The Mighty Logo

When the ER Is Your Last Resort for Chronic Pain, and They Turn You Away

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

I, like many of those with chronic pain, am constantly struggling to find a balance to cope with my pain. It’s come to a point where I don’t even bother seeking actual pain-free relief, just enough relief that I can do the most basic of functions like eat or drink.

The typical course of treatment for TN is anti-seizure medications; often they help. Other times they don’t help, they stop helping or, like me, your body simply can’t be on them.

I have natural “pain relieving” tea, heating pads, topical numbing cream and an extremely strong sedative  for pain. But they hardly make a dent. What does a person do? Well, truth is… not much.

That’s right. I sit in the dark with my heating pad (or ice pack) snuggled with a blanket, tears rolling down my face making the pain worse and deal with it. What choice do I have?  How many times have I heard, “just go to the hospital?” And my reply is always, “and do what?” Narcotics don’t work on nerve pain so that’s out. I go in there claiming to have an invisible disease that is painful, and often get labeled a drug-seeker. The doctors aren’t pleasant, nurses are rude, why? Because they can’t offer much. I’ve been asked more times than I care to count by staff at the hospital, “you know, we can’t really help so why’d you come?” I’ve been turned away from the hospital because I refused a medication that caused me to develop DRESS syndrome a few months prior. The doctor insisted that it was this medication or leave because they had nothing else for me. So I left. In pain, crying, begging for a sleeping pill strong enough to just let me sleep it off. Doctor walked away.

Emergency room doctors are not equipped for chronic pain, leaving us without options for when the pain is unbearable. They don’t understand it’s often our last resort. There’s a reason this disease is nicknamed the suicide disease and having no options is a huge part of that. Even when patients try to self-advocate, we often get backlisted and put on the backlog of the list of patients.

Chronic pain is real. We need a safety net for when we cannot cope, without fear or judgment.

Getty Image by phillyskater

Originally published: April 16, 2018
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home