From an Assault to a Bad Back

I was working as a teacher in a special needs school in the north-east of England. I was leaving school late having caught up with some admin. As I left a group of four pupils who had been on an after school club were walking towards me. A few yards from them one of the pupils rushed at me and knocked me over, as I turned another jumped on my back, grabbing me round the neck. I was quite shaken but in no immediate pain.

The pain came a couple of days later from my neck all the way down my back and shooting pain in my legs. After self treating with pain killers for about ten days I went to the doctor he advised me to continue, having had no history of back trouble he said it would probably settle within six weeks. It didn’t.

I was in too much pain to work but thought it would settle down. After a few weeks I was advised to see a chiropractor, I was assessed and told manipulation would help. The doctor was happy for me to try this. She seemed to concentrate on my neck and middle of my back. I got some short term relief after a treatment but normally within hours the pain would return. I asked my doctor to send me to a consultant, he still seemed to think it would settle given time and he advised a physiotherapist. Still no luck, in fact things were getting worse. I returned to work after 12 weeks off but was quite nervous and was the target of several pupils.

Seven months after the assault I was in continuous pain and was referred to see a consultant. An MRI scan of my lower back only told the tale of degenerative damage in the lumber spine and up to S1. Nothing we can do surgically but I would recommend an epidural steroid injection. I did not fancy this but thought I would try anything.

What a horrible and painful experience nearly a year after the assault. By now I was on long term sick leave, unable to stand, sit or walk for long periods. Tramadol dulled the pain a little; the epidural left me feeling worse.

The neck pain was even worse, the lower back with pain down my legs worse as well. On top of that I was getting severe headaches daily. The consultant thought there may be a hole in the epidural causing fluid to leak. Another MRI said there was no significant leakage, nothing I can do surgically; I will refer you to the pain management clinic. Fourteen months of constant and increasing pain, unable to work, spending all my savings, unable to cycle, work in my garden or sail I was feeling increasingly depressed.

A further visit to the consultant an opportunity to ask questions on why I felt so bad. Not a chance the consultant waltzed in said nothing can be done, why are you here - I felt I was wasting his time and felt pretty fed up with his manner. I spoke briefly to a registrar who said that there may be a surgical option if I was still in pain, fusion he said. As an aside he said did you know you have arthritis in your spine and one hip. This came as a surprise.

I went back to see the consultant in January 2008 just a few weeks short of the two year anniversary. By now I had been made redundant, I left work with three months pay and a redundancy payment. It allowed me to pay my mortgage and other bills up to date. The consultant said are you still involved in a personal injury claim, when I responded in the affirmative he told me it was not in my interest to get better then!! Come back when it is all sorted and I'll see what I can do. Needless to say I put a formal complaint into the hospital regarding this consultant. I asked also if the National Health Service had a policy of not treating people who had personal injury claims.

A few weeks before I had been put on Gabapentin, this was to tackle the increasing numbness I had in my hands arms, legs and feet and the increasing leg pain. It did no more than make me feel wooly headed and gave me increasing concern over the cocktail of drugs, Gabapentin, tramadol, lanzaparole to protect my stomach, domperidone to reduce my bloated stomach and the paracetamol and ibuprofen I took for neck pain and headache.

The pain management consultant had also mentioned the personal injury claim, suggesting indirectly that it was in my interest to spin things out!! I was to come off the gabapentin and tramadol and start nortriptyline, an awful three to four weeks coming off everything and a bad reaction to nortriptyline with me being very aggressive to family, friends and anyone who crossed my path. I came off them after two weeks and am still waiting to hear what to try next. In the meantime I am going to see a rheumatologist in April. Try anything me!!

Now 26 months on from the assault, I have lost my job, the personal injury claim because they were told I had a degenerative condition is probably not even getting to court. As I followed school procedures after the assault it never went to the police until so long after they were unable to prosecute. The fact both boys were in jail for other violent crime meant mine was pushed back. My integrity has been questioned by the doctors, I am in so much pain I cannot rest by day or night, I am virtually housebound, walk with a stick, any activity can lead to even worse days. I have a permanent headache, the neck pain drives me mad, the lower back pain is intense and the numbness in my limbs is spreading to my face.

I feel alone, my family is supportive but I am unable to do anything I used to, there appears to be nothing to help, live with it seems to be the message. I hate my life!!

I am unimpressed with my medical treatment, I have found the orthaeopaedic consultant to be an arrogant so and so, support services such as physio are hard to access. Everything is slow; my savings are just about gone as is my career and life. At 55, I feel washed up and worthless and it will only be a matter of time before I lose my home. All through the actions of a couple of morons who thought it was a hoot to attack a teacher. My former employer is another who has been unimpressive and non-supportive.

- John



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