It is a mind numbing reality throughout the world that there are many countries that do not have, for various reasons, the capacity to treat their citizens suffering from chronic severe pain with the benefit of opioid therapies. This is hard fact of life for many of our fellow sufferers across the globe.
Right now a horrible war is taking place between Israeli soldiers and the fighters of Hamas, the ruling party for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. I ask readers to put aside political passions about this conflict and focus with me on the human dimension of this tragic, never-ending conflict.
Most news reports indicate that there have been over 700 deaths of Palestinians and 32 deaths of Israelis in this war. Most of the dead in Gaza are civilians. More worrisome are the reports of the number of Palestinian children killed in this conflict, now more than 100.
We are faced with a huge number of Palestinians wounded and suffering terrible pain. We can make a guess at that number in that almost all armed conflicts produce far more wounded than killed.
The years long Israeli blockade of Gaza has limited not only suspect building materials, but of most commodities including health care supplies has intensified the suffering of the Palestinians.
Just today, NBC reported an attack on a school housing Palestinians from the war. Bombs detonated there and left behind the dead and wounded including a 6 month old wounded baby. The report showed doctors removing the shrapnel from the baby’s back without any available anesthetics.
Will that child enter the world of chronic pain for which in his country there are few resources for good care?
This paints a humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinians. The closed border between Gaza and Egypt makes the suffering worse. The military government in Cairo refuses to support the Hamas led government in the Strip as they believe Hamas is equivalent to the Muslim Brotherhood whom the military leaders in Cairo ousted from power.
I am not trying to make a political case for the Palestinians sequestered in the Gaza Strip. The lack of adequate medical care and pain care in particular is widespread throughout the Middle East, South America, Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia and most of Asia.
The plight of the Palestinians echos in the prolonged and ghastly warfare in Syria and Iraq and in Sub Saharan Africa. In these conflicts it is impossible to write only about those who now, and in the future, will suffer the ravages of untreated chronic pain, from the immediate pain suffered by people trapped in these conflicts.
It’s axiomatic that immediate humanitarian medical aid is provided to the thousands upon thousands of victims in these war ravaged parts of the world.
But we need to look beyond the current wars to the future of these countries, to the future of the thousands of people who will be cast into the pit of chronic pain as result of ghastly wounds.
What medical care will be available to these people in pain? It is, I’m afraid, not to difficult to imagine. But for a moment, I’d like all of us who suffer from grinding chronic pain to imagine ourselves as refugees being repatriated to our homes while living with shrapnel wounds, high velocity ammunition wounds, the horrid pain of amputations and all types of neurological pain. Imagine living in such madness with no hope of surcease.
Wars are raging all around the globe daily. Pick up the paper or log onto the internet and chose your horror. The endless ubiquity of it dampens our natural inclination to help those suffering worse than we. The people surviving these wars are foreign to us, across the world and out of sight. We are numb to the suffering of the other .
This begs the question of what to do.
First, we need to acknowledge our commonalities with those who cannot who don’t have the same access to care we have, however flawed it be. We need to see pain care in a broader way, not as a problem confined to us, but an international problem which we all share and have some responsibility to address.
Since this is an enormous problem, I’ll only focus on the continuing disaster in the Gaza Strip. Even this focus has deep and lasting difficulties. Without taking a political stand for or against either side in this conflict, I believe we should respond to the Palestinians who have been and likely will continue in chronic pain.
We need to tell our stories to the United Nations through our representative there. It might be prudent to tell our stories to Doctors Without Borders. It is on us to contact our Representatives and Senators telling them our stories and asking them to press for general medical assistance to the beleaguered Gaza Strip while advocating an emphasis on short and long-term pain care.
I’m not just asking that the Palestinians have access to opioid pain care, but all aspects of good pain care practice.
Finally, I think it would be wise for our pain groups to consider reaching out to the Palestinians through the United Nations. After the conflict comes to an end and rebuilding the Strip begins, contact might be established through the internet. For example, we might try establishing Facebook groups with the Palestinians.
It is well-known that one of the ways we can care for ourselves is by reaching out to others in similar circumstances. I’m not for a second comparing our lives with those around the world forced into refugee camps, but our pain is similar.
Please, let’s join together and reach across the divide. Who know what healing ripple effects` might ensue.