I am a Pain Medicine specialist living in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The subtitle of this blog, "Narratives from the neuromatrix. Where science and humanity meet" is a reference to the Neuromatrix Theory of Pain, and my attempt to integrate two approaches in pain management and healthcare – the necessary blend of healing and curing.
Western medicine struggles to find this balance. A heavy emphasis on curing is common – to find the "broken part" and fix it. Of course, this has been fantastically successful in many areas of medicine and will continue to bring improvement to human life. But we need healing too. I mean healing in the whole person sense. We are more than our broken parts. The stories of those broken parts and broken lives, successes and failures, joys and sorrows weave around the medical approach to cure.
We are more than our broken parts.
I've struggled to find this balance – at times obsessed with the knowledge and technology to cure; at times compelled by the personal stories of despair and suffering, hope and triumph. I'm always wondering where I can influence the narrative in a healing manner. The power of story telling amazes me.
I will tell stories of people living with pain in these posts. To protect identity and maintain privacy the details are changed substantially. Or I may make up the story entirely. You are either reading creative non-fiction, or fiction. If you can't tell which then I've done my duty effectively.
Some other things about me:
- I love gardening, except when I feel compelled to impose order on nature, which is often – call it my meditative Sisyphean pursuit
- I keep fit cycling and used to compete in marathon and 10k races. Now, my extremely fit wife finds a way to make sure I don't backslide as I age and get distracted by the endless entertainment of cat videos
- I had a spinal cord injury in 1995 when the ski lift I was riding on decided to drop four chairs to the ground. I was in one of them. It was a bit of a clusterf*@# but I'm over it. I still go to Whistler. I like it there
- I have pain most days
- My son and daughter are the joy of my life but I'm pretty sure they are plotting horrors for me as they enter their teens
- l am a Clinical Associate Professor and the Pain Management Division Head with the University of British Columbia's Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology and Therapeutics. (could we please find a way to make this name a bit longer?)
- I helped create Pain BC Society, a not for profit charitable organization, that is making things better for people with pain and the healthcare professionals that serve them. We provide education and support programs and push the health care system to change. I am the chair of the board of directors of Pain BC
- Let's not kid ourselves – pain sucks! But there are many proven and innovative ways to help people feel and function better. That's what Pain BC and my work are all about
- I want a Star Trek tricorder, like "Bones", so I can impose order on our unruly bodies. My garden when I'm at work
- If I don't get out in nature everyday, even to look at a tree, or just a weed, and stare in wonder, then I might as well not be here
- It's a good day if the ground is underneath me when I wake up
- It's a bad day if a bunch of problems flood my mind before I get up and get outside to look at that tree
- Sometimes I want so badly to be a rock and roll star I pick up my guitar and play furiously for a week until I've got that song just so … then I check my email and get engaged with making the world better again
- Sometimes I want so badly to be a famous writer that I … I think you get the picture
- I like meditating, but maybe more the idea of meditating, since I don't do it much
- When I die, I want to be able to sit in a big media room with several screens, and a mouse ball (like that 1980s video game Missile Command) so I can scroll through all of history and watch the rise and fall of Rome, what killed the dinosaurs, the explosion of Krakatoa – and about a million other things I've tried to imagine. I might take a peek at the future, but I'm not sure I want to
- I speak about my personal and professional experiences with pain and getting well