Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Harsh and Deadly Reality

This is a difficult story to tell, but it’s an important one. Today marks the one-year anniversary of when my amazing husband Cory checked himself into rehab.

2000: The Injury
We're not sure how it happened, but in the winter of 2000 Cory was injured. We had been dating for less than a year. He was only 24. He worked out, lifted weights and played sports regularly. He was in the prime of his youth. Then, one day out of the blue, he was met with excruciating pain. I’m talkin’ the knock-you-off-your-feet-because-it-hurts-so-bad kind. An MRI revealed that he had herniated the lowest disk in his back, which pinched the nerves that go to his legs, making it next to impossible to do the simplest of tasks. He wasn’t even able to tie his shoes.

2002: The Surgery
In the winter of 2002, he finally decided to have surgery after every other treatment option he attempted had failed. A month off of work and an obscene amount of money later, he found he was still in pain, only it seemed worse than ever.

A second MRI revealed that not only had his lowest disk re-herniated, but the one right above it had herniated as well, pinching a whole new set of nerves.

The answer he and his doctor turned to was pain medication. Lots and lots of pain meds. You see, his body would adjust to a certain dose over time, causing it to be less effective, so his doc would simply up the dose.

2008: The Rehab
By the fall of 2008 Cor was taking what, to the average body, was a lethal cocktail of pain pills—opioids of every variety.

As I’m sure you can imagine, the pain combined with the medication took a drastic toll on Cory’s quality of life. Physical activity was pretty much out of the question due to the pain, and the medicine made him almost numb to life.

As ashamed as I am to admit this, I honestly didn't see what was right in front of me. I knew our marriage was suffering. I knew our life was off balance. But I didn’t notice how drastically Cor had changed over the years. I suppose it’s a little like gaining weight. When you see yourself or someone else everyday, it sneaks up on you gradually.

This is why today is a day to celebrate in our home. It’s more than Cory going to rehab. It’s him deciding for himself, admitting that there was a problem, and taking the steps necessary to get help.

I won’t lie and say that stepping into rehab that day magically changed everything for the better overnight, but we’re certainly getting there. And we’ve come a million miles from where we were a year ago. I feel like I have the man I fell in love with back. Yes, he’s still dealing with the side effects of detox (it’s a long, painful process), but he’s here, no longer numb and distant.

When I asked Cor if I could share this ultra personal story on my blog, he said, “Why? I don’t think anyone’s really going to care.” My response was, “Because people need to know.” And you do need to know! (Plus, I'm super proud of him and want to shout it from the rooftops.)

Pain medication addiction/abuse is far too common and it’s often not the fault of the patient. Cory was doing everything right. He never took more than prescribed, but he was prescribed A LOT! That was the problem. In doing research, I realized just how close my young husband came to death as a result. The warning signs were there, we just didn’t know to look for them. Now that we know, I want to share some of them with you. If you have someone in your life that is taking strong narcotics to manage pain, please pay close attention and see if they should take action.

The Warning Signs
Here are a few things to look for (all of which were happening to Cory, BTW):

* Loud Snoring: This can indicate drastic breathing problems being caused by the medication in the system. This is a serious symptom that can lead to death if not taken seriously.

* Frothing at the Mouth: No, I don’t mean foaming in the rabid-dog sense, but bubbling around the mouth during sleep is something to watch out for. Medicine can cause fluid to build in the lungs, which can lead to a drug-induced coma or even death.

* A Swollen Face: Fluid build-up reaches beyond the lungs. Be aware of your patient’s face.

To illustrate this final point, here’s a picture taken just before Cory checked in to rehab last year. Notice how puffy his sweet face.

And this is a picture taken on his first day home. He was only in the hospital for a week, but the impact was already easy to see.

The picture at the top of this post was taken this summer. As you can see, his handsome appearance continues to improve with time, and that’s just the exterior. I could go on and on about how he’s better overall, but I’m sure my point is made without the added examples.

Frightening Facts
1. Prescription drug overdose is the #2 preventable death of women in the U.S.
2. People who take more than six medications of any kind, including herbal supplements, are 94% more likely to have a negative drug interaction.

I sincerely hope you won’t relate to this post, but the odds are you will. Prescription drug overdose is far too common and many doctors only seem to be furthering the problem. Please, be aware. It could save your life or the life of someone important to you.

Now, I’m off to celebrate my sweet Cory’s life. He’s come a long way this year and I’m super proud of him.


{amy k.} said...

I really admire you sharing this with all of us, and I'm so glad to hear that he is doing better. what a hard battle to face!

Unknown said...

Super proud of Cory! That is scary that he was that close to being gone.
Drugs in general scare me, and seeing how easy it is to have it become a problem reminds me why.


Kathleen Summers said...

Wow Megan, what a powerful story and so well written. I'm glad to say that I don't have personal experience with this, but that's not to say that something couldn't happen tomorrow that would lead me or a loved one down this road.

Thank you for your bravery and compassion!

ronee said...

wow meganL
I am glad that he is doing so awesome! glad he shared his story cause it does matter!

{VICKI} said...

My Mom had several chronic illnesses and was on TONS of medication. I know how badly meds affect people---they may help one thing but destroy something else.
She died in 2007.

Flagstaff said...

Thanks for sharing this story. There is so much shame in our society built up around addiction - any kind - that people are afraid to admit they have a problem and get the kind of help they need.

Julie @ Director Jewels said...

Megan - thanks so much for sharing this. This really strikes a chord with me because my hubby had surgery for a herniated disk a few years before I met him. The surgery was successful, and there have been no more serious problems, but there's always the danger that something else could happen. I really appreciate your willingness to share this with all of us! Having the knowledge before the fact will make all the difference, I'm sure. So glad to hear Cory is doing well. :)

the nayz said...

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. I have a family member with this problem and we continually pray that he will take charge and get help.

Scrap With M said...

I read your story and wanted to say thank you. I have post laminectomy syndrom (I had a fuion done at L5-S1) and the "only option" is more surgery or pain killers all the time.. I've opted for the medications, but am finding that they are not working like we wanted. I am seeking more opnions and hopefully will have an answer soon. Good luck to you and your husband.

Cynthia Baldwin said...

Congrats to Cory -and you- for achieving this anniversary! I applaud you both, and best wishes on his continued recovery. Thanks for sharing this personal story w/ us. I am sure you've helped someone with this valuable info.

Mommy Shar said...

Wow I am so proud of you and him for sharing your story. A good friend of mine is now a widow at 30 due to this very thing. Like your husband he was injured, followed Dr. orders and sadly his story didn't have your happy ending. Hang in there!! Let your husband know people do care, and sharing your story will save lives.

Cath said...

I applaud the honesty with which you have told this story. It isn't easy to do, but the more people who tell their stories, and stories like this, the easier it is for the rest of us to face our truths. Cory is a strong, brave man and he is so lucky to have you as his loving, supporting wife. I am so happy, as you know, that you both are hanging in there, fighting the good fight, so that the life you share is the best it can possibly be.

Love ya,

Nicole said...

Megan what an amazing story. I'm so glad to hear that he is doing alot better.I wish you two all the joy that life can bring. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Unknown said...

way to go Cor-One year strong! So happy for both of you. What an amazing story to actually ignore the system and retake control of his life. Very inspirational.

slimpossible28days said...

Megan, Thanks for sharing. Both of you are so strong and I truly admire both of you for it. Stay strong! It looks like you have a great support system too, how awesome!

Susan NEal said...

So happy that you two are coming out of a challenging time. The clouds are parting, the sun is shining! I have a good friend who went through the same thing, and it all started with pain management. I wish doctors could be more aware of the dangers themselves and offer alternatives. Thanks for sharing, it's just one more story that helps to strip away the stigma of drug addiction.

*Michaela* said...

Way to go Cory!!! It must have been hard for him to even agree to this or admit that there was "a problem". I have a family friend who is in complete denial, ruining not only his life but the life of his daughters, which is sooo sad.

I bet you are soooo proud and rightfully so!!!
It was very inspirational to read your family story.
Sending electronic hugs!


Emily Call said...

wow, i had no idea any of this was going on. glad you shared it and i am glad everything is starting to get better.

Tara said...

Megan, thanks for sharing this story, and YEAH TO CORY!!!! I watched an episode of this on oprah the other day and wow, it was eye opening... thanks so much for your words!

Unknown said...

Congrats to you both!
I had a family member go through a similar experience. It was worse than a cocaine/heroin addiction (we had that in the family too). I am proud of him for being so strong.

Krys72599 said...

Just popped on over - congrats to Cory.
I had a herniated disc. Luckily for me surgery worked.
It is a pain that is indescribable - it truly affects your whole body.
SO happy he's doing better!!!
Tell him we DO care!!

Kim Kosmatka said...

Way to go, Cory!
Megan, a very important story to share...nicely done!

*reyanna* said...

Thanks so much for sharing this, Megan! I'm glad he's doing better now. How are his herniated discs now? And his pain? I hope he's in much less pain... all around. :D

Kristi said...

Wow girl...when I met you I had no idea. I could not sleep tonight and went further into your blog. Cory is amazing for all the reasons you listed and you are also amazing for standing by your man. Amazing how many turn when there is a little bump let a lone a pot hole the size of TEXAS! You both RAWK ...as Maggie would say! LOL..