I’m at the doctor’s office. It’s the second week of February, 2013.
She thinks the sharp pain in my ribs is from an ulcer. Probably the result of taking 20 to 25 Advil a day for weeks on end when I get one of my headaches.
I’ve been getting the headaches since I was in college, but all the doctors I’d ever seen had brushed me off when I told them I could put the pain at bay by taking a few simple Advil.
This doctor says they should have asked me a follow-up question: “How many Advil, exactly?”
So, yeah, the Advil is out. At least for now.
“But what if I get another headache?”
“Here. Let me write you a prescription for hydrocodone. Take one of these if it gets really bad.”
People are always asking me why I drive two hours, one-way for a doctor. I mean, it’s not like I live in the middle of South Dakota (anymore) — there are plenty of other doctors right here in Illinois, some of whom are even in my hometown.
The only way I can explain it is to tell you that I drive two hours, one-way to see the most amazing doctor I’ve ever had because over the last two years I have seen so many of the worst doctors I’ve ever had.
And, if I had been a patient of one of those doctors, I probably would have ended up in the hospital instead of Black Friday shopping at the mall with my little sister.
It all started because I was up for a refill on my super strong pain pills, which the federal government has decided are so potent that I am required to get a written prescription for it every single month lest I become Pablo Escobar.
Usually this just means that my doctor mails me the prescription, because we both agree that a four-hour round trip for a piece of paper in 2014 is ridiculous.
But this month, my doctor decided to mail the prescription directly to the pharmacy instead. Something about how if a carrier goes postal, or someone robs the mailman, then I won’t have any issues because they can just re-send it to the pharmacy — something they couldn’t do if they sent it directly to me.
And since my doctor is basically my “dealer” and therefore holds all the power in our relationship, I said, “Fine. Whatever.”
Except, like a week went by, and the pharmacy kept telling me they never got the prescription in the mail. I assumed it was because of the Thanksgiving holiday messing up the mail schedule, but by Friday I was completely out of all my pain drugs and was starting to go into withdrawal.
In other words, I was literally thinking about killing myself by downing a bottle of sleeping pills. Seriously, that’s how quickly things can devolve when you suffer from non-stop chronic pain.
And the pharmacist was all, “Yeah, no, they can’t call in a morphine prescription. Sorry.”
In the olden days (a couple months ago) my doctor could have just called in a hydrocodone prescription to hold me over. But alas, the federal government has deemed that drug too hardcore as well, and now a written prescription is required for it too.
And so, as I was trying to decide whether I would attempt to live off unhealthy amounts of Advil for the next few days or just kill myself, I thought maybe I should give my doctor a call and just check to make sure there’s really nothing he could do.
In the back of my mind, I kept trying to remind myself that my amazing doctor had always come through for me before, and that I had no reason to doubt him now.
I mean, he’s so amazing, that if I ever run out of pain pills early, instead of pointing me toward a drug rehab center, he actually asks why I came up short and then tries to figure out a solution so it doesn’t happen again next month.
And, during appointments, instead of staring blankly at a screen typing everything I say without listening to a single word, he actually listens to me and all my stupid questions, and even engages in a two-way conversation. There’s usually even eye contact! Crazy, right?
He’s also the kind of doctor who, when I showed up at his office after three endless days of insane breakthrough pain, instead of handing me some Aleve and a pain specialist referral to get something stronger, he actually gave me a pain medication shot right there on the exam table.
As it turns out, he’s also the kind of doctor who’s able to order a 3-day emergency prescription of morphine over the phone, so that I can make it through the next few days without dying.
The relief that flooded my heart and soul when I found out that I was wasn’t going to have go through hell, agony, withdrawal and a pain spike waiting for the postman is hard to explain.
I mean, I didn’t even know emergency prescriptions were a thing that could be done. Luckily, because I have an amazing doctor though, I didn’t need to — he was already on it.
I still don’t actually have the full prescription because it turns out that my local, small town pharmacy requires doctors to send prescriptions to a P.O. Box instead of their main address. However, my doctor’s nurse knew nothing about this, so now the prescription is probably on its way back to Wisconsin with “Return to Sender” stamped on it in big red letters.
But, the nurse told me today that they’ve sent another prescription, this time to the right address, and in the meantime, they’ve also sent in another 3-day emergency prescription to hold me over.
I can tell you from all of my experiences from horrific doctors, that most of them would have just shrugged their shoulders in that situation, and silently judged me for being a druggie, and told me to wait for the mailman like a good little patient — withdrawal and pain spikes be damned. Or, they would have insisted that I get in the car and make the 2-hour drive to Wisconisn right then and there to pick it up myself, despite the fact that without pain meds a drive like that would have left me for dead for like a week.
So, when people ask me why I drive four hours, round-trip to see doctor, I just nod my head, smile and say, “Well, he’s the best there is,” and leave it at that.
Because I know in my heart that he cares about me, and that’s more important than proximity any day of the week and twice on Sundays.