeon placed me in a body cast in the hopes that that would stop any extra movement, and help me fuse.

     

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