When is the last time you looked at the whole picture and not just one part when it comes to managing your pain? For me, a recent stay in the hospital following a few weeks of issues made me look at my pain management differently.
For weeks I had battled issues with my heart rate remaining consistently above 100 beats per minute. My mind was constantly exhausted, as was my body. I fought to breathe, let alone care for my two children and home adequately. I felt as though I was on the losing end of a battle I shouldn't have to fight. In the midst of these episodes, I had one morning where I nearly lost consciousness after waking.
I started my morning like any other. I walked into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee after drinking a glass of water. As I reached into the cabinet to pick up the coffee filters, my eyes became unable to focus and a dark tunnel surrounded my field of vision. I could no longer hear any sounds except for the buzzing deep within my ears. My head felt as though I was on a merry-go-round that was moving far too fast. As my heart rate increased, I managed to slide down to the floor, bracing myself against the lower cabinets.
I had no idea what was taking place. This was unlike anything I had experienced prior. As my senses started returning and the spinning in my head reduced, I was filled with instant fear. The adrenaline surging through my body as a result of the fear only served to elevate my heart rate. It stayed above 120 for three days, even when I was resting. I phoned my physician when the office opened and booked the first available appointment.
As I read more about what transpired between the event and my appointment the following Monday, I realized I had experienced a near fainting episode due to my blood pressure suddenly falling because I was upright. I emailed the geneticist who diagnosed me with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and asked for his input regarding tests I should have done based off the records he already had received and reviewed. When Monday arrived, I was still experiencing tachycardia and blood pressure issues. I took in the email exchange between myself and the geneticist to my physician and together worked out testing recommendations including clinical blood pressure readings lying, sitting, and standing. I was referred to the cardiologist for further examination and testing.
Before I could meet with the cardiologist, I had a gallbladder episode that landed me an overnight stay in the hospital for testing and surgery consult. Although I was there for the one excruciating organ, correlation was found between my pain and my heart rate. Even though I was able to tolerate the 7’s, 8’s, and 9’s; my body was unable to physically take the additional stress and my heart rate would elevate. As soon as medication kicked in, my heart rate would reduce to the 80’s and 90’s.
As the physicians made rounds in the evening, we discussed my pain. I explained that my normal days are 7’s and 8’s and 9 becomes my tipping point for medication. We looked at the medications I currently take and what was administered while in the hospital. The combination of my physical reactions to pain had to be carefully considered so we could reduce the overall stress my body (and heart) had been enduring.
Medication isn't bad when it’s used as a tool in the toolbox to my health. I’m learning to expect a lower pain threshold at the start of the day and maintaining management throughout. My heart isn't near as stressed and I have more energy to tackle the day-to-day tasks. While I still believe there are many alternatives to the more potent medications, I also know that this is only a temporary increase to retain greater balance.
Have you struggled with pain management?
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.