He had chronic pain for more than 20 years. Smoker. He carried around more narcotics than your average drug dealer. And he was post-op day 1 from extensive spinal surgery with one of the best surgeons I’ve ever worked with. I knew he could overcome this.
The morning I met him he was in the fetal position. Clinging for dear life to his PCA button. The night nurse warned me that he takes a boatload of narcotics on top of his PCA. “Wimp.” He’d been labeled as a whiner.
When I did my rounds that morning I sat down with him and went thru his mess, one by one. I figured out which were part of his regular home regimen, and what had been added post-op. We came up with a game plan that tackled pain proactively. We scheduled his physical therapy and walking to coincide with optimum pain control. He had a good day. It was a day with less pain than he’d had in years. And more walking. His wife commented that after years of struggle, her husband was back.
The next morning I got him back from another night nurse, and again he was in fetal position. I had the docs give him a nicotine patch, we started back with pain meds. I removed his wound drain. It was time to walk. Hesitantly he found his feet. “Listen to me,” I said. “You can do this.” And he did.
Hours later his wife told me that moment was his turning point. He knew I believed in him, and that gave him the courage to believe in himself. We weaned him from the PCA that day. Successfully. He went home the next day, knowing that recovery would be a long road. But he assured me as we discussed his expectations at discharge that he could do this. “I know it now. I can do this.”