"If you’d asked me how I’d score my pain in December 2020 I would have said 10/10. I didn’t know how to cope."
Vernon’s journey with pain began when as a promising young footballer he suffered a terrible leg break. His sport met an abrupt end with a diagnosis of compartment syndrome. it would take 13 operations in 11 days to try to put it right.
Remarkably, this wouldn’t be the defining event of Vernon’s experience with pain. It was years later in 2006 when gardening that a slipped disc triggered intolerable back pain.
“I remember back issues from when I was 14 or 15, but I had always just pushed through pain. I was conditioned to. It’s only now looking back that I realise how much my relationship with pain has changed.”
The pain became so intense that Vernon was taking up to 3,000 prescription tablets per year, plus injections. “Temazepam, Tramadol, Naproxen, Fentanyl, Ketamine…I’ve been in space. It’s horrid!”
Despite the pain, the medication and being largely bed-bound for the next 10-15 years, Vernon started a second career in IT for big banks - and thrived. He was getting promoted and finding ways to function. At this point he didn’t realise he was also contending with undiagnosed ADHD.
Over these years he had some 40 surgeries, Injections and nerve burnings, mostly on his spine. “The pain was unreal.”
But it was Vernon’s experiences with prescription opiates and benzodiazepines that took its toll on him most. “Everything left scar tissue. There was damage everywhere in my body. I never knew when to stop.”
It was a comment from his Dad that awakened him to a new period in his life. “He just asked me are you sure you’re not addicted to this stuff?”.
“I kept telling my GP that I needed to get off the medication. My GP refused as I might die of convulsions as I’d been taking so much of them for so long.”
It was a client of Vernon’s who suggested he should look at Project Twenty21 - the UK’s largest medical cannabis research study - and despite initial reservation due to his sports background, in January of 2022 he joined Leva.
“I had my last prescription tablet on 18th February 2022”.
More than medical cannabis
Vernon’s made positive changes elsewhere in his life - like his meditation habit of the last 5 years. “I don’t look at pain in the same way. I see it as energy and not a ‘thing’. Despite the pain I know I have the confidence to try and do things. It’s liberating!”.
As well as just returning from a holiday to Lanzarote, he’s been to the gym and is playing golf. “The real prize is playing a round of golf with my son!”.
During his pain journey Vernon also discovered his ADHD diagnosis. Through a process of self-learning, he’s come to understand his triggers and methods to stay regulated. And he’s using everything he’s picked up to coach young people experiencing similar issues. He now sits on the board of a children’s autistic charity.
“Leva has saved my life and my family.”
Vernon is a real patient of Leva Clinic. We’ve been working with him since January 2022. He’s not received any financial reward or incentive to share his story. He’s doing so in the hope that it will be informative and inspiring for others. Photo by Towfiqu Barbhuiya on Unsplash.