How can we accurately measure pain?

How do you really know if someone is truly in pain?

It is such a subjective response. Matt was shot multiple times, but never admitted to being at a 10 on the pain scale. I’ve been in the ER for abdominal pain and when asked to rate the pain, I rarely go above a 6, but Matt is quick to point out to them that I’m lying and won’t admit to the amount of pain I am experiencing. Pain levels vary from person to person and experience to experience.

People I love are experiencing the pain of saying goodbye to a loved one right now. How do we measure their pain on a scale? My entire body is stiff and sore, and my head is throbbing. What number should I give? Brian screams in the night…I have no idea what his pain is like.

When we first arrived in the ER, the nurse asked Brian to rate his pain from 1 to 10. Brian is five. He is learning the value of numbers but has no idea how to rate his pain. He screams, which is supposed to tell me he is in excruciating pain…but how do I know?

I wish I could have some freaky experiment where I touch him and instantly feel what he feels ( I watched the Green Mile last night). Maybe then I could communicate it in a way others would understand. Brian has been in so much pain this past month, that even when they eliminate the problem, he still feels the pain, even if it may be phantom pain now.

Logically, the tube site is sore. The new button appears to have removed the initial problem, which was the tube inside was too long, causing the balloon to be “grabbed” by the stomach to be digested. Basically, the stomach saw the balloon as food and was trying to eat it. The doctor replaced the button with one with a shorter tube, eliminating the problem. Unfortunately, Brian doesn’t understand that and still feels pain. As adults, we know the pain is from healing and residual from the last month. Try explaining that to an insolent five year old.

I had hoped Brian would have a restful night, but since he is slowly feeling better, he is more aware of the pain. His nurse and I tried to rationalize with him at 3:00a.m. and explain that screaming and kicking his legs would not help the pain, but we didn’t make much progress. Instead, he was given some Tylenol to help him sleep for a little while.

A repeat of his blood work this morning showed his CK levels were starting to go down. Brian developed viral myositis, a rare complication of the flu, which caused the pain in his legs. Now that the fluid has done its part, the doctors want to see that he can move around before hopefully sending us home this afternoon. Another contributing factor to Brian’s release is tolerating a tube feeding, which so far has gone very well. Now I just need him to find the desire to eat some of his regular food.

Pain is relative, but so is strength. I forgot to ask Matt for another pair of socks, so I went looking for some in the gift shop. I found these to be fitting.

I know I am strong, but I do fall apart a lot. This journey isn’t easy, but I rely on the strength of those around me…my husband, baby girl, parents, family and friends. They all lift me up when I start to fall, whether by stepping in to help with Addi, stopping by for a hug, bringing coffee, or checking in on me from miles away. The real strength in this room, though, belongs to my little man. I’m only allowed a moment to crumble, because he is counting on me. He shows his unbelievable amount of strength every day. He is my hero and the strongest person I know.

Of course, that may be subjective. 😉


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