The Deeper Considerations of Deciding Whether to See Yet Another New Doctor


Like a lot of people with a chronic illness, I seem to collect medical professionals. At the moment, I am dithering about whether to add to my illustrious set with one more.

I am quite eclectic in my tastes: surgeons, osteopaths, physiotherapists and acupuncturists have all listened to my tale of woe since my back went wrong in 2011, plus a couple of counselors. My two different general doctors in that time have both been lovely and both referred me on to anyone who might help, and the NHS or my insurer have covered most of them, though by no means all. Some of them have been great, like the man who did my big back operation, and my current osteopath, who keeps me going despite constant chronic pain. Some of them have been worse than useless.

 

I now live too far away from the surgeon who fused most of my spine in 2013, so when one of my remaining discs prolapsed last year, I went to a new guy. He was gruff but nice enough. However, the painkilling injection in my disc was of limited help, as the process of having it — or the physio at the same place afterwards — resulted in two lesser joints going wrong, so I ended up in just as much pain as when I started. I could hardly move for a month. Plus, even though the anesthetist didn’t give me the extra pain relief required due to my regular painkiller consumption, he still issued a bill that was regarded as excessive by my insurer. I refused to pay the difference as a matter of principle. I will not be going back there unless I’m covered by a shroud.

It is possible that further injections might help the disc, though. Why haven’t I run off to have them? The side effects of the last procedure are one reason, and the sheer hassle for my family to get me to a new hospital is another, but there are deeper considerations.

Every time I see someone new, I have to go through a certain amount of personal history. I can write out my medication list in record time, and I am now excellent at thinking of other things while I get through scans, but describing what has happened over the last six years is difficult. It is boring, yet emotional, and I hover between sounding blasé and wanting to cry. This pull in both directions is part of my daily life: I am very aware that I have a lovely family and so much to be grateful for one minute, and utterly worn down by chronic pain the next. I want everyone to treat me normally and not like a permanent patient sometimes, and then just dream of being tucked up in bed at others. It could be so much worse, but also so much better.

There is also the hope, every time, that this procedure will work. My main surgeon never promised a pain-free existence, and nothing so far has provided one, but I felt much better a year ago than I do now. Would further injections justify the stress of having them, or will my family put up with several days of me stuck in bed just to end up with more of the same? Can I promise my children that the disruption will be worth it?

I suspect that I will end up giving it a try. The deciding factor will be the effect on my family. I would like to demonstrate to my children that, in life, you should keep trying and hope for the best. I would want them to have courage in a similar situation, and so I will just have to explain to someone new, yet again, what started with a sudden pain one Thursday morning six years ago.

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