Name: Karla M Astudillo
From: Glendale, Arizona
All I recall was that it quickly escalated to a bone drilling, throbbing, burning pain and within minutes I was unconscious. From that moment on. I knew my life would never be the same. In 2013, I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Along came the typical joint pain, stiffness, muscle swelling, spasms and organ involvement. But in 2017, is when the real Lupus battle began. I was admitted to Mayo Hospital for ten long exhausting both physical and emotional days. I had gone into renal failure. During my stay, within the first twenty-four hours I was given countless medications that caused me to gain over forty pounds. Once discharged, I had to go through several rounds of chemotherapy causing me to lose all my hair. At that time, I recall having a strong mentality and comforting myself by repeating “everything is going to be just fine”. After three months had passed I noticed my typical joint pain was getting a little more intense. On my follow up appointments with my rheumatologist I brought up my pain concern. I explained that the pain I was feeling was daily and different. It was no longer just joint pain. The doctor brushed me off and blamed it on the weight. I was at my heaviest at one hundred ninety-eight pounds with a height of five feet and two inches. As normal, I went home and continued taking the max daily dose of tylenol. Within one or two weeks tylenol was no longer enough.
It was in the middle of the night, I had just finally found a comfortable position to fall asleep. I woke up screaming and crying in pain. My husband was terrified not knowing what to do other than to call an ambulance. At the hospital I was diagnosed with diffused avascular necrosis. I was given morphine; finally feeling some relief. When I went into renal failure in 2017, I was given countless IV bags of steroids that caused and accelerated the development of avascular necrosis. Not to mention that I had been on oral steroids since my Lupus diagnosis in 2013. Avascular necrosis is the death of your bones because they are not receiving enough blood supply. After that night, I was released from the hospital, referred to the orthopedic and given oxycodone like it was candy. And like candy I would take it. The orthopedic doctor said that he would not recommend surgery since the avascular necrosis is present all over the body. He explained I would be in more pain in and out of surgeries. The orthopedic prescribed me a higher intake of oxycodone and referred me to the pain management clinic. I went to the pain management clinic and all they did was tell me that they will be the ones prescribing the oxycodone from on. They did not offer me any other alternative or drug to manage the pain.
At home, I would wake up, eat a little and take all my medications that included oxycodone. For lunch and dinner I would do the same. Right before bed I would take an extra oxycodone with the excuse that I wanted to get a better sleep. I would even call the oxycodone my best friend. I do not know if it was the fear of feeling that excruciating bone thrilling pain again or that I was really enjoying the high it gave. This continued for over a month. Soon, I found myself realizing that I was not having the same effect that I had in the beginning. My husband noticed that I would finish my prescription bottle earlier than the 30 days and quickly called me out on it. Needless to say that my positive and energetic attitude was gone. My marriage began falling apart the moment oxycodone became my best friend.
I am just one of the millions in the United States affected by the opioid crisis. But, I am one of the few that is still alive and can call myself a recovered addict. I can only speak from my experience. See, in the United States we live a fast past life. Everything that we want we want done now and fast. I strongly believe this applies in the medical field. In our western medical practice and culture the majority goes to the doctor when we have a developed medical condition. I completely understand that there are some illnesses that can not be prevented and some that require immediate aggressive treatment . Come on, I have lupus. But, when I look back I do strongly believe my doctors could have done a better job at controlling my pain. For example, they could have recommended pillows to sleep more comfortably at night, bone supplement or injections that would target specifically where the pain was more bothersome. These are just a few examples. From the hospital down the line of doctors, they all took the fast route. The orthopedic explained that I was going to live with avascular necrosis all my life just like with lupus. The pain management doctor should have- without a doubt- looked for other alternatives if this was going to be a lifelong condition. Yes, I was in pain but I feel I had a harder time recovering from my addiction.
The consequences an individual has to face caused by addiction are detrimental. Many lose their lives and destroy the ones around them. I almost lost my husband, abandone my obligations in the house and excluded myself from society. With tears in my eyes, I had to admit to myself oxycodone was going to become death penalty if I did not do something right then and there. I recall grabbing my pills and flushing them down the toilet. I did it so fast that when I realized what I had done I cried on top of the toilet bowl for an hour. My husband had just come back from the grocery store and asked me what was going on. All I could reply was “I flushed my best friends and I want them back!” That night and many following nights I did not sleep. My anxiety was through the roof, the night sweats were unbearable and the pain was coming back. Without the help of my husband I do not think I would have made it. During my withdrawal every single minute that passed, I regretted my decision. After a few weeks had passed, I slowly began to realize how much I had abodone my home even though I had never left it. How much I had hurt my husband’s emotional well being. It took me months to recover his trust and my home harmony. It took over a year to find the right doctors and regime to manage my pain. I lost all the excessive weight, ate healthier and learned to simply control my breathing during a pain flare up. I decreased my pain by over fifty percent. With that pain level a tylenol here and there is enough to carry on with my day.
Our national and local governments are heading in the right direction by being more strict in the prescription of opioids but I believe that as a society we are heading the opposite direction. As I said before, we want the easy and fastest route. But true and worthy results require time, patients, determination and hardwork. I had an opioid addiction but my neighbor may have a different addiction: alcoholism, pornography, video games, or even food addtion. We need to treat the root of the problem. We need to make the solution accessible. When I say accessible I mean financially accessible. For example, my husband, when I went through my addiction he found refuge in food. He gained over one hundred pounds. We paid thousands of dollars to psychologists, and nutritionists to get him help. The medicine to help in the beginning of his journey cost over two thousand dollars. We saw it as an investment for his well being and were very fortunate that we had some savings. My husband is almost at his healthy weight. Everything that is beneficial for us in the United States tends to cost more and sometimes it is impossible to access it. Burgers are two dollars while a salad is over eight dollars. It is easier and cheaper to buy a pack of beer than to have a session with a psychologist.