Pain Helped Him Pull The Trigger

Pain Helped Him Pull The Trigger | MTPR

When Bob Mason decided to end his life with a self-inflicted gunshot, his pain helped him pull the trigger.

Mason died in January. He was 67 years old. His daughter, Shane Mieski, says her father had been without pain-killing drugs for about a week when he died.

That certainly didn’t take long: just one week from living his life to not longer being able to tolerate it.

That’s what it’s like to have effective pain treatment stopped.  

“For the last couple weeks up until Bob passed away, there were a lot of tears everyday on the phone,” Mieski said

One of Mason’s doctors was Mark Ibsen in Helena. Ibsen shut his practice last winter, after being investigated by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners for over-prescribing the powerful and addictive painkillers known as opioids.

That meant Bob Mason lost his access to the painkillers he needed to make his life bearable.

Mieski says she remembers her dad talking about seeing another doctor in Butte to get relief. But he was in too much pain to make the trip from his home in Helena.

“An hour down and an hour back, it was too painful,” Mieski said. “He would wince every time he sat down, and cringe, and I swear I could hear his back creaking every time he stood up.”

In March a group of chronic pain patients in Montana presented what they call a “pain patient’s bill of rights” to the state legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee. Terri Anderson from Hamilton was one of them.

“On behalf of all those who suffer pain, and Robert Mason, who took his own life because of uncontrolled pain,” Anderson said to the committee. “We are a diverse group of patients,” she said. “We come from all walks of life, and we believe the treatment of our chronic intractable pain is a fundamental human right.

Anderson says the pain patient’s bill of rights is based on similar legislation in California. Lawmakers there found that the state has a right and duty to control the illegal use of opioid drugs. They also found that for some patients, inadequate treatment of acute and chronic pain is a significant health problem.

California’s pain patient’s bill of rights allows a patient to request or reject the use of any or all techniques in order to relieve their pain.

“Opioids were given out like jelly beans,” Pain Patient Advocate Terri Anderson acknowledges. “People did become addicted, and [there were] too many deaths from these prescribing habits. But the pendulum has swung, and the legitimate pain patients cannot get their medications. Especially in Montana.”

“The last week or two has just been unbearable,” he said. “We hardly want to take the phones, [because of] the number of people calling that want to come here.”

To an untrained doctor, Tennant says, addicts and pain patients can look similar. He says education in the medical community about pain management and opioids is almost nonexistent.

“I know nationally there is a big move to regulate these medicines, and have tighter regulations, and right now legislation is being considered,” Metel says. “A lot of us are proposing [that] education is really what we need to do.

“Drug addiction is a problem, it is a very serious problem,” Caferro says. “What I don’t want to see happen, and what has been identified as a problem, is that people who really need access to medication get swept up in the drug addiction.

You have drug addiction, and you have people who need medicine for their pain management. Those are two separate issues.”

Bob Mason, the pain patient from Helena who committed suicide, moved to Montana to try to get relief in 2012. He got a spinal cord stimulator implant, but afterwards, still needed opioids.

His daughter, Shane Mieski, said he didn’t like the drugs, but there were no other options.

“The opioids, they cause other issues,” Mieski says. “Your body starts to feel slow and a little overwhelmed, as he would mention. You don’t feel super sharp and on top of your game.

At a certain point, there was nothing more that doctors could do for his type of pain. So, as a 67-year-old person, I think that you should try to enjoy any quality of life you get. And if that means taking medication to function, give them what they need.

The American Academy of Pain Medicine says a hundred million Americans suffer with chronic pain. That’s more than the number of people with diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.  


4 thoughts on “Pain Helped Him Pull The Trigger

  1. BirdLoverInMichigan

    This lack of access to proper medical care and pain relief is outrageous, heartbreaking, ungodly and just plain rotten. There’s no excuse for such legislative sloppiness and insensitivity to the needs and civil rights of human beings suffering chronic pain.

    I myself am having a pain flare right at this moment, so I’m especially aware of what must have been going through this poor man’s mind. I’m also remembering when the AIDS crisis began, and how the idea that silence equals death was communicated until the unaffected understood.
    My, how time flies…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Just a couple of days ago, it occurred to me how similar this is to the AIDS crisis – great minds think alike :-)

      I think, more than anything else, we notice the same callous disregard by society, the same denial, the same lagging political recognition and response.

      I feel like it’s malpractice. Just because there’s a possibility something bad could happen, that’s no reason to deny us relief.

      Think of how many other meds we’ve been forced to try while being told “don’t worry, those awful side effects will go away” – but they never do. They always want us to try those meds, just on the slim chance they might help, but opioids are treated like outright poison.

      The desperate, overriding concern to prevent addiction is based on the premise that addiction=death, when addiction is actually more treatable than chronic pain!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. BirdLoverInMichigan

    The funny thing about me is I personally can’t tolerate opioids, so I have no horse in this race. Other than being a member of the species that’s being deprived, that is.

    Maybe my pain is making me see connections today, but isn’t the way so many people who’re being denied opioids similar to the situation where some callous people just let their sick or injured animals suffer without taking them to the vet? Folks like that must tell themselves something along the lines of “Oh well, he’s dying anyway, so why not just let gentle nature take its course?”

    I don’t know, maybe we need to produce and distribute a television show similar to Animal Cops showing the gruesome reality of senseless and evil suffering, this time with our fellow pain patients in their beds and couches and on their bathroom floors sweating and crying with no relief in sight. You know those kinds of days where you don’t even care your pajamas are dirty and you really need a shower because you offend yourself. And we all love that indescribably annoying whine that creeps into our voices when we try to speak because it hurts to think and interact with others. And have lots of close ups of clocks so people who don’t experience pain start to see how s-l-o-w-l-y time passes when you’re not having fun. Then force decision makers to binge watch the show and give them a little upset tummy with some spicy soup with the complimentary lunch or something…for a more dinner theater type experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Oh, that’s perfect! But just one evening of misery isn’t comparable to a lifetime of it. I think the duration is the worst part.

      I could easily tolerate my pain for a day, or even a few, if I knew it was “healing” and would eventually go away.

      As I heard someone say: “if I treated my dog like this, I’d get arrested for animal cruelty.”

      And, far worse: “If my mom really understood how bad my pain is, she’d kill me herself just to end my suffering.”

      Liked by 1 person


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