I fell on a rusty nail and it nicked the artery in my wrist. I didn’t know that it nicked the artery, it barely bled. I didn’t know that I was in danger. I didn’t know that I would be guaranteed to die. I didn’t know that the worst pain I would ever experience in the entirety of my life was about to commence.
I knew that it barely bled, and that I have nursed many injuries myself, including having stepped on a rusty nail at some point in time in my life. I have taken care of them with no worries, why should this time be different? This time was different. This time was so different.
The nail nicked the artery in my wrist, it caused a staph infection. It was M.R.S.A. a superbug, and one of the worst there is. The infection unbeknownst to me had entered my bloodstream. Within one-half hour, a small greyish-blue area appeared on my palm. My hand started to hurt, it was unlike any pain I had felt before in my entire life. I had to go to the emergency room.
I don’t remember much, I know that I had to be transferred to another hospital so that specialists could try to save my life. I know that I was immediately put into a medicated coma because the pain was so severe that it alone could have killed me. I had a central line inserted, I was given 2 mg of Ativan and 4 mg of Dilaudid through that central line. For those who don’t know, that’s about enough medication to knock out a horse, and I was getting it on an hourly basis through an I.V line that led straight to my heart. I was put on life support and had machines breathing for me, I was given a 0% chance of survival.
I was on life support and in a coma for 16 days, I had 12 surgeries over 10 days trying to save my life and as much of my limb as possible, I have to say I had some pretty amazing surgeons, because for a girl that had been guaranteed to die, I’m looking pretty good over here. My amputations stopped 3″ into my arm, and my artery was replaced up to my bicep. On June 12th (Which ironically is my boyfriends birthday so we have a birth and re-birthday party), my doctors said I was going to live, they didn’t know how, they didn’t know why; but I was going to live.
That was the tragic beginning. That was the beginning of the pain.
I have both Phantom Pain, and Phantom Limb Syndrome. What this means is that I feel my hand as if it exists, and as an added bonus, I get to feel as if I am being tortured non-stop.
Let me explain:
When you are born (assuming you were born without defects of any sort) your brain has an image of your body as whole and complete that is how you have movements without having to think about them. When you lose a limb to a traumatic accident, your brain still has that image, however the receptors that alter the signal and send a changed signal back to the brain are no longer there. The signal goes out, gets to a place where something should be, but isn’t. The signal then returns back to the brain completely unchanged. That unchanged signal completely confuses the brain because an unchanged signal is not what it expects in return, so it perceives it the only way it knows how, as pain. Now back to the torture.
On a daily basis I can feel as if I have a blow torch being pressed to my hand, like it is being crushed by a steamroller, or like my fingernails are being ripped off. I can feel like there are nails being hammered through my flesh, and I assure you, I feel each and every hammer strike. I feel as if metal rods are being shoved under my fingernails, I am being stabbed, or my bones are being snapped one by one. The worst though, the absolute worst, is the itch. At one point in time, you will either find yourself, or have found yourself driving down the street when your foot starts to itch. You can’t pull over, you can’t kick off your shoes, you can’t scratch. The itch just builds, and builds, and builds. That. Exactly that, except on a part of your body that doesn’t exist; so you can’t scratch it.
The pain is ongoing, it’s relentless. The pain is there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, non-stop and without fail. Doctors tried all kinds of things. I felt like a human guinea pig. I was given medications, so many medications. Everything from nerve pain medications that they give to people with fibromyalgia, to methadone. Yes, methadone, a narcotic so strong that they use it to wean addicts off of heroin. I was given ganglion blocks, which was a dangerous process. I had to lay with my head tilted back at just the right angle, so that my doctor could stick an 8″ long needle 6″ into my neck right past my carotid artery once every other week.
None of those things stopped the pain, none of them muted the pain. The only thing those treatments successfully did was leave me feeling drugged up, and simply not caring about life. The pain was so severe that at the end of every day, I was huddled around a toilet vomiting. I went through this for two full years before someone reached out to me and completely changed my life.
It was 2006, a full two years before medical marijuana was legal in the state I was living in, and yet, there I sat in a doctors office, listening to him tell me that it could very well be the pain relief I was looking for. He told me it was illegal, so if I told anyone he recommended it, he would outright deny it. He then said I should go home, reach out to my friends, and see who could get me in contact with someone.
I was completely thrown aback. Marijuana? For my pain? I had tried everything else my doctors had suggested, without question, so I went home and made some calls. After a few hours I found a friend that was able to pull some strings and get me something.
I can’t tell you how life changing that moment was. There are a lot of ways I could try to describe it. The relief, the pain slowly melting away. The thing that became most apparent was that I was able to think. That sounds odd I know, but when pain takes over every aspect of your life, you lose the ability to have clear and coherent thought. It took smoking marijuana to clear my head and heal my pain. It took marijuana to give me back my life. It took marijuana to allow me to not just have a life, but allowed me to live. There is a great distinction between the two. Living vs. having a life.
It took marijuana to completely flip my world upside down, in all of the best possible ways. It took marijuana, and I thank God for that.