Local chronic pain sufferer desperate to find new doc

Asia's Tech News Daily

For 12 years Blair Gehring has been taking prescription narcotics to manage his chronic pain. When his physician, Dr. Ian Gebhardt, was charged on Oct. 5 with sexual assault for an incident which allegedly took place in the 1980s, Gehring was left in the lurch without a doctor or a way to renew his prescriptions.

Gehring suffers from degenerative disk disease, a condition in which spinal disks become damaged and cause pain for the affected individual. There is no cure and treatment is often limited to just managing pain.

“I’ve had neck problems since I was sixteen,” Gehring told the News. “I’ve had five hip operations … I went to doctors and they always told me everything was fine (but) it just progressed and got worse and worse and now I’m to the point where I can’t do anything.”

“I have two vertebrae that have degenerated to the point where the doctors, at first, wanted to take them out … but now they don’t want to do the operation because it’s too risky. Because there’s too much of a risk of paralysis,” he said.

As a result of limited treatment options, his physician at the time, prescribed him Oxy-NEO, a form of controlled release oxycodone, in the hopes of alleviating Gehring’s pain. He has been taking the medication several times a day ever since.

“It relieves the pain,” Gehring said. “My neck is just unbearable, even with the medication there are days where I can’t get either out of bed or off the couch because my head had to be laying down and supported.”

Gehring has never had a problem with obtaining his medication before. Due to the nature of the prescription, he regularly had to visit his physician, who would then provide him with a refill.

Since first being prescribed Oxy-NEO, Gehring has had to change doctors several times and has never encountered any issue. This time however, Gehring has been unable to find a physician willing to take him on as a patient.

Upon being notified that Gebhardt’s practise had been closed, Gehring immediately started contacting physician offices in Medicine Hat. At the time, seven physicians were accepting new patients, but Gehring says he’s been turned down by all of them. At first, he was provided no reason as to why he was turned down, however he began to see a trend in which his application was denied as soon as narcotics were mentioned.

“I haven’t just made phone calls, I’ve gone to the clinics, I’ve filled out their paperwork,” Gehring said. He hoped to explain his situation to the physicians he was applying to, but, as of yet, he has not been able to.

With less than one month’s supply of his medication left, Gehring is fearing what might happen if he cannot find a new doctor who will fill his prescription. A walk-in clinic can be an option, as there is no rule against narcotics being prescribed by a walk-in doctor, but some doctors will avoid prescribing narcotics to individuals that they don’t personally know or who have not been referred to them.

“It’s hard. I can’t eat. I don’t sleep. My stomach is just in knots all the time because I don’t know what’s going to happen when my pills run out,” he said. “I’ve been on it so long, there’s going to be withdrawal because it’s a narcotic. I do not want to find out what it will be like.”

Not only is Gehring worried, he is also frustrated.

“Doctors prescribed this medication to me for a reason and now because of that none of these other doctors want to get involved,” he said. “I’m not a drug dealer. I am legitimately on it for a reason … It’s the only thing that will help me.”

Gehring wants to share his story as he feels like he’s caught in a loophole in the medical system and he fears others might be as well.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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