But it is broke. My ankle, I mean. The X-rays I had at the imaging center said it wasn’t fractured, but then I had a second set of X-rays done at the podiatrist’s office which clearly showed the break. Now I’m in this walking boot for at least the next five weeks and possibly longer, and with the way injuries to my lower extremities take forever to heal, I’m not particularly optimistic that my poor little bones will knit themselves together quickly. The pain is better, but it doesn’t take more than a few minutes of standing or walking for it to start throbbing, which makes things kind of interesting when I try to do normal things like grocery shopping and showering. The pain feels like someone is drilling straight through my ankle with a white-hot screwdriver; Aleve takes it down to a dull ache.
But get this: I can’t get prescription pain pills for it. I’m going around on a broken ankle without benefit of narcotics. I don’t necessarily want narcotics, but it bothers me greatly that I am being denied them because Klonopin is on my medication list. It doesn’t matter that I take them very infrequently, or that decent pain control would make me even less likely to take them for anxiety related to pain; as far as the medical establishment is concerned, I might as well be a flaming drug-seeker. And that really pisses me off!
I have heard many tales of people being blackballed from pain meds. What used to be considered the “sixth vital sign”—pain, as measured by the patient’s subjective description of it—is now largely ignored by medical professionals who used to actively treat it. Now most of them won’t prescribe anything stronger than over-the-counter Advil or Tylenol because the federal government will come down on them like stink on a bad smell if they do. Because SOME people abuse narcotics and die, ALL of us have to suffer…especially those of us who take the occasional benzodiazepine or mild central nervous system depressant (think Tramadol, or beer).
Maybe I’m just cranky because I’ve been limping around in pain for the past six weeks, but this is the first time I’ve ever been denied relief and it gives me a lot of sympathy for other patients in worse circumstances. In the past, I’ve actually turned down offers of pain meds; I hate the way they make me feel, and yes, I’m on a lot of other medications that make me sleepy; they also make me constipated and I have to be vigilant about bowel care or things can get ugly fast. But I’m not going to become an addict from judicious use of an opioid to get me through the worst of an injury. Hell, I feel like I should just go ahead and take the damned Klonopin if I’m going to be accused of it…at least I’d be able to sleep better and relieve the pain that way.
But that’s not how I operate. I don’t take any drug for pleasure or fun; I take meds to treat certain conditions. Of course, being part of several marginalized groups (women, poor, mentally ill etc.) doesn’t help my case any, because our complaints are often not taken seriously to begin with. My strength has always been my ability to advocate for myself thanks to a couple of decades in nursing, but even that isn’t enough to make a healthcare professional risk being scrutinized by the government. I don’t blame them for not wanting that; in fact, it’s been my experience in working with them that most doctors and nurse practitioners don’t refuse to prescribe narcotics because they are mean and like to watch patients suffer. They just don’t want to risk being sued or losing their medical licenses, and that is a reality in 21st century America.
I remember when I was a nurse in the late 1990s. Back then, we assessed patients routinely for pain and medicated them appropriately; we also taught them to call us before pain got bad, not wait till it was out of control. Now it’s almost the exact opposite, you have to be crying and shaking and practically peeing yourself before anyone will even consider giving you an opioid, and God forbid you have a medical condition that sends up red flags when a provider goes over your prescriptions. I’m sure the fact that I have bipolar disorder doesn’t encourage my healthcare professionals to give me drugs. So, there’s that. But damn, the ankle is broken, not merely sprained or contused, and that fucking HURTS.
Just a little whining on a wet and chilly October night. I’ll get over it. Thanks for listening.