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Irish Woman Cuts Off Her Own Finger in Search of Relief From Chronic Pain

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Chronic pain conditions are, by definition, lifelong. While there are various medications and treatments that may provide some relief, there is no “one-size-fits-all” treatment option guaranteed to help every individual with chronic pain.

This lack of reliable treatment options can cause many with chronic pain to become desperate for relief – with some going to extreme measures to find it.

On Feb. 15, Meghan Cullen, a 25-year-old woman from Ireland, severed her right index finger after eight years of experiencing chronic pain with no relief.

“I’ve decided I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of the pain,” she told radio host Neil Prendeville on the Feb. 20 episode of his RedFM show.

Cullen has complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a pain condition that typically develops in the arms, legs, hands or feet after surgery or an injury. The pain of CRPS is disproportionate to the severity of the initial injury. Cullen said her chronic pain started after her finger got caught in a car door eight years earlier.

She had tried nearly every pain medication available, as well as pain-blocking injections, but said her pain was a 10 out of 10 consistently. Cullen struggled to sleep, and cried anytime her finger so much as brushed another object. Doctors operated on her finger twice, but Cullen said the procedures only made her pain worse.

Cullen initially attempted to sever her finger in 2015, after which she made her first appearance on the Neil Prendeville Show to talk about her pain. In the three years that followed, she tried even more medications and treatments to no avail.

Feeling desperate for relief, Cullen asked her doctors to perform a surgical amputation but was denied.

“On Friday, I had enough,” she said, and took matters into her own hands.

“I’m not saying exactly how I did it,” she told Prendeville. “I don’t want people doing what I did.”

After severing the finger, Cullen said her pain levels instantly dropped. “Ever since I’ve been brilliant,” she said. “It’s a new pain, but it’s a manageable pain.”

While most chronic pain patients have not performed self-amputations because of their pain, Cullen’s actions speak to the desperation many looking for relief experience. Some of those with pain may be willing to try any new remedy or treatment that has the potential to reduce their pain levels. Others may struggle with the mental and emotional side effects that can accompany a lifelong pain condition. Chronic pain is so burdensome that those living with it have a 3.76 increased risk of attempting suicide.

Cullen has the right to make decisions about her own body; however, performing self-amputations at home is not recommended as it can cause a number of serious medical complications such as a risk of infection or blood loss.

If you have chronic pain but have difficulty getting doctors to listen to you or help you find new treatment strategies, you are not alone. Dr. Jennifer Goldin, a physician with CRPS, offers the following advice:

I hear you all when you say your physicians let you down in some ways. What I am asking, of people who already fight too hard, is please understand medical knowledge doesn’t compete with real life experience. Please tell your doctor exactly what you need from them. Share your symptoms and how bad they truly are. Share what works for you and what resources you find helpful. We as physicians can be your biggest advocates but sometimes forget that even though we can’t fix something, we certainly can make it a lot more tolerable by listening, acknowledging your pain, encouraging you to keep going and researching information you bring to us.

Lead photo via Meghan Cullen’s Facebook page

Originally published: February 21, 2019
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