Donald’s Story


I have osteoarthritis, scoliosis, and compacted lumbar vertebrate as well as osteoarthritic spurs – plus heart problems etc!

Youthful stupidities such as jumping out of trees, and war time experiences that at one point saw me blown out of the water, led to some of these problems.

Despite this, I’ve been active most of my life, including volunteer bush and cave rescue and fire fighting. Eventually I couldn’t work anymore. Aged 60 I found myself on the Disability Support Pension and increasing drug regime.

This really impacted my mental health. I gradually increased my pain medication and, after knee replacement, I was given opioids and continued taking them long after recovering from surgery.

I might have still been on the medication treadmill had I not discovered the St Vincent’s Hospital pain clinic telehealth service.

I asked my GP in Bega to make the first appointment and had all my appointments in a private room at my GP’s surgery, using their computer. I was able to have my first consultation in six weeks, which was much faster than waiting 12 months for the public pain clinic in Canberra.

At the time I had been booked to see a spinal surgeon for possible spinal fusion. I had been concerned about becoming a paraplegic. But after the first session with the team from St Vincent’s Hospital, I cancelled the appointment.

For a period of six months I had monthly appointments with the Sydney-based Pain Specialist, psychologist and physiotherapist, together or separately. The psychologist helped pull me out of suicidal tendencies, my local physiotherapist supported me, and I reported back to my GP about my progress.

That year I ended up doing a crash course on everything to do with pain. I learnt a lot about brain plasticity and how thought patterns can influence the pain you feel. Pain Support ACT was an invaluable source of information.

I’ve cut down on medication, and now only take Panadol Osteo. I’m grateful to have a better understanding of my body, pain, and how to manage it. I’ve regained quality of life.