Seeing how difficult it is for people in pain to get treatment today with the heat turned up on the opioid epidemic inspired me to tell my own story about how a surgery left me unable to sit, stand or walk and in severe pain for many years. Using opioids among other treatments for pain management, I was able to continue working as a high-level federal civil rights attorney. I negotiated major settlements via video teleconference, won important cases in federal court arguing from a folding, reclining lawn chair, and supervised thousands of cases by hundreds of attorneys across the country from my bed.
It was hard for me to get up for the first time and talk about something so intimate and personal. When I spoke at TEDx Boulder, it was also my first time standing upright after having my spine reconstructed with artificial disks and vertebral remodeling. But the audience was supportive and described the talk as "miraculous and inspiring."
Part of me didn't want to come out publicly as a voice of pain, an opioid user. But my pain started in the 1990s, when treating pain was a priority and I had access to the best medical care. I shudder to think what would've happened if my pain had begun today, when it is increasingly difficult for people to get pain medicine. My talk pivots to discuss the under treatment of pain and reviews some of the social and legal dynamics in the current environment. It will be up in a couple of days, and I look forward to posting it here.