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    Old 03-18-2007, 04:56 PM   #1
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    I need help and advice for my back problem

    I'm desperate and I don't know what to do. This is somewhat long so I am incredibly sorry but I feel the whole story needs to be said. I'm 21 yrs old, I'll be 22 in september. I've been plagued with back problems since the age of 17. At first it began with minor back aches that were infrequent. Near the end of my junior year my back pains had gotten much worse and more frequent. In addition to that, I had also began to frequently limp around due to shooting pain going down my left leg. When I went to a doctor, x-rays and mri's told us that I had a herniated disc that was also pinching a nerve. That is what gave me my leg pain. I went through various procedures, including physical therapy, several epidurals, and a small surgery. This was all over the course of about 8 months. Nothing helped, after the small surgery/procedure did not help, my doctor suggested I have surgery. Around 9 months after I first went to the doctor for this problem I had my first surgery. This took a toll on my life, due to my back problems plus my surgery, i missed most of my senior year, and finished off the year with a special half-day schedule because my back couldnt take it even after the surgery.

    To be specific, I had my 1st surgery in january of 2004, and I graduated high school the following soon. At first I thought my back had given me relief, but the day of my college over-night orientation my back problems struck again. It got bad enough where I simply couldnt attend school. I was forced to take off that semester. As a result I couldnt come back until I had gotten good grades at a community college. This was the first of many times my back would come to ruin my life. I first attended community college in january of 2005 and from that point, until the summer of 2006 I struggled to earn as many credits as I could. It was difficult because I was in constant pain, and at the time did not even have pain medication available. I had gone through so much with my first surgery, I didnt want to think of more. But, by April of 2006 my back had gotten really bad. This was 3 years since I first went to see the doctor. I once again endured frequent doctor visits, mri's, and epidurals. Again: Nothing worked. I didnt know what to do because I was in no state to attend school, but at the same time I needed to be in school in order to have insurance.

    The only solution we could think of was for me to take online classes. Well, the semester began in late august. It was already a constant struggle. Online classes arent as easy as one might think. You see in school you can sit there and not pay attention, online its different, you need to prove you know the material constantly. You need to constantly post in forums and such everyday. Anyways, this didnt help me. Yes I was at home, I could go on a computer and do my classes, but I simply couldnt concentrate. The pain just ate away at me, constantly thriving, never stopping. As October of 06 began the pain began nearly unbearable. This is when my doctors decided we need to immediately set up a surgery, they also put me on vicodin. I was glad because I knew vicodin would help, I had taken it before during my first surgery. My surgery was set up for October 17, 2006. I'll always remember that date and I remember the day itself as if it were yesterday. The recovery for this surgery took only 2 weeks, but it was 2 unbearable weeks.

    Afterward I healed from the surgery itself I did feel relief. However, this lasted much shorter than the previous "relief time" I had from my first surgery. By early December my pain in my back had returned. by the end of the month my nerve pain would as well. In late november of 06 my doctor recommended physical therapy for a month, and if I saw moderate-significant improvement I should continue. After one month of therapy my back was worse. True, my muscles and such were better, but just from doing the exercises had me incredibly sore which I'm sure didnt help. I stopped therapy in mid-january, but there was another big problem: I had failed my online courses. I was struggling, but passing before my surgery. My semester ended december 12th and my surgery followed by physical therapy came at a bad time. I thought I could do both, I thought I could maintain passing grades but I was wrong. Since I have struggled in school in the past cuz of my back, this hurt me even more, and I am not able to re-apply for school until the fall 2007 semester. This means in early 2007 my insurance was gone.

    After I stopped my month of physical therapy, there was nothing I could do but sit at home. I was still in a lot of pain, couldnt goto school, and had no insurance. My doctor wasnt sure what to do, so for a time after my therapy, all I did was stay at home and stay medicated. I was still provided prescriptions whenever I needed them. I know the way people feel about vicodin and its addictiveness but I have to say this drug has helped me so much. Not only does it relieve pain, but it allows me to move around freely. I can do a lot more for 4-5 after taking it. However, problems have recently crept up. My doctor recently recommended i goto pain management. I went to one session and knew it wouldnt work. I know some will say thats dumb, but over the years ive gotten to know my back. The pain management was doing stuff like putting ultrasounds on my back and stuff, basically trying to use other methods of relieving my pain besides pain medication. However, I had similiar treatment done in the past and in-fact also had the exact same things used on me in physical therapy at the end of every session. My family does not have much money, and my father has recently lost his job. I did not feel it would be wise to pursue yet another method to help my back that wouldnt work.

    Well, a week ago I called my doctor to get a refill for my pain medication and my nurse told me he told her not to. This alarmed me for two reasons. First, this was my only source of relief. This was the only thing that could make me feel better everyday. People who have truly felt back pain know how much it means to have that pain gone, even for a few hours. My next worry was that I would go through incredibly painful withdrawal symptoms. I was well educated on vicodin. It is March, Ive been taking it since October, I knew if I was cut off cold turkey I would have problems. So I had my doctor personally call me and I explained to him that I understand his position but he needs to understand that it would be better to wane me off the drug slowly. I was taking a strong form of vicodin and using 4-5 pills a day. To go from that to zero would of been hard. He was actually very helpful and he agreed, and said he did not want to see me in pain. He told me he would have his nurse call in another refill.

    That was last monday, and the nurse did call it in. The problem was that she called in the weakest form of vicodin before. Now, as my back pain got worse I went up the chain of vicodin from weakest to strongest. I knew that since I had been taking the strongest form for months my tolerance would be at a level where I would have to take probably 4-5 at a time of this vicodin for it to work, which I did not want to do. The same day, my father had gotten a prescription for vicodin, much stronger than the one I had, although not as strong as what I was used to. I knew this would work better. Since my dad had never taken vicodin, he had no problem swtiching pills with me. The problem is, my vicodin had 40 pills, his only 15. I took 4 a day, 2 in the morning, 2 at night, and ran out in a few days. Then the pain came back, Friday I called my nurse again and told her what happened, I felt I could share with her that I had switched with my father, she did not seem to mind. I told her I had only 15 pills and had run out, and asked if I could get a refill of the same dose my father had(which I had taken before anyways). She said the doctor said to give me no more refills.

    Well, then later on friday night I was looking for my cell phone, it was upstairs in my room, I went to jog up the stairs to go get it. Half way up my back gave out. I collapsed on the stairs. Since then I have been in extreme pain. Every single movement hurts, it feels like it did the day after I had my 2nd surgery. The pain is driving me insane, I have been bed-ridden nearly the entire weekend, the simplest tasks are extremely painful. Saturday night the pain got so bad I called my nurse. Of course it was the weekend so she wasnt in the office but I left her a voicemail telling her what happened, and asking desperately for a refill in pain medication. I just dont know what to do, this last incident this weekend keeping me in bed nearly the entire time has made me fed up.

    I have one more paragraph but theres no room left to post, so ill post it in a reply.

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    Old 03-18-2007, 04:58 PM   #2
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    Re: I need help and advice for my back problem

    Is it a good idea to ask my nurse for more medication? I dont want to come off as seeming like a desperate addict, but this pain is tremendous and I know it would help. I have no insurance, what should I do? Should I apply for medicare? Do you think my situation would allow me to be accepted for public aids like medicare? I just am at a loss, this entire situation has ruined my life and I honestly just want to try a new surgery. My doctor mentioned something new he said might work, but we havent been over details because I simply have no insurance and he suggested the pain management first, but he also said with my history of nothing working he wouldnt blame me if I didnt want to continue. I just need to know what to do im at a loss, my parents dont know what to do. Is applying for medicare a good idea? If I got accepted, I would want to immediately do surgery. Also, to be honest, I want to stay on my pain medications for now. I know one day I will have to get off them, but if I indeed am going to have surgery again it would be pointless to get off them, then on them again, because I would definitely have them after a surgery. I want to be able to move around easier again, I want to be able to rid myself of this pain for a few hours everyday. I just would appreciate if anyone could help me with everything Ive asked about. Im sorry if this was too long, but im just sitting here in terrible pain, waiting till tomorrow morning for my doctors office to open up so I can call my nurse. I wanted advice and needed to tell my whole story.

    Old 03-18-2007, 05:27 PM   #3
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    Re: I need help and advice for my back problem

    Eddie!! First I want to say I am so sorry you are having so much pain and that you do not have have health insurance. I think your first priority needs to be in applying for medicaid. Personally, I have never had to do it so I can not offer you many words of wisdom. I am sure others can give you adivce regarding this.

    As far as your meds go, I can understand your doctors hesitation in prescribing it to you especially when you swapped medicine with your father. Doctors do not look highly on that. From what you say, it sounds like he was trying to taper you down and you circumvented that process. You might have to have a conversation with him in person and explain exactly what is going on as far as the medicine reduction was not enough to cover your pain.

    Take care of yourself and definitely apply for medicaid you have nothing to lose.

    Old 03-18-2007, 06:25 PM   #4
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    Re: I need help and advice for my back problem


    About the insurance situation...yes, apply for Medicaid. You may not qualify but it's easy enough to apply. When you meet with the social worker they may have other suggestions too - like state sponsored insurance programs.

    But without waiting, you should find individual insurance to purchase. If you have a gap without insurance of more than a few months, most insurance plans will not cover you for any pre-existing conditions. You need to get back on a plan asap so that this doesn't happen. It happened to me - I know.

    There may be Illinois state sponsored insurance plans available. If not, I think you can call up any insurance agency - like State Farm - and inquire about buying an individual plan. If you're under 25 your parents might have the option of putting you on their plan.

    Do you belong to any professional associations, or groups? You could check if the group has insurance plans available. You'd be surprised how many organizations offer insurance plans to their members. They can be less costly than individual insurance.

    Best wishes,

    Old 03-18-2007, 09:39 PM   #5
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    Re: I need help and advice for my back problem

    Hi Eddie. Welcome to this board. Sorry to see you having issues so young. My first disc issue started at age 18, but I am now 45. You never told us what surgeries you had done. With that fast of a recovery, I am assuming you had a microdisectomy(ies). If you only had microd's done.. there are still medical options available to you along with others. Please tell us what level(s) are a problem and what type of surgeries were done.

    As to your medication issue, I dont blame your doctor for no longer refilling your script and I would doubt going back there is going to help much unless he is continuing to treat your back. Do not misinterpret the next sentence, as I do not believe you are an "addict".. you have chronic pain issues. (Though you have legit back issues, you described a classic "addict" tactic to getting more medication.) Your doctor has no way of knowing if your dad had any Vicodin to begin with.. and swapping him is a legal nono. Your doctor can only go with what he provided to you and it being gone so quickly is all he has to work with. (I have a good friend that is a doctor and has told me of the many tactics that some people will go to get pain meds.) They have to protect themselves, you and the public in general. A doctor being negligent could cost him/her their license.You can't blame them for being cautious with all the drug peddling that goes on today.

    I understand the school thing, when I first injured my back almost 4 years ago, I was in Real Estate Appraisal school (online). I was in so much pain and so medicated, I barely knew my own name. I never completed the course needless to say. But I am now back in school and doing well so far. Still medicated, but not in the horrific pain I used to live in.

    I would contact social services and see how they can be of assistance to you. There is also local health clinics that are state run and might be able to offer you some assistance for little or not cost at all.

    With your back/surgery history, you are going to have a difficult time finding private individual health insurance where the premiums will be skyrocketed to a point nobody can afford it. I am in the position myself at the moment. But thank goodness I am able to get COBRA health insurance. WHICH is also something for you to look into. You have a right to COBRA so long as it is offered to any employee working at your parent(s) employer. Since you were a covered dependent, you have the right to the COBRA insurance also. But you must elect this within 60 days from the date they termed you and pay any premiums to bring the coverage payments up to date. Just another idea to pursue.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
    "believe in the beauty of your dreams"- E. Roosevelt

    L5/S1 bulging @ 18, now 46; still there (but no pain)
    Fusion at L4/L5 Apr -2006
    Solidly Fused Nov-2006
    A Success, but still improving!

    Old 03-19-2007, 05:54 AM   #6
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    Re: I need help and advice for my back problem

    Eddie, i first want to say welcome here and I understand what your going through. The thing that I believe sucks the most is the lack of insurance in this country....if you apply for an individual policy then they will call your back pre-exisiting and not cover your back for three years, even if you've taken a pain pill for it in three years, they sure know how to cover there asses.

    Here's what I suggest, first of all, apply for medicaid, then apply for social security. I got denied because of income being over 300 a month for a family of you have to be homeless to get it off income. But my family doctor wrote a letter, saying he considered me completely and totally disabled and had recommended surgery but I was unable to get it. Then wa-la the family services lady told me I could get medicaid under these circumstances unrelated to income. But the catch was I had to apply for social security and prove i had applied.

    Also, there are usually hospitals teaching ones, that will take you regaurdless of if you have insurance or money. There are also hospitals that are not for profit, that may send you huge bills, but if you call the finance department will adjust your bill off of income.

    If you can get into one of the hospitals that accept you without insurance, that would probably be best in your situation. I know my family and I paid cash for mri's surgeons opinions, injections, etc etc to get know where cause we couldn't pay for surgery. i could pay a doctor 500 to give me his diagnosis, but nothing from there.

    My old family doctor told me long ago, that when it got bad enough go to the ER, they will give you meds, but you will also get a surgeon referall that will see you, atleast thats what they told me, and if you talk to the social worker people at the hospital they can help you find assistance with this. But insurance or none, it generally takes months to get in with a surgeon.

    I know alot of doctors are freaked out about pain pills, I would call all friends etc that I could and find out what doctors aren't. My family doctor was very nice, and would give me vicodin with six months refills, cause i had no insurance so I wouldn't have to pay office visits every time. He also offers cash discount if you don't have insurance.

    I understand, vicodin are what had kept me going for the year before I had to quit working. Unfortunatley they quit working over time. I did notice if you quit for a week they work again. My doctor didn't have a problem giving them to me cause he knew I wasn't a faker ya know, seen my mris' surgeons opinions etc. -

    If I have learned anything, its that you have to be your own advocate, to find help, find doctors who will listen etc. - you can't give up, you just have to keep trying. I know its hard trust me.

    The only other option I could think of is if you could somehow find a job that offers insurance, doesn't sound like you can with your situation.

    i tried those online classes and they didn't work out well for me, i am more of the type who has to be there to really get it. Don't let that stress you, you can figure it out later.

    Your life isn't screwed forever, this is only temporary, don't loose your hope...just keep looking for solutions.

    I hope you get to feeling better. vette

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