I first incurred a serious back injury at work in 1985. It was not able to be evidence-based for five years (at the time of surgery).
I was medically managed, with opiates, sedatives, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory and antipsychotics, as progressively my brain liquefied and my body exploded to a massive 110kg with a left foot drop that would cause me to fall over without the slightest inkling that it was going to happen.
If it had not been for a physiotherapist eventually saying she could help no further I have little doubt that I would not be writing these words. I had an MRI scan (new at the time) and had a discogram followed by a multi-level decompression spinal fusion.
The first night post-op remains the most painful night of my life - inclusive of childbirth. The surgeon told me I had the worst back he had operated on in ten years and that the loss of feeling in my leg I was experiencing post-op may return in the coming years.
The doctor that was managing my pain was, and continues to be, a pain specialist and one of the major players in the medico-legal field.
All costs were born by my husband and me but most of all our children, as the cost and strain led to the breakdown of our marriage. My husband left and we fell into poverty. The $2500 in compensation from my employer (and a non-disclosure agreement) barely helped.
In returning to work at a later stage, I was again injured when a patient fell on me. A little wiser, I claimed compensation only to be strung along for six years by claims officers assuring me I did not require a solicitor. Once more I carried the cost, as there was no information provided or offered except for a verbal "cheer up" on the other end of the phone and a letter to tell me every couple of months that the voice had changed.
I tried to commit suicide on more than one occasion and would have been successful if not for my children and the love and compassion of a couple of people who came into our lives 13 years ago. We met through the foster care program, they as respite carers and me as a shattered person.
They just happened to be a doctor of social work and a doctor of psychology and what they provided was unconditional love, support and above all faith that I was not "a bad mother".
The one major change that occurred following the second recovery was I found that the insurer was obliged to cover a gym-swim program and again this information came via a physiotherapist. I also found I was entitled to home assistance - and then an occupational therapy assessment suggested I could "manage a sandwich bar".
The injured don't need platitudes or inappropriate job prospects. They need purpose and meaning in their life. They need assistance (support) to keep their families together and their children fed.
Maslow's theory of hierarchy needs to be adhered to. They don't need more drugs.
As my children grew older, I underwent an amazing spiritual event (not religious) and learned the power of positive thinking (they like to call it neurolinguistic programming these days). It gave me the confidence to manage my own care (not fund it) and dismiss the healthcare professionals that were riding the gravy train of insurance.
After returning to work as a nurse, I commenced my own advocacy company, created a program, worked as a director of nursing and my views were being sought for articles in the pharmacy industry, news (the Daily Telegraph) and on SBS radio.
This all came crashing down in 2006 when my car was rear-ended twice in close succession and I sustained a significant whiplash and a closed head injury.
Some months later in 2007 I was admitted to hospital with a severe exacerbation of my condition. After a 10-day admission, my GP received a letter from the treating physician with three words on it: "Pain, analgesia, physio".
I was discharged with a request for a follow-up in one month and a bag of drugs very similar to those cited in the death of Heath Ledger. In 1997, panadiene forte was the second most prescribed drug in Australia but we now seem to have switched to oxycontin (hillbilly heroin).
When are we going to learn? It is a contradiction to assess function while administering fog.
I have not written this tome as an exercise in doctor-bashing, nor to attack the various insurance organisations that I have had to deal with.
If the health economists and politicians are unable or unwilling to provide a more equitable system and medicine is to continue to be practiced in a defensive manner then perhaps hillbilly heroin is the answer for all of us, as there is no going back to Woodstock.
Finally, in the words of Mahatma Gandhi:
Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive, because your words become your behaviours.
Keep your behaviours positive, because your behaviours become your habits.
Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.