Sunday, January 08, 2006

Why Can't My Husband Get A Spinal Cord Implant For Chronic Pain?

So... I have been thinking a lot about many things lately and reading a book called "Universal Health Care, What the United States Can Learn From The Canadian Experience", by Armstrong(s) and Fegan and I am stewing as according to them, universal access means that what is deemed necessary by a doctor is accessible to patients in the Canadian system. Page 34 says that access to necessary services "must be provided in a way that 'does not impede or preclude, either directly or indirectly' access to care.

So I got to thinking. Last year my husband was told by his family physician that a Spinal Cord Stimulator had been recommended by the orthopedic surgeon as a method to control his chronic pain. So, we went through hoops, heard nothing and I got irritated. When I phoned the esteemed neurosurgeon's office to find out why we had not received any information from them, the receptionist, to put it mildly, was a bit cranky. I explained who I was, and asked why we had not received notification from their office. She replied that she had contacted our GP with this, and it had been decided that the esteemed neurosurgeon would not take the case. When pressed for answers as to why she started lecturing me on the PRICE of this device and the surgery, and they had deemed it was not cost effective. And, anyways, the only way he might be able to access this surgery was if he went to a Chronic Pain Program at the local university teaching hospital, and then they would see if he was psychologically a candidate. And on top of that----- a year or so later, the esteemed neurosurgeon might be able to get him in for an appointment.

Okay-- I am steaming. So I phone the aforementioned program, and there is a bit of a waiting period. Like over a year. Their services are like any other pain clinic- they check to see if the patient is malingering, faking, is psychosomatic, is an idiot....they test for function, and then they tell you to think about bubbles and your pain will magically disappear. I don't think so.

Now it is 15 months later. The University would not accept patients who are eligible for another pain program related to work injuries, and so we went that route. Needless to say, the functional capacity testing was a joke. In a perfect world, where there are no interruptions, and no time frames, and you only work for an hour and a half, and then you go home and rest, it seems to say that you are perfectly fine- IF YOU DON'T DO THESE MOVES.....15 don'ts later and whooo hooo. An Addendum is added to the file saying essentially that IF the pain and disability my husband reports is real, then really he is F**ked. He really might not be able to work due to pain and fatigue.

And now the question of whether or not my husband will be eligible in Canada for a Spinal Cord Stimulator is again on the table. Will we have to go through a waiting list for the University Pain Clinic? How long is the wait now? What implications does that have? And If what I am hearing is true, and there are patients with Spinal Cord Pumps who are having problems getting them fixed that are part of the pain clinic program, do I really want to deal with that as well?

I live in Martha and Henry's province. The access to public health care debate is raging. What if this surgery becomes an OPTION? Like we have to pay for it? And what if no-one cares? It seems like chronic pain is stigmatized in this society, and it is a question of will, not disease, and the patient is shunned because their body has not responded the way 90 percent of the population getting a certain procedure does. Do I write a letter to this esteemed neurosurgeon and say that access to care is not precluded by cost, and there is no other disease that demands its sufferer to be psychologically fit in order to receive treatment? Diabetes, heart disease COPD- these are all chronic diseases and as far as I know, there are few demands made on these patients BEFORE they receive necessary treatment. Un freaking believable.

Note to self- discuss what the provincial health ministers office wrote in the letter, after I queried them on some of these things. Talk about WCB and divorce stats. Talk about how you can heal cancer with your mind- quack quack quack. Talk about cytokines, and the diseases and conditions they are linked to. And get some sleep.


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