New hope in managed pain

Patients have made an impassioned plea to Marlborough Primary Health Organisation to keep funding a chronic pain programme, saying it has saved their lives.

After a petition was handed to the organisation at their monthly meeting last night, PHO chief executive Beth Tester assured funds were available for the service to continue.

Tester said there may be scope to extend the service.

Four patients gave very personal and poignant accounts of how the programme had helped them gain control of their lives.

The women said it had cut the amount of pain medication they turned to, given them coping mechanisms to live relatively normal lives and improved their confidence.

The PHO's pain management specialist nurse Andrea Stevens developed the programme drawing on her experience in the pain management field in the United Kingdom.

Led by a pain specialist nurse, a GP, physiotherapist and cognitive behavioural therapist, a total of 130 people have been referred to the service.

Participants have been given tools to manage their pain including visualisation techniques, understanding pain triggers and advice on exercise and diet.

It has had staggering results with patients showing a 83 per cent reduction in their attendance at the hospital emergency department, a 50 per cent cut in GP visits and a 52 per cent reduction in alcohol use.

There has also been a significant improvement in patients' emotional state with improved ability to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. Results showed an 80 per cent increase in those that felt they could lead a normal lifestyle despite the pain.

Katrina Delzainne said the programme dealt with the emotional and recurring cost of chronic pain.

"We don't have to suffer in silence and don't have to swallow pill after pill," Delzainne said.

"If I hadn't participated I would not be here today. My pain is still with me but I have coping mechanisms that changed my personal and working life. The huge chip on my shoulder is gone. The pain clinic is beyond doing a fantastic job."

Margaret Kereama said attending the programme and support group was a turning point in her life.

"For me it was about meeting people that were like minded. You become like a broken record talking about pain and family and friends get sick of you. I wanted a life outside of chronic pain."

Sonya Ferne has lived with chronic pain for 30 years and was diagnosed with chronic condition fibromyalgia.

"I was isolated and felt I was the only one," Ferne said. "I thought I was going loopy. I lived alone and I preferred to live alone because I didn't have to cover up my pain. I used to go to bed at night scared that I would wake up in the morning in agony.

"I had bad depression and I didn't know it. I was just living."

Attending the programme and support group had stepped up her confidence and she has become a charity volunteer.

"Please try to keep the programme going. There is a lot more like me. Help us so we can live a normal life."

Diane Oudshoorn was one of the first participants and now runs the support group.

"It has opened up my world," she said. "I liken chronic pain to mental health . . . The community needs to know it is not shameful to have chronic pain; you can still function in society."

The Marlborough Express