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  1. #1
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    What to do for friend w/ chronic debilitating pain?

    I just got a text this morning from my coworker who checked himself into the ER.

    For the past couple of months, he's been suffering from severe abdominal pain. He's gone to doctors several times a week now, trying to see what's wrong. He's gone through countless CT scans, endoscopies, they even put in a stent for his gallbladder when he developed jaundice, but otherwise nothing is wrong. He even went to a renowned gastroenterologist an hour away, and he found nothing. It's really sapped his spirits.

    The pain had been recently manageable with painkillers (yay oxycontin) but this week nothing has helped, which is why he went to the hospital this morning since the pain had just gotten so bad. I have to stay behind for a bit to walk his dog this afternoon (poor doggie ) but I plan on visiting him this evening if I can.

    They're doing another CT scan now and another endoscopy to change out the stent. If it's even that.

    I talked with him yesterday afternoon, and frankly, he looks like utter hell. He's got anxiety on top of everything, so the stress of having bad pain and not knowing where it's coming from is seriously not helping. He's also got personal problems with the stress of his longtime gf recently leaving him. He has no other friends here besides us. His family is back in France, and he's said he will go back if there's nothing more that can be done medically here. At least over there, he wouldn't have to worry about insurance approving anything.

    He's just so tired of having to deal with the pain mostly, just tired of it. He hasn't given up quite yet on seeing doctors and continues to go to work as his pain allows him. But he may be just about ready to give up.

    Is there anything I can do? I just want to be able to help him, but obviously if it's stress-related, he can only help himself. Seeing him so defeated is really terrible, and I think we're all standing on sidelines wishing we could help him but being unable to.

  2. #2

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    I'm sorry about your friend. As someone who is struggling with chronic pain, I can only advise a couple of things.
    * There may be times he doesn't want to see or talk to anyone. Be patient and supportive. Anxiety and depression can be common, so don't try to direct his life...just listen. If he shuts you out, remember it is temporary and don't take it personally.
    *DO check on him and its very nice of you to walk his dog. Bring him food if you can. Ask him if you can run errands - go to the pharmacy, light shopping, etc.
    Good luck to you.

  3. #3
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    Yeah I was gonna suggest going out to the beach this weekend, but I dunno if he'll be in shape to. Is that too pushy?

    I just want to help.

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    I don't think it's too pushy, but if he says 'no', let it be.
    Then you can take me to the beach!
    I know how hard it can be to feel helpless.

  5. #5

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    My suggestion is to just ask him what you can do to help. If he needs to vent when you ask that, let him. And then perhaps he'll tell you what you can do. Maybe as simple as continuing to take his dog for walks. I know when I was in the hospital I worried about who was going to take care of my cats. Or maybe he'd appreciate company when he walked the dog, in case the pain gets too bad during the walk? Anyway, this is my suggestion.

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    I've known a few people who live with chronic pain and it looks like a hellish existence to me.

    There are workshops and clinics for dealing with chronic pain and I've heard they help.

    And the problem with painkillers is that they can be addictive and can cause something called 'rebound', which I assume means the pain comes back double when the medication is stopped. One person I know with chronic back pain who is addicted to painkillers actually called emergency to take him to the hospital for morphine one night.

    This person has had innumerable tests and recently had a procedure done to paralyze parts of his back (something like that). I don't know if it worked. It has taken him a very long time to get a diagnosis though.

    I would encourage your friends to keep trying to find the source of the problem. Even see alternative practitioners - acupuncture can do wonders for pain, or so I've heard.

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    I agree with encouraging alternative practitioners, acu, massage, reflexology, maybe some physical therapy. Try ice and/or heat for brief periods to the area. Also, IF he is open to it, get him some books (even used on Amazon or half.com, etc.) from Dr. Sarno or other related practitioners. There is another doc out there with a similar book, I think it refers to back pain, but the same theories apply. It may help his mind or give him other ideas about pain sources. Hope it helps.

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    Thing is, back when we thought it was a digestive issue, I pumped his brain full of alternative possibilities. Not acupuncture, but he did try some herbal medicines. My mom refused to take prescription painkillers after surgery, so she drank Chinese herbal teas and they helped.

    Part of it is also an issue of what insurance will cover. I'll bring it up, though. At this point, it really wouldn't hurt any more than it has been. Thanks for the advice, y'all.

    My other coworker took his dog home with her for a few days (since I have a cat and they probably wouldn't get along), and I have half a mind to wash his dishes. He's got a sink full of dirty dishes, probably not in the mood to do any housecleaning...

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    You sound like a great friend Anita. I hear you about the insurance but maybe they will set up a payment plan or work with him on costs, while he writes an appeal to the insurer, maybe along with a doctor's note. Cleaning the dishes sounds like a nice favor. Hopefully it will help his anxiety (he should be treating it too) seeing the kitchen sink cleared out.

  10. #10
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    I'm not clear, but since they're treating it as if it may be gall bladder or gastric, I'm going to assume this isn't chronic muscle ache, back pain, etc. but something localized in the torso? There's a lot of things that can be if it's really not gastric or gallstones and they're generally not great things to have, so honestly, I'd just stick to Sparks' advice until they figure out what is really causing the pain. Offer to help where you can, and if he's not feeling social/talkative, give him space. I wouldn't go suggesting any alternative-therapy this and Chinese-medicine that because there may be something that needs a lot more serious treatment. Leave medicine to medical doctors and focus on helping him with daily stress--if he's in so much pain he's going to the ER he probably REALLY does not feel like cooking, washing dishes, walking the dog...when I got out of the hospital and was completely zonked on prednisone (which does what it has to do but makes the patient feel like crap) it was a HUGE relief to have my mother stay with me to help with things like cooking, laundry, driving to the doctor on days when I was almost too tired to move, even feeding the betta fish. Little stuff is HUGE when you're feeling that awful. I would bet he would really appreciate having his dishes cleaned.

  11. #11

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    Complementary (alternative) therapy would not solve his main problem, but it would help to alleviate some of his stress and possibly his pain - look into healing touch or Reiki. There are probably volunteers or practitioners at the hospital that are certified.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by danceronice View Post
    I'm not clear, but since they're treating it as if it may be gall bladder or gastric, I'm going to assume this isn't chronic muscle ache, back pain, etc. but something localized in the torso? There's a lot of things that can be if it's really not gastric or gallstones and they're generally not great things to have, so honestly, I'd just stick to Sparks' advice until they figure out what is really causing the pain. Offer to help where you can, and if he's not feeling social/talkative, give him space. I wouldn't go suggesting any alternative-therapy this and Chinese-medicine that because there may be something that needs a lot more serious treatment. Leave medicine to medical doctors and focus on helping him with daily stress--if he's in so much pain he's going to the ER he probably REALLY does not feel like cooking, washing dishes, walking the dog...when I got out of the hospital and was completely zonked on prednisone (which does what it has to do but makes the patient feel like crap) it was a HUGE relief to have my mother stay with me to help with things like cooking, laundry, driving to the doctor on days when I was almost too tired to move, even feeding the betta fish. Little stuff is HUGE when you're feeling that awful. I would bet he would really appreciate having his dishes cleaned.
    Yeah, I saw him last night and it was really bad. They gave him painkillers in the morning which worked like a breeze, but in the evening, they didn't work nearly as well. And he hadn't been given his evening dose when I came in and he really seemed to be in excruciating "don't talk to me about alternative treatments right now, just make this stop!" kind of pain. He said it was the worst it had ever been in the past 3 months. And he had a high fever too, which generally says that his body is not pleased with something internal.

    Being in a hospital generally sucks, let alone being in one in such pain and alone most of the time, so I figured I'd stay for a while and keep him company at least. He seemed to appreciate it. My boss had been there too earlier, reading him "A Confederacy of Dunces". Again, not sure if it helped with the pain, but at least it alleviated the "being alone in the hospital" part.

    The other coworker even gave his dog a bath, which isn't surprising in the least , and sent pics of her kids putting multiple towels on her ("They say she's cold!"), with the dog looking bewildered. Cheered him up a bit.

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    That's nice. You can't fix it...he doesn't want his friends to fix it, he just needs support. Good job.

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    Jaundice, high fever, intolerable pain--how frustrating and excrutiating this must be for him as no solution seems apparent. I too think you are a great friend for just being there for him and doing tasks that he feels too bad to attempt. Would that we could conjure up "House" for him...

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    Jaundice doesn't sound like stress related. Maybe you could ask him about calling some family. Sounds like he needs someone to take care of him or at least help him take care of himself. Remind the nurses about his medicine for one thing and I bet no one is making sure he drinks fluids and such. I'm sure just knowing someone is taking care of his dog and apartment is a load of his mind. Keep up the good work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Anita18 View Post
    My boss had been there too earlier, reading him "A Confederacy of Dunces". Again, not sure if it helped with the pain, but at least it alleviated the "being alone in the hospital" part.
    Please please PLEASE tell me your boss put on different voices for each character. That book just begs for dramatik reading. I can't think of a better book to read to a hospital patient than that one. I bet he really appreciated it.
    The fastest thing out of New Jersey since Tricky Nicky in a Muscovian handbasket

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    Quote Originally Posted by nursebetty View Post
    Jaundice doesn't sound like stress related. Maybe you could ask him about calling some family. Sounds like he needs someone to take care of him or at least help him take care of himself. Remind the nurses about his medicine for one thing and I bet no one is making sure he drinks fluids and such. I'm sure just knowing someone is taking care of his dog and apartment is a load of his mind. Keep up the good work.
    Believe me, his family calls all the time.

    My other coworker was actually physically taking care of him after he broke up with his girlfriend. As in, was having him over for dinner with her kids and making him lunch every day. But she has two kids to feed on her own with a grad student budget, so she just couldn't afford it anymore. This was way before the pain started to get bad, though. Naturally she partly blames herself for his downward spiral. She's such a sweetheart. I figure, if he wants to talk, I'll totally listen, but the guy is 30 years old and I'm sure he can get his own dinner somehow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Southpaw View Post
    Please please PLEASE tell me your boss put on different voices for each character. That book just begs for dramatik reading. I can't think of a better book to read to a hospital patient than that one. I bet he really appreciated it.
    I don't know, I wasn't there. I should ask, though. My boss is pretty great.


    My coworker was transferred to another hospital today, and it's apparently super-old and not nearly as nice as the original one. Hopefully they'll still be able to take care of him.

  18. #18
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    I live with chronic pain. I have 2 pancreas. I had sever stomach problems and they couldn't figure out why. Then I went to a specialist who knows about this (only 2% of the world has this). I had the same syptems he is having. It's called pancreas divisum (I know I didn't spell it right). But it doesn't show up in CT/MRI test and if you have it long enough the blood work doesn't show up. It affects the bile duct so it backs up the liver and everything. The only way test is an ERCP with a doc who specializes in this. He may want to ask his doctor about the possibility of it. The pain is intense and I know stress and pour eating habits bring on acute attacks. Before they figured it out, they took out my gall bladder and stinted my bile duct. The other thing it could be is a suto (sp) cyst on the pancreas. Hope it all works out for him and your doing a good thing helping him.
    Last edited by mysticchic; 04-21-2012 at 08:36 AM.

  19. #19

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    {{{mysticchic}}}} You are so brave.

    Quote Originally Posted by Anita18 View Post
    My boss had been there too earlier, reading him "A Confederacy of Dunces". Again, not sure if it helped with the pain, but at least it alleviated the "being alone in the hospital" part.
    That book is perhaps my favourite of all time, but I'm not sure having it read aloud while one is overwhelmed by pain would help one to appreciate the brilliance and humour of the book.

    I hope you friend finds relief soon Anita 18. I can't imagine being in his situation. I think I'd be screaming for more drugs and kicking up such a fuss that (hopefully) someone would give them to me.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by mysticchic View Post
    I live with chronic pain. I have 2 pancreas. I had sever stomach problems and they couldn't figure out why. Then I went to a specialist who knows about this (only 2% of the world has this). I had the same systems he is having. It's called pancreas divisum (I know I didn't spell it right). But it doesn't show up in CT/MRI test and if you have it long enough the blood work doesn't show up. It affects the bile duct so it backs up the liver and everything. The only way test is an ERCP with a doc who specializes in this. He may want to ask his doctor about the possibility of it. The pain is intense and I know stress and pour eating habits bring on acute attacks. Before they figured it out, they took out my gall bladder and stinted my bile duct. The other thing it could be is a suto (sp) cyst on the pancreas. Hope it all works out for him and your doing a good thing helping him.
    Thank you so much for the info - I'm not sure if they've considered this, but he mentioned they were looking into pancreatitis. Not sure if they ruled that out.

    What treatments do they have for pancreas divisum, once you were properly diagnosed? Did anything help with the pain?

    Quote Originally Posted by Japanfan View Post
    That book is perhaps my favourite of all time, but I'm not sure having it read aloud while one is overwhelmed by pain would help one to appreciate the brilliance and humour of the book.

    I hope you friend finds relief soon Anita 18. I can't imagine being in his situation. I think I'd be screaming for more drugs and kicking up such a fuss that (hopefully) someone would give them to me.
    I did actually go through A LOT of books when I was severely nauseous with the stomach flu and was home for a week. Then again all I had to do was not move and I was relatively okay...

    Seriously, I would be doing the same thing you'd be. My menstrual cramps can be pretty bad, but at least I can lie down and go to sleep knowing they'll be gone in 6-8 hours. He doesn't have that reassurance.

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