Keith’s story

Years of hard, physical graft as miner and drayman has seen 58-year-old Keith Robinson from Trimdon, County Durham pay a high price: painkiller addiction!

“Taking morphine-based medication was really frightening.”

Over the years, my spine has degenerated badly. Three spinal operations left me in unbearable pain and with a dropped foot.

I’ve had spacers inserted in my spine, a cage and then a double cage to replace the discs that had worn away.

Worse still was a trip to Turkey in 2017, where I developed sepsis and had to be admitted into intensive care. The doctors discovered an abscess on my sciatic nerve, which proved more painful than any of my previous spinal surgeries.

It’s impossible to work in such physically demanding jobs and not have some wear and tear. But I have been in and out of hospital, including three intensive care visits, and all that’s happened in the last seven years is the pain has got worse.

Initially, I took normal over the counter pain medication like Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. It just got to the point where I just felt they weren’t really doing anything, and the pain was still there. So, I went to the doctor who prescribed Codeine.

Like everyone, you half look at the side effects and don’t really consider them. In this instance I was so badly constipated, I had to be admitted to hospital.

From there, I moved rapidly through the pain medication options. I was desperate for something that would relieve the pain in my back and my dropped foot. I ended up taking a cocktail of pain medication for over half a decade including Gabapentin, Amitriptyline, Oramorph and morphine.

Taking morphine-based medication was really frightening.

“I ended up so pumped full of painkillers I was like zombie.”

I had no quality of life, I didn’t go anywhere, I stopped driving and had no energy to play with my grandson. I was completely disabled by pain and the effects of the pain medication. At one point I was taking 60 tablets a day! It was ridiculous.

I was sleeping all day in a chair in the front room, I couldn’t speak to anyone and when I did, I’d just bite their heads off. Something had to change.

I decided not to re-order some of the medication and arranged to discuss this with my GP. Between us we agreed that I needed additional support to reduce my medicines safely and to manage my pain without them. He referred me to a specialist pain clinic which has been brilliant!

Following the first consultation, I’ve gradually reduced and withdrawn from most of the medication over six months. Cutting down even that first week and I could feel the difference.

I’m not completely drug-free and still take some medication, to take the edge off the pain in my back and the nerve pain caused by my drop foot. The difference is that it’s my choice. I’m in control. I have more energy. I can do more and I’m back driving. It’s great!

We have a stair lift and wet room in the house too now, and that’s made a massive difference because it’s given me some more independence instead of relying on my wife. The problems with my back mean there’s no bend so I still need help getting my socks on and clothes over my feet, but you know we can live with that.

I’m back driving to the match to watch the mighty Black Cats, Sunderland AFC which is brilliant. Having to climb back up the leagues is not so great mind you! I’m even looking forward to a spot of fishing again with my son.

It’s like this. If I didn’t take back control, I don’t think I’d still be here. I’ve been married 36 years to Lesley, we have two great kids, a grandson and parents we support – that’s a lot to live for! I’m managing the pain. I’m living my life. I have choices again.

It’s great to be normal!

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