This is not about the usual subject. It is about real pain. I have had trouble with my spine since I was a teenager. Since the age of twenty or so, I have self-managed, with GP support, what I suppose is best described as moderate to severe chronic lower back pain. This was joined by neck pain, mild at first, then much more serious after an accident on holiday in 2011. Most of the time I just get on with life. I know what I can do, and what I can not do. When things are bad I have a raft of medications at my disposal, most of which would reduce people who were not used to them to sedated stupefaction. But as I am getting older and things are getting noticeably worse, I thought I needed to know what was the state of play. In other words, I was starting to feel that this was all getting beyond my own capacity to manage by myself. I needed some help.
So this morning I went to a local clinic for an appointment with a Pain Management specialist. It was, without question, the best NHS referral consultation I can ever remember. I saw Dr Thomas Keane, a Pain Specialist from Sherwood Forest Hospitals. Remember that name. Dr Keane was brilliant.
He couldn’t have been better. I was treated with dignity, like an intelligent human being. He understood my history (long and boring except to me) and seemed to appreciate what the things I cope with do to me. He checked me over, and talked about a management plan. I nearly swooned – no one has EVER talked like that to me. He was cheerful and clear and pleasant, and did not sugarcoat the reality that some treatments may have considerable risk factors Now I will go for an MRI scan for the lower back (the neck had one not that long ago) and then we will see where we go next.
It wasn’t wizzy new medicine that made it so good. Apart from his eyes and hands and one of those mallet thingys that test your reflexes, Dr Keane used no equipment. He had summaries of previous investigations to go on – but not the full reports. He is now sending for those. With his history-taking and his observations and the relatively modest proposals for the way forward, he gave me new hope that I can find some support in managing this side of my life.
The things that made this such a first-class experience were things that cost nothing. It was his demeanour. It was the fact that he seemed to be on my wavelength as far as what this does to me. It was that he indicated that there were things that can be done to try and help. No guarantees, of course, but I understand that. It was that I left his consulting room feeling supported, heard, encouraged, and knowing that this person was going to work with me in the future. It was that I didn’t leave feeling like a case, but like a person.
You can’t ask for more. And because it was in a local clinic it was nearer to home, the wait was shorter, and the follow up and first-line treatments can also be done in similar clinic settings. Not one hospital appointment, except for the scan. This is the way of the future. Thank you, Sherwood Forest Hospitals and thank you, Dr Keane.