Can You Hear Me?
Shenae Osborn, LMSW, MA
I have been suffering with shoulder pain for a couple years now. I have calcification in my shoulder for which the doctor continues to prescribe higher levels of Ibuprofen and cortisone shots in the shoulder. “It should go away soon”, he says as I look at him in awe. I get there are necessary steps to take before having a patient get the issue fixed but how long should that be and how many sleepless nights should a patient go through before they are truly listened to? Today, I was in such excruciating pain with only 3 hours (maximum) of sleep. This is my usual amount of sleep give or take an hour. In taking the Ibuprofen, muscle pain patches, and heating pads alternating with ice packs I was at my wits end. I went to the ER hoping they could give me the cortisone shot there btu instead I was told nothing could be done for me and if I wanted, I could be given a narcotic. I refused the narcotic and decided to stay in pain as I wait for my video visit with the orthopedic surgeon which will once again do nothing and say, “wait it out”.
This pain and inability to get somebody to understand the severity, along with being offered narcotics drew me back to a story I recently heard about from a friend. His sister was his “rock” growing up. He looked up to her and counted on her support during his trying times until in recent years when her back pain was so severe, and the pain meds were no longer doing anything for her that she apparently turned to heroin. This story saddened me but also made sense. As a mental health care professional, I wonder how people get to the place they do. It’s often the norm that when walking past homeless people that seem to be under the influence in one manner or another, we judge and don’t give it a second thought as to how they ended up where they did. When I was offered narcotics in the ER I said, “no thank you”. This isn’t because I worry about an addiction but because it is putting a “band-aid” on the actual problem that keeps getting pushed off and injected with little to no relief.
I don’t feel heard, listen to. My shoulder pain can’t be seen and therefore the magnitude cannot be understood. The only benefit is that an x-ray can show the calcification, which is something, but the pain cannot be seen. This made me think about mental health disorders and how so many people suffer in silence, not believed for what they feel, fear, anguish over. This is why I often say, “just because it can’t be seen, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Proper health care should require compassion and understanding. It shouldn’t be so difficult to get the care that is needed when it is needed. I am sure everyone has had that time when you need an appointment, but none can be obtained. Health care, yes, it is a business but it is a business where one cares for the health of others. Our country needs to make changes to access to compassionate and immediate care by professionals that have not been burnt out by their profession. Overworked and unrested healthcare professionals only make a patient more vulnerable to feeling unheard and frustrated.
After many calls, I was unable to get an appointment with my physician. I will just have to look forward to another sleepless night until I can finally get into see the doctor but I refuse to rely on medication. Life requires us to be patient, understanding, and at times ensure we advocate for ourselves. It’s okay to be proactive about getting your needs met. It seems to be the only way that people get heard which is a shame but it’s part of the game we call life.
Picture by Ryan McGuire