'A person can only take so much pain medication': Winnipeg woman faces long wait with chronic pain
Brenda and Wayne Spearman always watch TV holding hands.
The couple has been married for 10 years and in that time, 53-year-old Brenda has undergone multiple surgeries on her back.
She has degenerative disc disease and despite all the procedures she’s already had done, she still lives with chronic pain.
“Right now most of my pain is in my lower back, it's progressed down my spine,” she said.
Brenda says she spends 17 to 19 hours a day in bed. She only goes out of the house for appointments and manages her pain with an assortment of pills.
She says at times she's had suicidal thoughts.
“A person can only take so much pain medication,” she said. “Basically my quality of life is down to about zero."
Wayne says it’s been tough to see his wife this way.
"There's been times where I phone home and she's in so much pain and I have to leave work,” he said, holding back tears.
Brenda says she is in need of another surgery on her lower back. But before she can go through with it, she was referred to a pain clinic by her neurosurgeon, which she thought happened in October.
"It's a diagnostic thing we are waiting for to see what he can do to help me."
Brenda said she had been told the typical wait time to get into the pain clinic is more than a year, but something could be done to get her in sooner.
Recently, while in excruciating pain, she said she called the clinic to see where her wait time was at.
She said she was told the clinic only received the referral a few weeks ago.
“Which makes me wonder — why is it that it only went out 2 weeks ago when I saw the doctor in October? So, that extends my wait another 3 months.”
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s Pain Management Program tells CTV News that wait times vary based on triage: emergency referrals wait 1 to 2 weeks, whereas non-urgent patients can wait between 12 to 18 months.
“The process starts upon receipt of the referral from the patient’s family physician to a central intake process,” reads a written statement from the program.
The statement goes onto say there are two factors contributing to an increased number of referrals.
The first, more spine surgery patients were assessed as not requiring surgery. This was done to improve the care for patients who had already been waiting for long periods of time.
Second, a neurosurgery colleague responsible for the pain management of 2000 patients retired and a large number of his patients have been referred to the pain program.
“The Pain Management Program is continuously reviewing its processes in order to maximize resources and identify opportunities to improve patient care,” read the statement.
Brenda doesn’t know how much longer she can wait, and her husband Wayne said it’s hard to see his wife live this way.
"There's been times where I phone home and she's in so much pain and I leave work and she doesn’t answer so I drive down and she doesn’t answer so I come home," he said holding back tears.
The couple would like the option to go elsewhere or have more staff hired here.
"You hear of places like the Mayo Clinic,” said Wayne. “If there is a way to go there and right away and get this all fixed it would be a dream come true."
"They have to do something about these wait lists, said Brenda. “Because I know I am not the only one in pain out there.”