I am writing this letter because of my husband's health issues and declining quality of life. He is 74 years old and has chronic back pain.
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter because of my husband’s health issues and declining quality of life. He is 74 years old and has chronic back pain.
After trying physical therapy and chiropractic therapy, which did not help his pain, Ron saw a surgeon who did not recommend surgery because of the dangers involved.
After reviewing my husband’s MRI and other documentation, the physician at the VA Center in Petersburg prescribed oxycodone for Ron’s pain. Ron was prescribed three 10MG pills a day. Even though he still has some pain, Ron was able to continue driving to see his Medicare clients to fit them for diabetic shoes and participating in a normal life for someone his age.
I realize that there is an opioid problem in our country. What I do not understand is why veterans who do not abuse the medicine must suffer. Ron has been told that all veterans will lose their pain meds. What amazes me is that no alternatives are provided. The impression that I have is that the VA does not care. What are these men to do?
While Ron was in the Air Force, my husband served in the Presidential Honor Guard during the Kennedy, Johnson administrations. After his left foot started giving him problems from the marching, Ron served at the Pentagon. He did have a top secret clearance and often drove General Lemay to Senate Foreign Relations meetings on the Hill.
After his honorable discharge from the service, Ron has spent the rest of his life in sales and has owned his own business. I have a master’s degree from West Virginia University. I am a retired school teacher. We are not drug abusers.
At the VA’s request, Ron did see the pain management people. Again, no alternatives to the meds were suggested except the ones he had already tried. He was required to drive to the VA hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia, to be evaluated by a psychologist and a doctor. The psychologist was very nice and read Ron’s documentation of his back problems and other reports. The second person would not take the time to read Ron’s medical history documentation. He treated us with little respect. We felt like we were being interrogated. We realize that the questions were asked to evaluate if the pain medicine was being abused. One question was: “Do you run out of meds before the end of the month?” We both answered, “Yes, when they are not sent on time from the VA.” I answered another question, and the doctor very harshly and loudly said, “Would you like to step out to the waiting room?” I told him, “No, but I can keep my mouth shut.” I was shocked at being so disrespected. This person told us he was to evaluate and not make the decision to stop Ron’s medicine.
At Ron’s VA appointment in Petersburg last week, Dr. Pamazal told Ron that the doctor in Martinsburg advised taking my husband’s meds away. Dr. Pamazal reviewed Ron’s documentation again and told him he would let him stay on three 10 MG pills a day for the next three months. However, when the meds arrived, the dosage is now three 5 MG pills a day. Ron’s quality of life has deteriorated dramatically in just a few days. He can barely move, is in constant pain, can’t sleep and definitely cannot do yard work or other work around the house. It is heartbreaking to see Ron with tears in his eyes because he is in more pain than usual.
I would like to suggest that the VA consider each patient on a case by case basis. I am sure many veterans need their pain medicine, do not abuse it or sell it. These men actually need the pain medicine. Their concerns need to be listened to. Something needs to be done so that veterans can still get the pain medicines they require to lead as much of a normal life as possible.
My deceased brother, who was a well-respected pharmacist, assured Ron when he started to take oxycodone that a person is not an addict when he actually has pain.
Rosalee A. Freeman