The personal side of pain: Teresa Winford

Chronic pain patient tells their story

LAS VEGAS - It only takes one accident, one fall or one infection to become a chronic pain patient for life.

This is a harsh reality that Las Vegas resident Teresa Winford knows all too well. In 1997, Teresa was hit by drunk driver while exiting the I-15 freeway at Charleston Boulevard.

Teresa and a friend were sitting in a minivan at the bottom of the off-ramp, when a diesel truck plowed into them from behind. She says that the impact of the truck threw her into the back seat and mangled the vehicle. Teresa says that when everything stopped moving, the diesel truck was physically touching her face.

After the accident, she was transported to a nearby hospital. Where she stayed for a total of four days, undergoing life altering back surgery. The doctors were able to use part of her hip bone to repair a crack through the vertebrae in her back. That was just the start of her problems.

Since then, Teresa has been forced to live with multiple painful medical conditions, including a second crack along a bone in her neck, and diabetes. Over the years, her diabetes has caused her agonizing pain and health complications. For many people, a toe infection may seem like a simple medical problem, but for her it has turned into a health nightmare. One of Teresa's big toes has already been amputated and she fears one day the other will have to go as well.

To deal with the pain of her chronic and debilitating medical conditions, Teresa has been taking opioid pain medications for more than 15 years. She says, taking opioid pain medications are the only way for her to get her life, at least partially, back to normal. Without any pain medications, Teresa says, she cannot even complete the most basic daily activities.

Unfortunately, in recent years, relief from the pain has become increasingly hard to find. Teresa and her husband Dean lost their medical insurance in January, which has left them unable to afford proper pain management treatment.

To get medications, she now has to be admitted to the emergency room as complications occur. She says, they usually only give her 12 pain pills at a time, but she makes them last as long as possible.

Filling prescriptions from the ER can be difficult. She often faces resistance from pharmacists, who frequently refuse to fill her prescriptions. According to Dean, "They don't know her medical history and see she's walking in medical shoes and can hardly walk, and you see her wrist band that she just got out the hospital and they still don't want to fill it."

As of today, Teresa and Dean look forward to December when Dean's health insurance will be reinstated, but they know they'll still have a long road ahead before Teresa can find relief.


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