A Story of Pain and Hope

Almost all of my clients deal with some type of pain on a regular basis. Usually the event that causes a traumatic brain injury is traumatic for the rest of the body as well. Sometimes that pain is a result of broken bones and sometimes that pain is related to the nerves.

One of my clients I have worked with the longest is just a little older than me with four very cute kids. She had an accident a little over 10 years ago in which she sustained a TBI (traumatic brain injury). When I met her the first day I wasn’t really sure she was my client. Just looking at her she looks like any other 30 something mother. She came across as shy at first, but after our first few weeks of working together, she came out of her shell and blossomed into one of my most hardworking clients.

Her deficits are masked. While she can carry on a normal conversation and has no obviously physical signs of injury, she can’t remember how to take a bath on her own or how to cook without burning the house down. Some of these problems are from her decreased short-term memory and executive processing skills, but a big part of it is her pain level.

For over 10 years her pain has never been below an 8/10. Can you imagine how terrible life would be with that pain level? Pain makes everything harder. I’ve only had that level of pain once in my life and I can tell you those were the worst two days of my life. I couldn’t focus on anything and nothing could make me happy. I can’t imagine that pain for 10 years while having to take care of a husband, four kids, and a dog!

My client has depression because of her pain. Quite honestly, who wouldn’t have depression with that kind of chronic pain? She does her best to get through each day, but some days are better than others. On the good days, she can do a few things around the house but still gets frustrated easily because that pain is always in the background. On her bad days, she can’t get out of bed and her husband will have to carry her in the house because the pain is just so bad that she can’t even hold her head up. She lives with the feeling that she is useless and inadequate because she is so limited by the pain.
Hopefully this is all about to change for her.

After almost a year of struggling over reimbursement with her insurance company, my client found a new case manager who has an extensive background in pain management. The day the case manager met my client, she asked my client about her pain. After a quick screening, she realized that my client probably has cervical facet syndrome, which was caused by severe whiplash. (Facet is the hole where the nerves come out of the spine. In this syndrome the holes are compressed and they put pressure on the nerves causing pain.) The case manager quickly got my client in to see the pain specialist.
Hopefully this is all about to change for her.

The day she went in for her first test was one of her really bad days. Her pain was a 10+/10 and her husband had to carry her to the car and used a wheelchair to get her to the appointment. She had the procedure and 30 minutes later her pain was down… way down. It got down to a 2/10. She still has another test to go, but her doctor is now confident that her pain will be low to non-existent once she has her real procedure.

Can you imagine being almost pain free for the first time in over 10 years?! My client described it as “the fog lifting for the first time.” For the first time in years, she went home and made pancakes for her family. She burned her hand while making them but she didn’t care. She was just happy to no longer be in her pain “fog.” She took pictures of herself smiling with the kids and texted them to me. Every text message that I got was followed by 10 exclamation marks. For the two days that the Novocain lasted, she got to be more of the mother that she is dying to be. For the first time in 10 years, she has the hope of a better future.

Every time I think about the future for my client, I smile.  It is amazing to have a front and center seat to such a great life changing moment. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her and her family. I’m hoping that it brings home cooked meals, family game nights, more texts with exclamation marks, and lots of smiles.

By: Courtney Wang MS, OTRL, CBIS