Misdiagnosed Broken Back for Decades Left a Lot of Damage

RxLeaf July 30, 2018 0 comments

A fall from a tree took left this arborist with a broken back that went undiagnosed, locking him in a pain-pill cycle.  

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My name is Gareth Magee, a 56-year-old father of four. I am qualified as a “Craftsman Gardener” and specialize in arboriculture. After working in the private tree surgery sector in Glasgow, I moved to Sussex to start a business/training in arboriculture. The business is great – but dangerous – as my broken back can attest.

After presenting our business plan to Prince’s Youth Business Trust, we were awarded a £6,000 grant. Met with HRH Prince Charles on three occasions, at various trade fairs. Went on to train students in tree planting, climbing, pruning, and removal off dead, dying and dangerous trees. Spent the following three years after the 1987 “Great Storm” working in England repairing damaged trees.

One of the Few Things A Cup of Tea Doesn’t Help

Was sub-contracted to “Ingolf Schmoll” in Berlin to deal with large trees.

This led to my accident: I fell from tree and knocked myself out. After a cup of tea, I was up the next one.

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After returning home to Brighton, had ongoing pain issue, then on a job in Kent, I threw a large branch from a tree and something went bang in my back. Was diagnosed by GP with a torn muscle and nerve damage.

Scroll forward to Castlemilk Glasgow, 90’s, walking to the library with my wife, when suddenly a massive pain started shooting down my left arm! “Heart Attack!” was my first thought. Went straight to the doctors and he, looking at my previous records, said “Don`t worry it`s a trapped nerve in your back.”

So I was sent for a series of physio-therapy sessions, this was a nurse kneeling and using knuckles to “loosen up” my back, acupuncture followed when that did not work it was onto painkillers.

tree worker who hopefully won't get a broken back like the author

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Unbearable Back Pain

The pain got unbearable and more painkillers were prescribed. This went on for years, until one morning got up for a pee, what followed was blood clots and more blood! Was diagnosed with an exploded left kidney due to an eight cm cancerous growth. So that explained a lot of the pain I was having.

After surgery, I was in even more excruciating pain that I could hardly breathe, they pumped me full of morphine thinking it was my operation wound, it was not!  What followed was pills, pills and more pills, until I contracted sepsis, this caused my remaining kidney to shut down.

After dialysis and the weeks in bed seven in total, I found it extremely hard to move, feed myself also suffered then and now with massive cramps in legs arms and ribs. The consultant thought that I had neuropathy as my muscles had atrophied.  So after a course of physio, I managed to get home.

Finally a Correct Diagnosis of a Broken Back

After many return visits to find out the cause of shooting pains in my arms ribs and jaw, was x-rayed on my side. That is when they found out that I had a broken back. That was in 2016!

Looking back at the catastrophe of my diagnosis it is now not surprising to me the different puzzled looks and the comments of “You’re an enigma Mr. Magee” it also explains “The Pain” throughout the years.

It is as well that I am an optimistic person. I have a positive outlook in life, but it still came as a blow to me when I found out in May this year that I was inoperable.

When I think of the surgeons puzzling looks, as to why I was in so much pain after my kidney surgery, Unbeknownst to them or me at the time, lying for eight hours with four collapsed thoracic and three herniated cervical vertebrae, hurts.

So now we are at a stage in my life when the pills don`t work, mechanical pain leaves me sore, nauseated and depressed. Well, that is, only when I do not have cannabis! What a magical feeling, being rid of pain, if only for a fleeting moment in time.

“Looking Forward” To Medical Cannabis Prescription is an Understatement

So now I have to face the dangling carrot that is the promise of medical cannabis. Be me for a day! I cannot pick up grandkids, and gave up my hobbies (Fishing, Metal detecting). And If I garden, it results in dead arms and massive pain. But what’s worse is the no sleep for nearly a week. It’s off-putting to say the least.

Cannabis lets me do small tasks and makes me feel more complete, but without the consequences. It also definitely helps with depression! But where to get? I am 56 and having to find my own medication on the streets of Glasgow. The quality is variable to say the least.

So I hear you say, “Craftsmen Gardener” grow your own!” I would love to, too, if my hands would do as they are told! Their issues encompass everything from dropping tea to not being able to feed myself. Currently I have the knowledge, but not the body.

Well one last thing to say: Be a “pint half full” person in life. Don`t have a half empty attitude, it amplifies your pain.

english flag and cannabis leaf - representing gareth from england and his broken back

What RxLeaf Says:

A broken back is one of the surest ways to decrease quality of life. As Gareth’s story shows, without a functioning back, even the simplest tasks can cause shooting pain.

Too often, a bad back is treated with painkillers, powerful opioids and other narcotics that can lead to addiction, a zombie-like state, and terrible side effects such as nausea, ulcers, and internal bleeding. Gareth experienced kidney problems, another a common complaint of extended painkiller use, which only furthered his need for medicine.

Luckily, cannabis was there to help.

The street cannabis Gareth found worked when painkillers stopped. Research shows that cannabis may help many of the primary and secondary conditions associated with back injuries.

How Cannabis Helped this Broken Back Patient

Cannabis helps Gareth’s back problems in four ways. It reduces pain, eliminates the need for side-effect causing medication, helps psychological problems such as insomnia and depression that often accompany severe back stress, and allows patients to live a better, more normal, life.

The anti-pain properties of THC, the psychoactive component in cannabis, are well documented. A controlled trial[1]Ware, Mark A. et al. (2010) CMAJ. 182 (14) E694-E701; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.091414 published in the journal CMAJ (2010) found that patients who took 25 mg of cannabis with 9.4 percent THC three times a day had significantly less pain, more sleep, and a better life than those in the control group.

Gareth discovered the healing power of cannabis on his own, and enjoyed a welcome break for the adverse side effects of painkillers.

But without access to quality medicinal cannabis, he was forced to buy on the black market, without access to the best strains and most reliable information.

That doesn’t have to be the case, however.

Back Help in Illegal Areas

Even CBD, a fantastic legal alternative to full-spectrum cannabis medicine, has been shown to help fight the pain of a broken back.

A 2014 study[2]Silveira, J. W., Issy, A. C., Castania, V. A., Salmon, C. E., Nogueira-Barbosa, M. H., Guimarães, F. S., Defino, H. L., & Del Bel, E. (2014). Protective effects of cannabidiol on lesion-induced … Continue reading published in PLOS One showed that high doses of CBD were able to greatly improve intervertebral disc legions in rats. These anti-degenerative properties are only one aspect of how CBD may help a broken back, however.

The chemical is also a world-class anti-inflammatory, which can make a world of difference for back aches and pains. Patients also report that it helps with sleep, relaxation, and depression.

The pain-relieving properties of THC and CBD are different because of how they interact with the human endocannabinoid system. But both can be of great help for back problems and the myriad symptoms that come with them.