Living with pain

Grad of Courage Center program uses variety of coping skills

Access Press first introduced Julian Coffman back in October 2006 [Painfully Closed] as he waited to attend the Courage Center’s pain clinic. Since then, he has graduated from the pain clinic and finds himself coping with his pain differently.

Imagine experiencing horrible pain every day for years. Not fun. That’s what Julian Coffman faces head on—his pain interferes with sleeping, eating, daily activities and even holding a pencil. Coffman suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS), an extremely painful neurological condition.

To handle a really bad day, Coffman, a recent grad of the Courage Center pain clinic program, consults his pain clinic notebook and reviews the coping strategies. “I find myself learning about breathing techniques and meditation,” relates Coffman.

Coffman attends a class called Exploring Elements of Art at Courage Center. The class helps him express emotions about his pain. Coffman’s latest drawing illustrates his topsy turvey last four years. Drawing takes him longer now because of his pain. Before his injury a picture might take him ten minutes, and now he needs six hours. Each pencil stroke feels like sticking his hand in a bucket full of fire. He’s learning to “concentrate on what I’m doing and not the pain.”

Coffman enjoys attending the Courage support group. He finds the group inviting: “They are very nice people.” He appreciates the open discussions about how to cope with daily disability challenges. He also swims in the Courage therapeutic pool five to six days each week, which he finds beneficial and enjoyable.

When asked what inspires him, Coffman describes an article he read recently from the RSDS Association Web site (see below). The article tells the story of a 13-year-old girl with RSDS who experienced a new treatment in Germany: the doctors put her in a medically induced coma for seven days. When she awoke her pain was gone. Coffman wants some of that action, so he plans to ask his doctor how to get this experimental treatment. He hopes to wake up with no pain and a new beard.

Coffman knows firsthand that reducing pain is possible: “Try teaching yourself to go on 30 second vacations from your pain—crossword puzzles, watching an old movie, gardening, conversation with a friend. Then try expanding to two minutes, then ten times a day for two minutes.”

FFI: RSDS article: www.rsds.org/