Book Excerpt: Chocolate & Vicodin-My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away
The following is an excerpt From: Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away by Jennette Fulda:
I fumbled in the dark, searching for the source of the chirping sound. Eventually I flipped open my phone, too incoherent from pain to be pissed at the person interrupting my midday nap.
“Hello, is this Jennette?” a female voice asked.
“Yeah,” I replied. I hadn’t felt like myself for a long time now, but technically I was still me.
“I’m calling to confirm your 3:20 appointment at Dr. Reiner’s next Monday.”
“Dr. Reiner?” I spoke the name with a question mark at the end. Who was Dr. Reiner? He wasn’t my general practitioner. He wasn’t my neurologist. He wasn’t my other neurologist. He wasn’t my allergist. He wasn’t my acupuncturist. He wasn’t my chiropractor. He wasn’t my ophthalmologist. Who was Dr. Reiner and where was he going to stick a needle in me?
“Um, what does Dr. Reiner do exactly?” I asked, knowing there was no way to phrase the question without sounding stupid.
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “He’s the dentist.”
“Oh! Dr. Rheinberg,” I exclaimed in realization. I hadn’t heard the name correctly over the phone. Dr. Carson was my dentist, but he worked for Dr. Rheinberg ‘s practice. So the answer to the question of where he’d be sticking a needle was: my gums.
“Ok, I gotcha.”
“Will you be able to make the appointment?”
“Yeah, sure,” I said now that I knew where I was supposed to go and who I would be seeing. Then I flipped the phone closed and stared at the ceiling.
It was official. I had more doctors than I could keep track of.
If I couldn’t remember every doctor I’d given money to, there didn’t seem to be much harm in adding more physicians to my payroll. What good was health insurance if I didn’t max out the deductible and test the out-of-pocket limit?
My neurologist had mentioned a headache clinic in an adjoining state before my last appointment with him. I hadn’t been aware such places existed, but upon further research I learned there were several clinics that specialized in head pain. I’d put off going to one directly because they were expensive and over 200 miles away. Now that I’d hit up all the cheaper, local practitioners, I was desperate enough to cross state lines and spend serious money in search of relief.
I’d read about people’s experiences at these institutes on the headache forums online. I’d been surprised that people in that much pain had been able to set up and maintain online forums, but there they were. I was a lurker on the forums and never posted or interacted with others. I wasn’t sure why I’d never struck up a conversation with my fellow pain sufferers. It was just easier to lurk, read up on the information I needed, and then log off without getting too involved in the misery of others. When I’d blogged about my weight loss, I didn’t start commenting on other weight-loss blogs until I’d lost almost 100 pounds. I wasn’t sure how long I’d have to have my headache before I felt comfortable enough to raise my hand in front of the class and talk about it. Despite all the suffering I’d endured over the past year, I couldn’t quite accept that I was a part of this community. I could still get better, right?
It was on these forums that I discovered there were foundations and advocacy groups for headache suffers. They even petitioned Congress for more research grants to investigate migraine disease. Headaches sucked a huge amount of productivity from the American workforce, as I had been exemplifying by researching headache clinics at work. The National Headache Foundation estimated that $17 billion dollars was lost each year due to headaches that led to absenteeism, lost productivity and medical expenses.
After days of reading about people’s experiences on the forums, I concluded that every clinic was run by both arrogant sadists who would make my current suffering feel like a visit to a spa, and empathetic caretakers who would listen to my problems and miraculously heal me of all pain. I suspected the truth lay somewhere in between.
I had narrowed down my choice to the three clinics in adjoining states. A friend of a friend was a doctor who worked at the hospital associated with the first clinic, but the second clinic was closest, and the third clinic was in the smallest city, which meant it would be much easier to find parking there. I was anxious making this choice because I worried that one clinic would provide relief faster than another, or that one clinic would have a nicer staff who would provide a better overall experience than another. I wanted to make the best choice. I didn’t want to have to start over at another clinic several months later if I wasn’t happy with my first choice.
I researched the clinics online so I could make a more informed decision. I found out that the expert in the type of headache I was suffering from practiced at a clinic I will refer to as The Clinic, located in The City. I picked up the phone and made an appointment. Decision made.
Jennette Fulda has had New Daily Persistent Headache since February 17, 2008, but at least she got a book deal out of it. She is the author of Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away and Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir. You can catch up with her on her blog JenFul and on Twitter @jennettefulda If you want to send her chocolate and Vicodin, that’s cool too.