Speaking up: If one doesn’t work, try another

Contributed by: Brian C.
Reviewed by: Evelyn Corsini, MSW. November 2008

In December 2007, I underwent gastric bypass surgery to help me reduce my weight. Although weight-loss surgery has been around for quite a while, it’s only in the last few years that surgeons have been able to perform it without making a long (6-7 inch) incision. They told me that the new laparoscopic surgery would only leave me with five small 2-inch incisions, and would be a LOT less painful than having one large scar. After this explanation, I came into the surgery thinking I would feel barely any pain. I mean, they were operating on me using tiny, advanced cameras and joysticks!

Boy was I mistaken. All I remember was waking up in the recovery room with an intense burning pain in the center of my gut. I was in an anesthesia-induced daze and don’t remember very much, but a recovery room nurse later told me that I cried out, “It feels like I’m digesting knives!” They gave me morphine for the pain, but it didn’t seem to do anything for me. My insides still had a searing burning pain. Increasing the dose of morphine did nothing, either. I was so afraid I’d have to suffer through this intense pain, since they had increased my dose with no relief!

What I didn’t realize is that there are so many different kinds of pain medications available besides morphine. I’m so glad I was persistent and spoke up about my unrelieved pain, because they finally decided to try out another pain medication. The doctors decided to switch my morphine to dilaudid, and I immediately felt considerable pain relief. I guess what works for some doesn’t always work for others.

The most important thing I learned from my experience is that, if one pain medication doesn’t bring you relief, speak up to your caregivers about it. There are many other pain medications they can try, and some work better for some people than others. It is up to you to communicate whether the medication is working to reduce your pain or not, so that the doctors can decide if there’s a better one for you. Only you know your body.

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