The War On Patients, Doctors
photo by Anny Sivilay
L-R: Kyle Spuruell, David Byers, Constance Durkin, Gary Hoyle, Robert Wiley, Sylvia Myers,
and Julie Bridges. Some of Dr. Ron Myers, Roland Wellness Clinic, were out to show their
support for chronic pain suffers in honor of Pain Patient Advocacy week. Dr. Myers and
his wife were also in attendance to hand out information regarding their fight for the
right of pain patients.
Many chronic pain sufferers in the area feel as though the war on drugs has become a war against them, unfairly lumping them in with drug addicts when all they want to do is be able to have a functional life.
The National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov) cites pain as the most common reason Americans access the health care system, affecting more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined. According to the 2006 National Center for Health Statistics, approximately 76.2 million Americans suffer from pain that lasts longer than 24 hours. That is one in every four people, with chronic pain being the most common cause of long-term disability.
Chronic pain can be the result of a number of reasons including diseases and serious injuries from an accident, work, and for many, their time in the service. Veterans are among the many who suffer from chronic pain.
The last week of April is designated as Pain Patient Advocacy week. Chronic pain suffers and supporters were out at Creekmore Park in Fort Smith to show their unity for this cause Saturday, April 26. Since many of the attendees that day suffer from severe pain they took turns holding up the banner for their cause, even those who need assistance with a cane. Among those out to show their support were veterans and patients of Dr. Ron Myers of the Roland Wellness Clinic.
Senate Bill 265
The Arkansas Chronic Pain Treatment Act was passed in 2003. This passage was sponsored by Arkansas state senator Danny Altes and signed by Gov. Mike Huckabee on April 16, 2003.
The bill is also known as the “Chronic Intractable Pain Treatment Act,” and states that “pain management plays an important role in good medical practice; Physicians should recognize the need to make pain relief accessible to all patients with chronic intractable pain; and physicians should view pain management as a regular part of their medical practice for all patients with chronic intractable pain.”
The bill defines chronic intractable pain as “a pain state for which the cause of the pain cannot be removed or otherwise treated, and for which no relief or cure has been found after reasonable efforts by a physician,” and these patients should be treated “for as long as the pain persists.”
Despite the passing of this piece of legislation many chronic pain patients are still denied treatment. Dr. Myers cites the fear of physicians losing their medical license for this reason.
A Veteran Affair
“I am an Army veteran (Sergeant First Class) who served approximately 17 years on active duty. I am a Gulf War veteran and I have been to approximately 40 countries, have been in numerous hostile and war-torn environments. After my injury occurred I was retired out 100 percent medically, and honorably,” said David Byers of Fort Smith.
Byers gets treatment at the local Veteran Clinic, but receives his pain treatment through Dr. Myers.
“He (Dr. Myers) is constantly fighting for our rights. Lots of vets are at the Wellness Clinic, and many of them are there for the same reason (as himself),” he said. “There are far too many doctors that are not, or will not, write prescriptions for important medications that are needed by chronic pain sufferers. This is due to the increased restrictions from the DEA, FDA and others who have pushed for these blockages.”
Byers explained that he received his medical benefits and treatment in Georgia, where he initially retired before moving back to Fort Smith. He was put on a pain medicine regimen that allowed him to live a functional life, but about seven to eight years ago the VA clinic discontinued his pain management regimen.
“The doctors at the military hospital in Georgia formed a panel of MDs, pharmacists, commander of hospital, head of doctors, etc. for patients like me, like a lot of us here (at the rally). Where it is about quality of life; being able to function as close as we can prior to our injuries and/or illness,” said Byers “People who suffer from legitimate chronic pain and require pain medication are not druggies!”
“I gave my complete unquestionable heart, body and mind to my country to accomplish my mission. Regardless of what was asked of me, I always gave 110 percent effort. All that I am asking is that I be able to receive what I need to able to function on a daily basis.”
Dr. Myers said what gets him the most upset are veterans being denied the pain treatment they need.
“The under treatment of chronic pain patients is a crime,” he said.
At just 30 years old, Mitch Bridges is among the veterans suffering from chronic pain. He said he use to travel back and forth to the VA hospital and was basically told he had to deal with the pain because they would not do anything for him.
“It's a constant fight to live a happy existence,” said Bridges.
“I upheld my end of the contract by serving my country. It's almost like you're worthless now,” he said, of how he feels when being denied pain treatment.
Bridges served 14 years in the military, has loss 12 friends he has served with to suicide, and suffers from lower back pain and residual shrapnel in his leg. He also lived in a wheelchair for 12 years in his twenties.
Real pain, not addicts
At just 33 years old, Michael Millsap of Mulberry has been battling chronic pain for the past 10 years. His pain started with a major car accident and on job related injuries as a result of his accident.
“I had a major car accident that I was lucky to have survived. I was hit by a semi-truck on Interstate 40 and was ejected out the back glass of my pickup and threw down the median,” said Millsap. “I have tried to go on with my life, thinking and hoping the pain would eventually go away, but doing so has let to numerous other injuries sustained while trying to continue working.”
A few years ago he was found to be legally disabled due to his back injuries and has since been unable to work or do much, he said. Not only that, Millsap said he has been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, nerve damage, leg pain and suffers from daily fatigue.
“There are actually days when it takes me hours to even get up and walk straight, and on really bad days I am not able to hardly walk at all,” he said. “Because of the doctors who treat my pain, medication and therapy, I am somewhat able to function better and do light activities.”
Millsap said his worst fear is to not have a place where he can go for the treatment of his pain. He added that he has lost two doctors in the past, and without the proper medications and treatments he needs just to function he would not able to participate in activities with his 12-year-old son.
“I really do not think it is right for the people who abuse prescription drugs or get in trouble for diversion of some kind to ruin the lives of true pain patients, those of us who dod not break the laws and that truly are in need of pain clinics to be able to function in their daily lives,” he said.
Two more of Dr. Myers' patients, Gary Hoyle of Shady Point, Okla. and Mike Clark of Spiro, suffer from pain as a result of accidents. Hoyle's accident was from a motorcycle wreck over 20 years ago. Since then he has had his hips rebuild, and a collapse back resulting in a pinch nerve.
Before he found pain management Hoyle said he would self medicate with whiskey, and there were times when he would be on the floor for days just from the pain.
Clark's pain came after a lower back fusion surgery and two rupture disc. He said doctors wanted him to get another surgery but he would have to wear a catheter. Clark opted not to have another surgery and said he would be homebound for 18 hours a day before he found pain management.
Despite not being 100 percent, Clark is happy to have a reasonably comfortable life.
Arkansas pain patient coordinator Robert Wiley was among the attendees that day walking with a cane. He had moved here from California in 2012, and dealt with chronic pain for 12 years. He has had four back surgeries, and a knee replacement.
Wiley said when he relocated to Arkansas he went from being a respected patient to treated like an addict.
Constance Durkin of Fort Smith is another one of Dr. Myers' patients. She said not long ago she tried to fill her prescription at Wal-Mart and was denied because Dr. Myers was “too controversial,” she therefore had to get her prescription filled somewhere else.
Durkin has been a vocal supporter of this cause, and getting the word out that there are those who legitimately suffer from chronic pain and are not just looking for a high. Chronic pain sufferers should not be lumped in with addicts.
“We're the powerless. When we get together we become the powerful,” she said.
For more information on this cause visit www.AmericanPainInstitute.org.