Saturday, April 21, 2012

Chronic Pain.... a close friend


... It is just “the new normal"...


For my readers who know me personally, or for those who follow my articles, it is no secret that I am less than sympathetic to those among us who whine and complain endlessly. I struggle for patience with those that blame the world for their woes. And my thoughts below remain consistent with that insistence of taking responsibility for one’s self, and contribution to society.

It was only years ago that I was guilty of shying away from those who suffered from chronic pain, granted, there have not been many that I crossed paths with. It is even possible that I have spent time socializing with sufferers, but was oblivious to their situation. (I expect that this was more often than I expect).

Now I am one of those “sufferers”, and upon self reflection, I probably still shy away from those who are openly cursed. I expect my reasons for avoiding these folks, or experiencing awkward discomfort in exchanging social niceties has changed from before and after my surgeries.. But that is for a different blog post.

I am not a true fan of the term “Chronic Pain”, but I suppose, it does a reasonable job - Chronic (continued, long term) and Pain, pretty self explanatory, if you are unsure, firmly strike your thumb with a hammer. So that is pretty well it.. long term, unrelenting pain.

But with several years under my belt of living with this affliction, the definition seems to fall a bit short. We have all experienced pain in our lives, and the one resounding reprieve of this experience is the relief that in varying amounts of time, this unpleasant sensation will disappear and be forgotten. Regardless of the intensity of the pain, it leaves and almost without exception is difficult to recall even days later. But what if there is no reprieve? What if there is no solace in knowing that that throbbing of your thumb after a hammer strike will be a permanent state? It becomes a very different experience.

Interesting enough, the experience of the pain changes with it’s ever presence... I had a doctor sum it up very profoundly and it rings in my ears often.. Living with this unending discomfort is “the new normal”.

It (pain) takes on a personality, and becomes a lifelong companion. Unlike family, friends, co-workers, it becomes an entity that shares every second of your life with you. Every waking moment, even during the deepest moments of concentration, it shares these moments with you, and even the most private moment just before you drift off to sleep, anticipating the enjoyment of resting your thoughts in a deep sleep. Without choice, this private time is now shared with a new friend. It wakes you, in the night, almost like a newborn infant needing midnight attention. Waking to the thoughts of a new day, is replaced, with being woken by your unwanted sidekick, and the days planning is now a combined effort, what you want to do, and what your annoying friend will let you do.

Before I understood what effect Chronic Pain had on a person, I assumed, heavy doses of pain medications could eliminate the symptoms. My unfortunate ignorance of modern medicine I confess. On a personal note, regardless of the dosage or type of pill, it only quiets the new life friend, but never gives you alone time from him/her (interesting, as I have given my chronic pain a personality, I have never until this moment considered it having a gender, but I digress).

I do not know this for a fact, but I believe that there are a good number of co-sufferers, that like myself, don’t want to be that “guy” to avoid in social situations, the “guy” that describes his condition to anyone that will listen (willingly or not). Nor do I want to waste family and friends time buy describing how I am actually feeling. None of these important people in my life can make my permanent co-habitant go away. The claustrophobic sensation of living with something that can never be escaped from is a deeply personal and unchangeable situation.

Ironically, I rarely waste effort hating my friend, wishing it away, hoping for it disappearance. Maybe at first, but now, I am accustomed to having my company with me all the time. It is interesting to consider, if one morning I woke, and my friend was gone, no pain, no distraction. I wonder, aside from the initial elation, what I would feel. Something that has positioned itself as the #1 consideration before I do anything - would I miss it? Interesting to consider.

I hope, by detailing this, and openly describing the interesting facts of Chronic Pain does not come across as hypocritical, as I am also committed to not burdening others with my issues. I detail this for the sole purpose for the interest for those in understanding what, with the cut of a surgeon’s scalpel, an intrusion of cancer, or a variety of reasons, within an instant we are greeted by a new “friend” who will share the rest of our lives with. A friend that is temperamental and moody, that can one day make walking difficult, to other days keeping you on the sidelines for activities, to nights that it refused to sleep.

It is just “the new normal”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Public Service Job Cuts Don't need to hurt.. but they do!

"Making cuts to service is the simplest, quickest methods to reduce spending, while protecting the inefficient monolithic internal infrastructure..." 

Federal and Provincial Budgets have taken their toll, and are resulting in a large number of job cuts. For each individual affected, I am sure that this is a terrible life changing situation. But I need to step back from the personal effects of this, to consider the approach the government takes.

But first, let’s look at how the private sector deals with difficult financial times. Much like the government, layoffs are inevitable, cutbacks on spending and a halt to business projects that are not mission critical. But there is a fundamental difference between Private Sector and Government: Customer service.

It would be business suicide to reduce the level of service that they provide to their clients, in fact, when businesses are suffering, there is an increased commitment to not only maintain but improve the treatment of their customers. To save a struggling business, they must grow their client base, to offset reduced profitability, and at the very least maintain the customer base by offering premium service.

Now, back to the government, when job losses are pending, the very first message delivered, if for us (the customer) to expect reductions in service. Longer waits for services, complete elimination of services, as well, increased (taxes) cost to we the customers.

It is acceptable to us as citizens to endure these service reductions, as it is explained to us via the media, that in order to “balance the books” we all have to feel the pain. We are programmed to take the medicine. Certainly the Government opposition makes waves of these cuts, but they argue that the funding to programs should not fall victim.. But I have yet to see the opposition take a stand, accepting that there are only so many dollars to go around, but to protest the fact that regardless of the financial reality of required cuts, the onus on the government is to find ways to increase service to their clients (voters) with less money.

So how is it possible for the government not to reduce services and still cut spending? It is simply an engrained perception that has been built on for years. Less money, less service. I refer you to several paragraphs above; pointing out that private sector does this daily. An enterprise with eroding margins, finds efficiencies, improved processes, restructuring, but NEVER, NEVER, cut the quality of service to their clients. Any company that has tried this, is no longer in business, or is being devoured by their competition.

So my question, is why do we so willingly accept our government offering us less, and less, as the use the excuse that budgets are cut, when we deal on a daily basis with Corporation facing the same pressure fighting to keep us happy and continuing to improve our experience dealing with them.

So, it is NOT impossible to balance the government books, and not have to wait longer, suffer program cuts, and accept a decrease in service. Making cuts to service is the simplest, quickest methods to reduce spending, while protecting the inefficient monolithic internal infrastructure. And besides we as citizens accept it quite willingly. Oddly enough, if our home internet provider, doubled their rates, slowed access speeds down, and only allowed internet access a few hours each day, and offered no support, we would not blink an eye in complaining, and quickly switching carriers.