Away with Pain: A Parent’s Story

Our Daughter enjoyed a busy independent life style doing all the things you would expect of a 34 year old single girl. That was about to change when we received a phone call from her to warn us that she was on Red alert from the local hospital because of a flair up of pain in her lower back, probably linked to a car accident which she had been involved in some 5 years earlier whilst at work, due to no fault of hers. Consequently she was almost immobile because of pain in the coccyx, leg and lower back and it became necessary to return home to be cared for the day before her 35th birthday.

From here on she was in chronic pain and was about to enter a series of specialists appointments, hospital visits and invasive procedures, unfortunately an MRI scan did not show conclusive abnormalities that could be accounting for the pain. The culmination of it all was a major back operation in mid – October which unfortunately has left her with chronic and neuropathic pain affecting both legs.

By coincidence I was in the same Hospital overnight at the time having a minor shoulder operation in virtually the next ward. The following morning Julia (four days after her operation) came to see me with a big smile on her face having been told that the pre op pain had gone, unfortunately it was to be a long time before I was to see that smile again, as very soon pain returned (she later expressed her feelings that her world had split in half and everything had poured out).

Later that week she returned to our home at which point her Mum became the carer for both of us, her assistance was required in almost every daily activity: showering, dressing, laundry, food preparation followed by a succession of Hospital, physiotherapy, specialist appointments, looking back she must have been exhausted.

The homecoming created its own logistical problems, it was necessary to find storage space for Julia’s personal effects, changing to a suitable bed and bedding and sharing of facilities. We all have had to give up our privacy and personal freedom.

Very slowly Julia by sheer determination began physically to show signs of improvement as a result of exercise, walking and subsequently gentle swimming. However inside and mentally She was falling apart, the pressures must have been overpowering:

Her career that she loved was finished and money was running out, she felt a failure and began to lose her confidence and self- esteem, On reflection whilst we made every effort to support her financially and mentally it was not enough although as parents you share the pain in different ways, her true friends were amazing and really helped her through those dark days.

Unfortunately, worse was to come as her dear grandmother passed away in April 2011 and Julia was unable to attend the funeral in Kent because of the pain that such a long journey would inflict, followed by her remaining Great Aunts funeral again in Kent almost one month later.

Throughout all of this was the constant battle with the authorities to obtain the meagre State Benefits that were available, culminating in an Industrial Claims Tribunal which Julia won in early September 2011; all this extra pressure was not conducive to the healing process. Throughout the year there were numerous visits to Pain Clinics, physiotherapists, doctors, and complimentary medical providers (normally we were the taxi providers). The pain did not ease despite the cocktail of drugs that Julia was consuming. She was almost a zombie most days not beginning to function until midday. This has an effect on the rest of the household due to Julia’s sleep deprivation as we try to keep noise and heavy household chores to a minimum through these times so she can manage or attempt to sleep, confidence had gone replaced with hopelessness.

Julia reached absolute bottom in late September 2011 and often spoke with a view to ending it all; she asked us to look after her beloved cat Milly after she had gone, fortunately things didn’t work out the way she intended!

 As parents our lives are a seesaw of emotions, we can have and do most of what we want, however we do feel guilty when we go on holiday or go out for a meal etc.

Whilst the levels of pain and financial pressures have not changed, positivity, self- confidence, and self- esteem are slowly returning. Julia says her old life has gone and this is my life now and “I just want to help others” hence the driving force behind “a way with pain.”

At the time of writing Julia has just managed a short break with a friend for three days, not without its difficulties but a fantastic achievement, and a great confidence booster for her.