Pauline, a 36-year-old woman from Mackay in North Queensland, was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in 2010, after an injury to her knee. She experiences intense chronic pain that she describes as feeling like there is acid in her veins – the pain switches between feeling like a burning hot sensation to that of an ‘ice burn’. Touching the area increases the pain, and often even wearing clothes produces unbearable pain. If someone touches her on the area she says it feels like they have razor-blades on their fingers.
Pauline’s condition was exacerbated after the birth of her son, Max, one year ago. Four weeks after his birth she experienced a massive flare that sent her to hospital, where it was eventually discovered that she had popped an internal stitch. She lives with intense pain 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Pauline has tried nerve blocks, a variety of medications, physiotherapy, as well as techniques such as mindfulness and breathing exercises to control her pain, which do offer some relief. She also sees a psychologist, a pain educator and a pain specialist as part of her treatment plan.
Pauline has been unable to work for some time as her condition is so unpredictable, and she does not know how she will be feeling from one day to the next. Pauline finds it is very difficult to try and explain to friends and family what she is going through, however fortunately her partner is extremely understanding and supportive.
Not living in a major capital city has had its drawbacks for Pauline, as far as accessing appropriate healthcare, especially as her condition is not particularly well-understood by many in the medical profession. She has experienced some health care professionals not listening to her, and telling her to “push through the pain”, which has, in turn, made her pain worse, so she is somewhat distrusting of the healthcare system.
Pauline hopes to one day be able to control her pain, and regain her independence, and be able to live a happy, healthy and active life with her son and partner.
Quotes from Pauline:
“Living with chronic pain means you have to live day by day. Just because we don’t show the pain on the outside, or talk about it constantly, doesn’t mean we’re faking it for attention. We’re just trying our best to get through the day one step at a time.”
“My partner has been my absolute strength through this whole ordeal, he has been by my side the entire time and never once made me feel like a burden. He is always there when I need him, and he helps me out so much, especially with looking after our son Max.”
“I have ups and downs of course. Some days I feel positive and strong and then other days the pain is too much to cope with. I’m learning more about myself every day, and as I do I’m also able to help other people living with chronic pain. I’ve done a few talks at my pain support group meetings, and have met so many wonderful people along the way.”