My book.

My book.
"Fascinating" Stephen S. Hall. writer, N.Y.Times magazine. "Hard to put down." A.C.P.A., American Chronic Pain Association.

Total Pageviews


Friday, April 27, 2012


The true quote is "Hope is the thing with feathers." but I think gossip also has wings.

I was reminded the other day of an experience I had when I was a physician assistant student in 1974.

I started the program at the same time I was having a very bad pain issue with my left shoulder.

I had the typical symptoms of thoracic ooutlet syndrome. The pain was in the correct area. More telling was the missing pulse in my left wrist when I turned my head to the left. No one questioned that I had this problem. Except for a neurologist.

A vascular surgeon admitted me to the hospital. Although convinced of my diagnosis Dr W., a neurologist, was consulted. He came to my room, sat on my bed, and asked me to turn my head. He nodded to himself when the pulse disappeared. Then out of the blue, he asked "Do you have a psychiatric history?" An odd question given my textbook signs and symptoms.

I told him about two suicide attempts when I was a teenager, the second and last, cutting my wrists. He questioned a previous vascular problem, when I was 19: a blockage of my knee artery. It resolved spontaneously, no cause determined, a common situation. His next action was to decide I needed a sodium amytol interview - to determine if the two, the knee and this arm pain problem were psychosomatic. The loss of a pulse, in a knee and a wrist? Even if I had wanted, which I did not, to fool someone, I doubt I, or even my unconscious, would be able to pull off that slight of hand.

He gave me the amytol, asked me about the last of the 2 attempts. I felt myself fighting telling but I felt unable to not speak. Unlike TV I did remember what I had said. The same thing I had told him without the amytol.

Both wrists had been cut but he honed in on the left one. He decided I should not have surgery, the pain (and loss of pulse) a manifestation of (something) relating to the the fact that the left wrist had been cut.

The surgeon, thankfully, ignored his advice. He operated, and found two of the major vessels in my shoulder/chest area were juxtaposed. He fixed it. I awakened with no arm/shoulder pain. And a pulse I could no longer control.

When a few of the other students in my class came to visit, incuding two with whom I had, I thought, developed a strong friendship, I told them about the experience with Dr. W. I told because I saw it as doctor idiocy. It never occurred to me that people would take it as a negative about me. (I did not go into the specifics, just the amytol test.) To my amazement, and consternation, they stopped visiting me. All of them.

My parents came to the hospital but my siblings were 100% absent. I looked forward to having the classmembers visit. But the story took on wings of its own. When I returned to class I was somewhat shunned, the story evidently taking on a life of its own: she has psychiatric problems, stay away. Not one person said, "Hey, that's great they found what was wrong and fixed it. I am so glad you are no longer in pain."

That was many years ago but I see the repetition in later years of my life.

It seems that those of us in chronic intractable pain experience this more then others, because it is pain; because it is invisible, even when there are obvious signs, like a missing pulse.

What can we do about it, if anything? Is it a change in ourselves that we need? Is it even worth trying to change the beliefs, lies, and expectations of others?


  1. This is one of the major problems with people today...if you have any psychiatric history they take the condition to be extreme and violent, but it is not...we should support those folks who undergo treatment for such problems not cut off.

    1. I actually never had a psych diagnosis but even still medical people have treated e differently when I tell them about the 2 incidents.
      Thanks for reading and commenting Manya

  2. Carol,
    I don't think there's anything worse than having a doctor, (someone who is supposed to help people) doubt us, demean us and blow us off. It is so de-moralizing. I write about this in my first blog. I understand what you have gone through. I' d like to think that we've come along way since 1974. We have to have hope. Hope: What a beautiful word

    1. It sure is a beautiful word and so important, especially for us, I think.
      I hope we have come a long way. It is the one benefit of my hving had it so long: I no longer have to deal with these folks. (: