Wednesday, July 28, 2010

What number is your pain? (aka the most annoying question to be asked when you are in pain!!!!!!!!!!!!) The above drawing is the visual representation of this question, the Wong-Baker Faces Scale. When you are in pain, this ridiculous cartoon is insulting and absurd. I mean, seriously.

I was hospitalized in the beginning of March due to unbearable, excruciating levels of pain. Shallow, hyper breathing led to numb hands, and the pain in my stomach shoved vomit out of my mouth. By the time my husband got off the phone with the on-call doctor, I couldn't even stand up. If my stomach would have exploded, spraying my organs all over my living room, it wouldn't have been surprising. Getting into his car was inconceivable, so he called an ambulance.

As the paramedics were wheeling me out of my home, one of them asked me, "What number is your pain, on a scale from 1 to 10?" (Now I realize he was just following protocol, and they were all very kind to me, so don't get me wrong. However...) I wanted to screech, "What the hell do you think!?!! I am bawling, vomiting, and being carried on a stretcher (into the cold without my socks, shoes or jacket)!!!! Ummm if only I had a chart of cartoon faces for each number, I would be better equipped to answer this question. I'm at freakin' TENNNN!!!! Actually, I might as well be at a 10,000!!!!"

If you have ever been in the hospital in terrible pain, it probably won't surprise you that I endured being asked this damn question over & over during my three day stay. The nurses would bring the morphine & before they would administer it, they would ask for my number. Each time in my head, I rolled my eyes and flicked them off...but actually responded, I hate this question, followed by my number. (I know they're following protocol too. And I appreciate their work too). Meanwhile I thought...

I have not felt every possible pain, okay?! I'm sure if a rabid lion pounced and mauled me, I may experience a higher level of pain. If I was run over by a semi truck seven times and then trampled by wild boar, yeah that might hurt more than this does. But as you may have noticed, I am still crying, doubled over with pain, my white blood cell count is elevated. So right now, it seems this is maximum misery. Can't you just look at me and ascertain this obvious fact? I don't need a Comfort Scale (aka Wong-Baker Faces Scale); I don't even remember what comfort feels like. I need morphine!!

The question feels more like an interrogation. You might be an addict, you know. (But I'll talk more about my experiences with pain meds in a later post).

(Jenndo observes) Poor 8 really wants to cry, but she's too fatigued to hear another person tell her to toughen up. And she's gotten used to choking back her tears. Sometimes even 6 cries too. Because pain sucks. And what number is your pain is hard to answer in one syllable. Feel free to attach whatever number you see fit to the description above.


Alanna Klapp said...

I don't like this question either. Pain is relative depending on the person and the circumstance. And it's subjective. Great post, thanks!

Jenn said...

Exactly! Thank you Alanna!

Jeanne said...


I detest this question. 98.9% of doctors I have ever seen never define the scale. Yet many, many doctors ask such questions.

Different people mean different things by the same numbers! Ugh!

That cartoon is insulting. Good thing none of my docs has shown be that when I was in the type of shape you related. I probably would have projectile vomited on them. (Not on purpose, of course). ;)

I am so, so sorry for what happened to you in March. The numb hands can be a result of hyperventilating (from the shallow breathing you mentioned). I've had that happen a couple of times... both on ER days where I was in such pain that I couldn't seem to control my breathing.

I'm so sorry. I also know what it feels like to need the ER but be unable to get in a car. :(

I know being asked repeatedly for a number must have been maddening (especially because at that point, it becomes a major effort simply to speak).

Your lion pouncing made me chuckle. I realize this is not a humorous post but I couldn't help but chuckle at your rabid lion comment.

As far as the semi, I have often told my husband that it felt like a semi, bus, car, motorcycle, pickup truck, and garbage truck had hit me, backed up, and hit me again repeatedly to get him to understand just how much I was hurting. (That usually goes with my fibromyalgia since it affect my entire body).

Now, to attach a number as you requested would be impossible. Therefore, I hereby designate your pain a big fat F for "fail" and I give your healthcare providers a big fat "F" (whether they were following protocol or not) for badgering you.

So, my answer is F.

Does that help?


P.S. Have you see the Mankoski Pain Scale in the right sidebar of the "Living With Endometriosis" site?

Jenn said...

Thank you Jeanne! It's nice to know others feel the same way.

But I'm also sorry that you can relate. I hate to think of anyone in this kind of misery and pain.

I'm glad you chuckled. :) I am always trying to bring humor into miserable situations.

I love it! F, a big fat F!

Thanks for your comment Jeanne!

KD said...

OMG!! I LOVE this post!!! I sooo agree with you! This question just KILLS me!! Hahah.. this made my day today! Thanks! :)

Jenn said...

Thanks KD!

It makes my day that it made your day!! :)

Thanks for the comment!