Commentary: Don't forget those who suffer from chronic pain

(Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune) Speaker of the House Greg Hughes, R-Draper, questions Juvenile Justice Services director Susan Burke during the Legislative Audit Committee's hearing on a "Performance Audit of Juvenile Justice Services", Thursday, January 25, 2018.

I am writing in response to the many recent articles, but most specifically, Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes’ recent declaration of war on the manufactures of opioid drugs.

What is consistently absent in this discussion is the patient with constant and unrelenting pain as a result of any number of physical impairments. In my case, I was hit with a neurological jackpot of Multiple Sclerosis and Transverse Myelitis 16 years ago. Traverse Myelitis is a very rare and serious neurological virus that attacked my spinal cord, leaving me with significant, permanent deficit and unrelenting neurological pain. The MS I also now live with is also both permanent and progressive.

I was fortunate to find a fabulous neurologist at the University of Utah to help me through this difficult and very painful life journey. My condition has required me to be on numerous life supporting medications, including an opioid to treat my pain. I, with my dotor’s assistance, have been uber vigilant in monitoring the levels of medication necessary to treat my pain. I have been given the lowest dosage of a opioid on the market and have not increased the dosage nor the number of pills I take in a day during the entire 16 years of my journey.

Many days find me in excruciating discomfort, but I have refused to give in to taking any increased dosages over that 16-year period. During that time, it has become agonizingly difficult for both myself and my physician to simply provide me with my prescriptions. Physicians can no longer provide refills, cannot call in a prescription nor can a prescription be provided for more than a 30-day period.

My health situation also causes me to have serious balance issues. I frequently fall. From falling, I have broken both wrists requiring surgery with plates and pins to repair wrist fractures, a broken femur and destroyed a knee replacement which then had to be replaced. My husband went to our pharmacy to obtain a post-surgical pain medication for me and the pharmacist actually called the police on him to have him arrested for “doctor shopping,” as the prescription was written by another doctor — my orthopedic surgeon.

It seems as if we have lost sight of the patients who are in true suffering, who do not, and have shown they will not, abuse pain medications. The pain medications patients like myself are prescribed are the only lifeline we have to getting through a day.

My doctor/patient relationship has been encroached upon and is now being legislated. I would not wish my condition on anyone, it has cost me my health, a career that I loved and my ability to participate in all the activities I enjoyed as part of a fulfilling life prior to my illness. I would, however, challenge those who are “declaring war” to think about the fallout for those of us with challenges like mine.

If any of those individuals had to live one day in a body ravaged by an unrelenting and permanent painful condition, would there perhaps be more consideration and concern for the flip side of this coin?

Jolene Paramore Reif

Jolene Paramore Reif, Salt Lake City, is a former partner at VCBO Architecture.