DELAYS for pain relief treatments could lead to suicides as 3,166 people await treatment for chronic illnesses in one Cork hospital alone.
That was the alarming warning from Cork activist Evie Nevin who has been waiting almost three years to access pain relief for the condition Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which affects her hypermobility.
Her words came in response to a parliamentary response received by Fianna Fáil TD, Michael McGrath. Figures contained in a reply from the Minister for Health revealed that there are currently 3,166 people on the outpatient waiting list for the South Infirmary Hospital. Of that number, a total of 574 have been waiting between three and four years for treatment. Figures show that 60 have been waiting four years or longer to access treatment.
"I've had very dark days, particularly before my diagnosis, where I've thought about killing myself. While I don't feel like that anymore I'm constantly worrying about my friends who are waiting to access treatment. The suicide rates in the chronic pain community are so high but this still isn't being taken seriously. This treatment of people with chronic pain needs to stop."
Evie, who has been on the waiting list since June of 2017, reiterated just how painful a day in the life of a chronic pain sufferer can be.
"Most of my pain goes from my pelvis down as it's always dislocating out of place. I can often feel the bones digging into my lower back. There are days where I would remove my bottom half if I could because the pain becomes so unbearable."
She described a day in the life of someone experiencing chronic pain.
"I wake up in the morning and take a tonne of pills that do nothing for me except take a little bit of the edge off. I've asked my GP countless times if I can go on anything stronger but I can't have anything stronger than tramadol without seeing a pain consultant. For my condition ketamine infusions and medicinal cannabis is the recommended, but this is what I'm being given."
The West Cork woman explained how this has come as a second blow for chronic pain sufferers.
My condition wasn't labelled among those that were approved for medicinal cannabis which was really disappointing for so many in my community. We were filled with hope that this might bring a little bit of normality back into our lives. To make people wait that long for normality is torture. All we are asking for is a little quality of life."
The mother-of-two said she often has to use a wheelchair or cane because of agonising pain. She said that misconceptions around invisible illnesses can be a source of frustration.
"A lot of the time pain isn't taken seriously, particularly for women. For years I was put on antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills. I can remember thinking "if this is in my head, what's the point of living?"
She said that patients suffering from chronic pain need to start being listened to.
"The patient is an expert in their own condition because they are living with it, day in and day out."