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A painful meeting with a professional

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Let’s meet Aida. She’s 51, gainfully employed until recently, married to Steven for 28 years, and has four grown children together.

Three are on their own, two married with young children, and one son living at home. She’s 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighs 138 pounds. She has dark hair with a touch of gray and dark eyes. She comes dressed smartly in a suit, comfortable looking shoes, and a touch of make-up.

Aida’s call a few days earlier sounded concerning. I’d asked if she was all right, and she stated that hours earlier she’d been crying angry tears.

What I heard was her regaining some composure. She said that her PCP had referred her to me. She offered no other information. She planned to share that at our first session.

When Aida sat down, I detected a wince of pain.

Her movements noted earlier as we walked to my office from the waiting area appeared rigid and tight. So Aida, what was the basis for this referral? “Well, you see, I’m in pain. I’m in pain all the time.”

Did your PCP offer specific reason for the referral? “Yes, please let me explain. I’ve been in pain for about nine months. It has progressed to be a daily occurrence. I work for a company that performs marketing analysis for corporations. My work takes me on the road. I travel nationally. My job is strenuous. I work long hours and, yet, get home to be with Steven and our son Enrico. My husband works at home and is a house husband, too. He watches over our home and son.”

Aida, what effect has this pain had upon your life? Are you able to work and function?

“You see, that’s one of my big problems. The plane flights began to worsen my pain. My pain is in my lower back, sometimes in my shoulders and neck. One time, I barely made my presentation to a corporate board. They noticed my pain, which not only distracted me, it caused them concern. I had a sit down meeting with my higher ups — they were somewhat understanding of my plight. Nevertheless, reality set it. I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m on a leave of absence with half-pay. My many years of service provided a small cushion. Still, I’m in pain. I can’t work. Steven is great. He’s very supportive. He said he’ll come to counseling appointments if you and I think it can help.”

Aida, just some history. Do you recollect when the pain began? What were you doing? Where were you? What was your initial response to the onset of the pain?

“Well, I was sleeping in a hotel room on a business trip. It was hot outside and the air conditioner was on high. I don’t like being hot. I got out of bed to tinkle. I did some stretching like I always do before making coffee. I was on the floor, and on my back. I rolled over to get up and the pain struck me like a lightning bolt. I hurt badly.

“I called the desk for a heating pad and some ice. Both soon helped the pain subside. I thought this sucks, whew! I showered, dressed, and readied for a meeting. I didn’t say anything to anyone until I called Steven at lunch break. He’s very athletic and works out, so he expressed concern. I told him I was fine. He talked me into making a doctor’s appointment just to make sure. I did it later. I had no further episodes for a couple of weeks. Soon after I saw my PCP for a first of several visits, he did a quick exam. My vitals were good. I described the pain, its location, and so on. He decided against performing any tests since it was here and gone.”

What then happened, Aida?

“A couple days after my first PCP visit, I was on a day trip. I drove four hours, and then went to a restaurant for a bite to eat before a mid-afternoon meeting. I sat at a booth, ordered food and while waiting, got up to use the restroom. When I walked back to my table, the pain struck again. My lower back hurt like hell. I barely made it to the table. I looked at my food and just lost my appetite. This continued. I was scared and saw my PCP again.”

We made another appointment for two days later with Steve.

His input may be helpful.

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Marshall Greenstein, a Cassadaga resident, holds a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling and is a licensed marriage and family counselor and a licensed mental health counselor in New York state. He has regular office hours at Hutton an d Greenstein Counseling Services, 501 E. Third St., Suite 2B, Jamestown, 484-7756. For more information or to suggest topics, email editorial@observertoday.com.

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