Sickle Cell Pain with Dr. Bender

Q. What is your official title and how long have you been working with Sickle Cell Anemia patients?
A. I am a Doctor of Pediatric Oncology and Pediatric Hematology at Odessa Brown’s Children’s Clinic in Seattle. I have been working with Sickle Cell patients for about 15 years.

Q. What are some issues that people dealing with chronic pain have to overcome?
A. You have to be careful when talking about the difference between chronic and acute pain. Chronic pain is when someone is dealing with pain on a daily basis and that has severe pain episodes that can last weeks, months over even longer. These people want to work and they want to live life the same way others do.

Q. Are there some new medications being developed for pain?
A. Yes, there are always new medications being developed, such as a new form of longer lasting Dilaudid. The problem is people always want new medications. Before I prescribe a new medication, I like to make sure that my patients have tried other ways to deal with the pain; things such as heated pool therapy, relaxation, physical/ occupation therapy, distraction and seeing a psychologist.

Q. Do you think some pain is caused by psychological issues due to Sickle Cell?
A.I think people dealing with depression as a result of the disease can have more pain. If you’re not active you could be making things worse. A lot of opiates prescribed can actually make things worse. They can make you tired, also unable to function and do the things you want to do like work and go out and live life which can lead to even more depression.

Q. What are some things people can do on a daily basis to decrease or prevent episodes of pain crises?
A. Well there are the normal things like staying hydrated, and I think hydroxyurea is great for preventing pain. You also have to know your triggers. Going swimming is a trigger for a lot of people but some still do it. I think you also just have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired, get active and get involved in something. Take steps to improve your life like exercise, go to physical therapy if you need to and be active in life. If you like to ski go skiing, just make sure you are warm enough when you do. You’ve just got to get up and be sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Published in February 2013 newsletter. Written by Karsten Weathersby