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Chronic Pain, Chocolate, and Vicodin

Chocolate and vicodin? No, it’s not the latest Ben & Jerry’s flavor. “Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest For Relief From the Headache That Wouldn’t Go Away” is the latest book by author, blogger, web designer, and busy woman Jennette Fulda.

I became acquainted with Jennette’s blog during BlogHer 2008, where I had purchased her first book, “Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir.” When she asked if I would like a copy of “Chocolate & Vicodin” to review, I jumped at the chance.

In “Half-Assed,” Jennette chronicled her journey to a near-200 pound weight loss. Just prior to that book’s release, she began another journey — one whose goal proved elusive. On February 17, 2008, Jennette went to bed with a headache. She still has the headache.

Name a diagnosis, she’s heard of it (brain tumor, dead twin in the brain, etc.) Name a treatment, she’s tried it (meds, massage, marijuana, mint chocolate chip ice cream, etc.) In “Chocolate & Vicodin,” Jennette is on a journey to find relief from chronic headache. Writing in a comfortable style, Jennette has a subtle humor that will have you laughing out loud. Trust me, her description of using marijuana “for medicinal purposes only” will have your beverage of choice coming out your nose! (Cover the book!)

But it will also choke you up. Under the humor, under the crazy e-mails from readers that suggest the crazy remedies, this is a serious story of chronic pain disrupting life. Persistent, excruciating pain and the work of coping with it takes a toll on Jennette, and when it becomes too much you find yourself sobbing with her. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Emergiblog*

Why Pain Can’t Be A Vital Sign

There’s been a movement afoot for several years now to quantify pain as the so-called “Fifth Vital Sign.” It all started as a well-intentioned effort to raise the level of awareness of inadequate pain control in many patients, but has gotten way out of hand. The problem is that the word “sign” has a specific meaning in medicine that, by definition, cannot be applied to pain.

When you hear us medicos talk about “signs and symptoms” of a disease, it turns out that they are not the same thing. “Symptoms” are things the patient experiences subjectively. “Signs” are things that can be observed objectively by another person.

Headache is a symptom; cough is a sign. Itching is a symptom; scratch marks over a blistery linear rash are a sign. Vertigo, the hallucination of movement, is a symptom; nystagmus, the eye twitching that goes with inner ear abnormalities that can cause vertigo, is a sign. If someone other than the patient can’t see, hear, palpate, percuss, or measure it, it’s a symptom. Anything that can be perceived by someone else is a sign. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Musings of a Dinosaur*

There’s Nothing More Important Than Your Health

I don’t do well with pain. I learned that lesson all too well during the birth of my first son when, after 10 hours of labor jump-started by a pitocin drip, I finally got an epidural. Nothing — and I mean nothing – has ever felt as good as the ebbing of that pain. I relearned the lesson during the birth of the second son, this time determined to go natural all the way when, after a few hours, I told the doula to “shut up” and ordered my husband to hunt down the anesthesiologist and “Get me an epidural — NOW!” He listens well.

By the time the third son was born, I had the drill down pat. I was admitted to the hospital to be induced again but this time, as soon as the IV was hooked up and before the first labor pain hit, I had the anesthesiologist in the room putting in the epidural. It was a completely painless birth — and a lot of fun.

My issues with pain extend to my issues with being sick. I simply do not like not feeling ill. I’ve been very lucky and extremely blessed in my life — the most serious thing I’ve ever had wrong with me was strep throat or a stubborn sinus infection. As a medical writer, I’m far too familiar with all the things that could go wrong with me, so I feel guilty even complaining about my minor issues. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at A Medical Writer's Musings on Medicine, Health Care, and the Writing Life*

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