"Some people weave burlap into the fabric of our lives, and some weave gold thread. Both contribute to make the whole picture beautiful and unique."
Being in pain makes one think, act and react differently than those around us. I was one who suffered chronic pain for years. I spent a great deal of time suffering from depression, but why not, my world had literally been torn away from me after an October 1996 injury to my left knee. In fact, it had literally become the end of the world, as I knew it.
At the time of my injury, I was working 60 plus hours a week, and going to school full time to finally obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications & History. Things would change drastically for me, in every aspect of my daily living, and the way I looked at life in general.
I no longer went on frequent hikes through Zoar Valley, a wondrous spot depicting a combination of nature’s pain, fury and beauty. The pain hindered me from carrying my year-old grandson around; my heart aching every time he reached his arms out to me. My house, which family and friends declared as “Immaculate” became average, no longer did I spend endless hours cleaning away everyday dust and grime so that every last piece of furniture or knick knack sparkled. Nor did I continue to make those big evening meals, complete with desert or bake cookies, cakes and bread. In fact, my life no longer resembled what I had grown accustomed to.
In December of 2000, my knee made its final cry for help (in a manner of speaking) I could no longer sit, stand or walk, comfortably; I was in a great deal of pain. At that point, I felt I had no choice; I opted to have a surgical procedure to fix the instability and hopefully alleviate the pain.
Immediately after the surgery, the pain was minimal. In comparison to what I had been experiencing, I could actually consider myself pain-free; no longer requiring the massive amount of pain meds to make it through the day. (At that point in time I had been taking Lortab 7.5 /500 regularly for more than one year.)
After my surgery, I was kept in a knee immobilizer and on crutches for 10 weeks. I was sent to physical therapy after six weeks. I was extremely confused about this tactic. My leg was stiffening to say the least, yet three times a week, I was sent to an extensive exercise program meant to return my mobility and increase the strength in my leg. Once the immobilizer was removed, an extensive home exercise program was added. Prior to physical therapy, my leg was virtually pain, however, my ability to do anything was severely limited; I had lost all but 22% of the mobility in my leg and had very minimal muscle tone and strength.
After several months, my mobility increased to 92%, with each percentage of mobility I had gained, the pain increased 10-fold.
Within 3 months of beginning therapy, I noticed a "bump" on my leg, just below the bruising. My leg became so sensitive that even my clothing touching it made me scream! Every time I returned to the doctors I complained of the pain, he replied, "it shouldn't do that."
Gee, that was nice, but it was happening. Finally, in November of 2001, I was so frustrated that I yelled at the doctor, at that point he examined my leg and determined that the "bump" was the screw working itself out of my leg. He told me he would remove the screw in February, near the year mark of my surgery. The surgeon refused to prescribe any pain medications to treat the pain I was experiencing; my family doctor increased my pain medication to Lortab 10/500.
The procedure was conducted in February, in an outpatient atmosphere (i.e.: an operating room under a local anesthetic). I was taken into the OR, where four nurses and the doctor awaited my arrival. I was placed on a surgical table, my arms were strapped in place, and a blood pressure cuff was placed on me, as were the sticky things for the heart monitor. The nurses talked to me, and held me in place while the doctor injected my knee with a local anesthetic. He then cut and took out the screw, when I jumped; the doctor indicated that "some" patients "claimed" they could feel the screw being removed. I told him I was one of those patients.
After the screw was removed, I saw him roll up something white, but I could not tell what he was doing. Then I heard what sounded like a staple gun and felt pressure on my leg, I assumed he was stapling the incision, but I later learned that he had merely given me stitches.
Although I still complained of chronic, intense pain, the doctor told me I was babying myself, just get out there and do everything a normal person does, because in a couple of weeks he was going to have me back to work. Three weeks after the removal of the screw, my husband decided we would go on an all day shopping spree, something I had not done for quite some time. I was still in pain and very uncomfortable riding. We went to a town that is one half hour drive from our home. As we entered the very first store, my knee felt like it gave out, not to the extent that it had previously, but it was a similar feeling to what I was use to encountering. There was an immediate increase in pain, so intense that I could not move. My husband helped me to the car and we returned home.
I called the surgeon's office, and was told he had left on vacation and would not return for two weeks. My knee continued to swell and the pain escalated; finally, I called my family practitioner. Noting the swelling, my doctor attempted to examine my leg, but when I jerked away and screamed, she decided to send me for X-rays. The X-rays showed a small, metallic looking disk located around the now open hole where the screw had been removed. She contacted the surgeon's office to note the necessity of seeing the surgeon immediately, and added 800 mg Ibuprofen to my pain medication regimen.
I returned to the surgeon’s office, as soon as he returned; demanding to know what the disk in the x-rays was. I was told it was a washer, part of the screw assembly. When I asked why he hadn’t removed it when he took out the screw, I was told; "Because I didn’t think it would bother you, but since it does..." He merely scheduled me for a third surgery, the second in 6 weeks.
I returned to the same hospital, proceeding to pre-op where I waited. Two surgical nurses finally arrived to take me to O.R. As they began wheeling me from the room, a third nurse came running up demanding that she was taking me and that the other two nurses were to go take care of another patient.
I was wheeled passed the series of operating rooms that I had been taken too on my previous visits, down to the end of the corridor and the nurse turned right, maneuvering my bed around obstacles lining the hallway, and finally placed me into an operating room that was far away from the others. I was not placed on a surgical table, I was not hooked up to monitors or a blood pressure cuff, and the only other person that entered the room was the doctor. The doctor injected the local anesthetic and began cutting. I screamed and jerked because I could feel the blade being inserted in my leg. The nurse pushed me down and told me that I was just feeling pressure. I told her, in unladylike terms, that I could tell the difference between pressure and a knife slicing my leg open. The doctor grabbed the needle, injected my leg in four more places, grabbed the scalpel and started cutting. He was extremely gruff when he said; “Can you feel it now?” I could not feel the cut, however, that was the only thing I did not feel. The washer was apparently lodged in my bone. He dug, and pried, I screamed, jerked, moaned, grabbed onto the railing of my bed and sobbed. I will admit, I think I did all of this, I know my knuckles were still white when I was returned to recovery and I was still sobbing hysterically, I also know that the muscles in my stomach and legs ached for two days after the surgery.
The recovery room nurses took my blood pressure, which had gone from normal to skyrocketing danger. They did everything they could to make me comfortable, including forcing the doctor to give me two Darvocets instead of just one. My husband yelled at the nurses because they had not controlled my pain, he also yelled because the doctor knew that I was taking Lortab 10 for the pain on a regular basis and they didn’t even control my pain. Finally, I was released, I went home and within 2 hours my medication level was 2 Darvocets, one 800 MG Ibuprofen and 1 Lortab 10MG. All they did, was stop the throb, the pain was still there.
Three surgeries later, my pain level had escalated to such a degree, that I could no longer function, even my ability to concentrate became affected, as was my ability to sleep. My activity level decreased, as did my social level; if anything, I had now become a medical recluse.
The surgeon continued to ignore my complaints of increased pain, so I again returned to my family practitioner. My pain medicine was increased to endocet 7.5 with the 800 mg Ibuprofen. The complaints of the pain spreading into my hip and foot were taken more seriously by my family practitioner. I was sent for a series of x-rays and finally, referred to George Harb, a physical therapist and pain management specialist; I held little hope for any improvement.
George looked at a series of x-rays that had been taken over the years and asked some key questions. Prior to examining my knee, he had me stand, face away from him and looked at my lower back and hip area while having me lift first my left leg and then my right. Within a few moments, George accurately pinpointed every area in which I experienced pain, including a sever pain in my left buttocks, a pain I had only complained to my husband about, this pain had never been documented in any of my medical records.
I was extremely impressed. This was the first time any medical professional had been able to both describe and pinpoint areas of pain without first poking and prodding me. He then continued the examination and within twenty minutes he told me he could help me; but I had two distinct problems that had to be dealt with; first and foremost, controlling the pain, second the extreme weakness in my knee. He began treatment immediately; as he worked, the pain in my leg DECREASED.
Of course it didn't last, by the time I made the journey home I was in pain. However, I followed the instructions George had given me and was able to reduce the pain I felt.
While I am far from being back to normal, and I still experience uncontrollable pain, which incites me to the pain meds; I now realize that miracles do happen. While I cannot say that I am totally pain free, my pain level has been decreased so greatly, that I am beginning to feel like a person again. I am sleeping throughout the night, no longer being awakened by pain. My depression level has significantly decreased, and I am actually looking forward to living again.
I am still restricted from many normal activities; such as vacuuming, lifting and even sitting in front of a computer for more than 10 minutes every hour, but I am making strides towards maintaining a normal life. I never thought I would look forward to running a feather duster across my furniture, or washing a few dishes; but I do. I do have a tendency to push myself, which I am learning, only tends to set me back a few notches. I guess you could say, I'm actually learning how to live again; one step at a time.
I may be an exception to the rule, and I know I have a long way to go before I reach normal again, but I am living testimony to the miraculous work of the healing hands of George Harb. He has truly given me a reason to live again, and for that I will always be grateful.
I recommend that people in Western New York who suffer from chronic pain, speak with their physicians about George Harb’s work. Persons elsewhere need to learn more about his techniques and the availability of these procedures in their area. I am testimony to the fact that miracles can happen; I just needed the help of a single physical therapist to make that come true.
Page Last Updated: 6/15/2002