Friday 29 March 2013

Letter to Sharon Bowles - health breakdown

Dear Ms. Bowles,

August 2012 was my first head-on experience with the cuts in funding to the health service; cuts that were made in order to furnish the bank-debt had filtered through to the front-line directly affecting people like me.

I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1999 but it was not until 2002 that the most disabling symptom of my disease appeared - I had developed chronic nerve-pain. I was referred to the pain clinic and we began, together, a journey to find a way to control the pain while avoiding the side effects of most conventional forms of pain control such as addiction, drowsiness and an altered state of mind.

I was and always have been employed; to stay this way it was necessary to avoid opioids completely.

My pain consultant is very dedicated and tried to find a way to give me as much relief as possible. In 2008 I took part in a trial where lignocane (a local anesthetic) was infused to my spinal fluid through an intravenous drip; not only was this treatment inexpensive (€34 per infusion), within 24 hours I was completely pain-free and for the first time in six years I no longer required painkillers.  It was and is life-changing. For the following four years I received lignocane infusions every six weeks and lived an almost normal productive life.

In August 2012 the Pain Clinic I attend lost three-quarters of its resources as a direct result of funding cuts. I was due to receive a lignocane infusion the same week, an appointment that was cancelled. I was to wait three months and endure unending chronic nerve pain. I was reduced to my bed for a period of eight weeks, no longer a productive member of society, wife or mother. I received my infusion in December but due to the delay, it was not as effective and the relief was only partial and short-lived. There are no words to adequately explain what chronic pain feels like. What I can say is the volume of medication required to have a short break reduced me to a state akin to a living death; I was either sleeping or taking more pills to induce sleep.

I am one of many thousands of people in Ireland whose life has been turned upside-down as a direct result of cuts to vital health services. The decision to make such drastic cuts to the resources at the Pain Clinic have proven to be uneconomical as I now engage with extra services such as out-of-hours GP visits (on average eight home visits per month at a cost to the health service of €100/visit). The lignocaine infusion costs €34 and provides total pain relief for an average of four weeks. Then there are all the extra medications I use to treat the pain or the side effects caused by the pain meds…

It is a battle I am having to fight unnecessarily to pay the debts of banks; why?