What Do You Do with Pain so Severe You Want to Die?3 min read
Imagine suffering with pain so severe and constant that all you want to do is curl up and die. Most of us will never know that type of pain. But for those who do, the options are few and far between. And unfortunately, our healthcare system is not set up in such a way as to make treating such patients a daily routine.
Similar conditions exist elsewhere. For example, consider the case of a 40-year-old mother and skincare aesthetician from the UK. The Mirror published her story in their February 13, 2022 edition. It took an attempted suicide and an unrelenting effort on behalf of her husband to finally find relief from her chronic pain.
An All-Consuming Pain
Natalie Scott wasn’t all that worried about delivering her child when she first became pregnant. But that changed when complications during delivery caused damage to her pudendal nerve. She actually ended up suffering pudendal entrapment, and extremely painful condition that her doctors failed to diagnose correctly.
Scott’s daughter was born in March 2019. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that she finally met a doctor in France who, after running a very quick diagnostic test, diagnosed her problem. Unfortunately, it was too late to repair the nerve damage. The only way Scott can find relief now is through an implanted pump that constantly bathes the nerve in anesthetic.
The question is this: why did things have to turn out this way? Why were her doctors at home unable to make the diagnosis? Why did they chalk her pain up to typical postnatal pain that would go away on its own? The answers to those questions may never be known. However, this sort of thing occurs far too often.
You Still Need a Diagnosis
Had Scott lived in the U.S., she may have been a good candidate for a transforaminal epidural steroid injection (TFESI). Such injections are fairly routine at the Lone Star Pain Medicine clinic in Weatherford, TX. Pain clinics throughout the U.S. utilize the procedure as well.
According to Lone Star’s clinicians however, patients in Scott’s position still have to get a correct diagnosis. If their GPs blow them off rather than taking the time to truly figure out what is going on, chronic and debilitating pain can continue endlessly.
Moving Patients In and Out
So why do these sorts of things happen? The possibilities are endless. However, the two biggest risk factors are clinician ignorance and the way our healthcare system is set up. In terms of the former, ignorance is easily explained. Doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants cannot possibly know every detail about every condition. How many of the doctors Scott saw in the UK even knew that pudendal entrapment is a thing?
As for the way our healthcare system is set up, the driving force that dictates a clinician’s day is patient volume. In other words, doctors have to move patients in and out as quickly as possible. They do not have more than a few minutes to spend with each patient. How is a doctor supposed to figure out something that is somewhat unusual in so short a time?
The UK system definitely failed Natalie Scott. Meanwhile, our system fails its share of patients day in and day out. Because we have allowed our system to become a corporate system, patients are thought of as little more than revenue streams. And when that’s the case, debilitating conditions like pudendal entrapment fall through the cracks because doctors have neither the time nor the resources to actually deal with it.