Kevin's Diagnosis

Chronic Lower Back Pain- “is defined as pain that lasts between 4 and 12 weeks… in some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic low back pain, but in other cases pain persists despite medical and surgical treatment” (NIH).


Kevin

Kevin: “The first time my back went out I was 16, I was working construction with my dad and I was using a big drill… at the top of a wall when they pour cement you need to drill a bolt through two pieces of plywood. I was standing on the ladder, with the drill bit above my head, 18 inches big…I leaned in to drill and I got a stabbing pain in my back but it was hard to walk. I was able to walk over to my dad and they took me to the hospital, and the doctors said that I strained my back— that pain seems wimpy compared to now. I got in a car accident when I was 19, a woman ran into the back of my car and that’s when I went to the doctor who put me on all sorts of pain killers. You have to remember it was the 70’s and there weren’t MRI scans available and so they said here are all these drugs to alleviate the pain. But the drugs didn’t help, the pain would come and go and basically that went on for a while and then my back would go out from that point on and it got to the point where later I had an MRI and they said that I have 3 discs with an issue and they performed a laminectomy*, so I took the doctor’s word and had that procedure.

[* A laminectomy “is surgery that creates space by removing the lamina— the back part of the vertebra that covers your spinal canal. Also known as decompression surgery, laminectomy enlarges your spinal canal to relive pressure on the spinal cord or nerves” http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/laminectomy/basics/definition/prc-20009521] 

Debbie: “You’re forgetting the chiropractor before that..”

Kevin: “I went to a chiropractor when I was in my early 20’s and there was one in town and he did an adjustment, and he cracked my back and I’m not sure if he did it the wrong way or something but I couldn’t walk. Debbie and my brother had to come carry me out, I couldn’t move. After that, within the month, the chiropractor had closed up shop and skipped town.”

Debbie: “I got a call from the chiropractor that I had to come get him because he couldn’t walk. And I said what do you mean?! I had to come get him and help him out of there with his brother because I can’t carry him. One time we went out to the movies and when the lights came up at the end of the movie he told me that he couldn’t move. I didn’t know what to do, I can’t pick him up… so he finally got out of the chair and I was crying the whole time home. He had to crawl on his hands and knees to get into the house… you feel powerless, there is nothing I can do when that happens. It impacts you terribly, it’s really emotional to see someone you love in agony, you can’t pick them up and help them.”

I got a call from the chiropractor that I had to come get him because he couldn’t walk - Debbie

Kevin: “My brother has had to pick me up and carry me into the house and put me into bed countless times…”

Debbie: “I think the chiropractor ruptured Kevin’s disc, you can do serious damage if you don’t know what you’re doing… and he bailed soon after… we were young and trusting and didn’t think about getting a lawyer or something like that.”

Kevin: “So after that they did the laminectomy on the 3rd, 4th and 5th vertebrae. At the time when I had my surgery I was working with my dad, they said that the procedure was supposed to redistribute itself and the cartilage or whatever would take up the space and it would be fine, but it didn’t work. I don’t think they do that procedure anymore.”

Debbie: “A nurse friend of mine said that this procedure is one of the most painful things to go through because it affects your sciatic nerve and it will radiate pain through your whole body. We were in our 20’s, we didn’t know we should have gotten another opinion or anything. With the experiences we’ve had and what we know today, if we could go back we wouldn’t have done it.”

Kevin: “He was supposed to be some big shot surgeon but I went through years of debilitating pain, and I had been doing very physical labor with my dad, but suddenly I had to stay home and do paint by numbers to try and get through the rehabilitation period. I had to go to physical therapy and that was torture and didn’t do anything for me.”

Debbie: “It was pretty life changing, it affected his job and it didn’t work. When all this happened he had to stop working with his father, so he lost his job, had to go back to school, he worked sorting mail, he had to do night jobs, worked in a gas station shop, worked making sandwiches… he had to re-do his life and go back to school so he could do something other than what he had been doing so that he didn’t have to use his whole body; it was many years of hardship.”

Kevin: “I went to the orthopedic surgeon a lot, and my back now will go out at least once or twice a year, but it was going out sometimes 3-5 days a week. They said I had to go to pain management because Physical Therapy didn’t work and that’s when they put me on the Tramadol and Percocet. You name a pain medicine I was on it— really hard stuff. I had this morphine patch that I forget the name of, I had oxycodone prescribed 30 pills at a time. The patch was the worst thing ever, I got really messed up at work, I would be in a fog and I’d sit in the parking lot and didn’t know if I was going to work or leaving. I was done with the pain medicine, so I stopped using it and I went through withdrawal because I refused to keep taking it. The doctors were saying ‘you can’t do that, you can’t just stop, something will happen’ but I said I can’t do this anymore.”

I went through withdrawal because I refused to keep taking it - Kevin

Debbie: “They put that patch on him and he had to sleep with it on because it’s a continuous dose. But those things impact your emotions, you start to become a different person almost. It allowed him to do his work with numbers because he didn’t have the mental fog but I was scared because at the time I found out I was pregnant so I was worried that the patch would come off. If it came off at night while we were sleeping, I could lose the baby. It’s very emotional and stressful, when you see that the person you love is going through this. So you’re participating in it but also unable to do anything about it. Thank God the acupuncture took him totally off the medication. she completely flushed it out of his system. She got him onto more holistic stuff like creams and she was having him drink a certain amount of water every day to cleans the drugs out of his body. It was the first time that someone had helped him.”

Kevin: “I needed to find another way after the meds, my dad knew someone through work who suggested acupuncture, I said I’ll try anything. I went to her almost every day for a week, and that was all out of pocket cost, insurance wouldn’t cover that at the time. Then I went 3 times a week, 2 times, 1 time and then every other week and it started working. It didn’t completely take the pain away but it made it manageable because the drugs didn’t do anything any more anyways. You can’t take oxycodone or hydrocodone every day 3 times a day forever, so that was where I started with acupuncture. I would still have episodes while working with her, but for the most part it made it bearable.”

“Every once in a while I go back to the orthopedic surgeon and they tell me to get an MRI and last time, about 6 years ago, they told me that I have a ruptured disc in my T10 which is where the thorax is and that they would have to go through my chest to perform the surgery. I’m not getting the surgery, I can live with the pain like this. I might have pain in my back and my chest and once or twice a year my back goes out but it’s not worth it for the surgery.”

 “I couldn’t bowl for a year and a half and then I’d want to bowl so I’d put on a back brace and drink a few rum and cokes and I’d bowl, then I’d be in agony the few days after that. But I had to do something, I’d do the same thing to golf sometimes, and even though the next few days would be torture I couldn’t give up everything. Then it got to the point where I stopped golfing, because I could swing the wrong way and end up paralyzed or something. Every day my back hurts, every day it’s about a 3… a great day is a 2 or 3, and then it will go out just like that. The scary thing is that every day at any point I could go from a 3 to a 10 for no reason, I could do it get out of the car the wrong way or just walking. But you learn to live with it, it sucks but that’s how it is… at least I’m not in a wheelchair.”

Laminectomy

This graphic illustrates the procedure that Kevin had many years ago to try and relieve the pressure in his back — but the procedure failed to give him relief.

“At my job we had just hired this guy… and my back would only go out once or twice a year and when it did the pain was … I can’t even describe the amount of pain, you just feel like you’re going to pass out. I walked into this guy’s office and I felt fine but when I went to walk out I couldn’t move…Debbie has seen this many times… So I thought, ‘what am I going to do?’ because I didn’t want people at work to know what I go through. When people know about my back they say ‘oh yeah my back hurts too…’ so I avoid telling them. So I’m standing in his office and he says ‘what’s wrong’ and I have to tell him that my back is out and ask if he can help walk me to my office. Meanwhile I’m trying to think ‘how do we do this so nobody sees me’ because I don’t want everybody to see this. I get tears in my eyes, not from crying but from the pain, and I don’t need people seeing me like this. So he gets me to my office and in my briefcase I keep a few pills for an emergency like this and I asked him to get me two hydrocodones and a cup of water and to leave me in my office with the door closed. He didn’t tell anyone what happened, he went back to his office and told people that I was in a meeting. He’s a great guy, he is still working at the company, he always asks me how my back is doing.”

“I always have a stash of pills in my office for that reason and I had just gotten a refill of my prescriptions, so they give me about 30 pills which is a lot, usually they only give people 5 or 10 at a time… but I had a bottle of hydrocodones and a muscle relaxer, brand new bottles, and one day I went in there and they were gone — someone stole them.”

One day I went in there and they were gone — someone stole them -Kevin

“I reported them stolen but the pharmacy can’t give me more because of the limit per month, so I just had to walk around thinking ‘please don’t go out’ about my back. I can have a short temper when my back really hurts and it’s nothing to do with anyone around me, it’s just I’m in that much pain”

“I got this rash on my face and the doctor kept saying that I had lupus and they sent me to another guy who wrote me a script for something else. They ran all these tests and nothing came back so it was a relief because it could have been something else to deal with.”

Debbie: “They were trying to figure out why he got a rash, they did a biopsy and they didn’t see anything, they thought maybe it was smoldering lupus. We went to a rheumatologist and at that time he also got osteonecrosis of the knee… he had to use a load bearing brace to hope it would heal. This doctor said that because of all the prednisone packs and steroids over the years those medications, we now know, are not good for your bones and might have not only caused the rash on his face but the weakening of the bone in his knee. He’s been off the back medications but they thought it could be drug-induced lupus, but they’re still stumped. They’ve given him a bunch of creams but nothing has worked and nothing is coming back on tests.”