Simone 39, was 20 years old, studying to be a concert pianist, newly married and driving with her husband, when a car accident left her a quadriplegic. She then suffered chronic recurrent kidney infections.
“I had unrelenting pain, like red hot daggers piercing my back, an invisible torturing force. It surprises many people that quadriplegics can feel anything, including pain. I’m lucky in that I have full sensation in all my body.
“I lived on pain-killers – Panadeine Forte, morphine, pethidine. They didn’t really help, but you’re desperate for relief. It becomes quite addictive and you’re groggy, can’t concentrate, can’t sleep, feel tired all the time, lose interest; your enthusiasm for life just wanes. It’s a terrible cycle. Chronic pain is all-consuming.”
Meanwhile, Simone, with the support of her husband Gary, was determined to normalise her life as much as possible. She had a daughter, Beth, now 14, completed a psychology degree, and works from home, running the family investment company.
“I have mobility in my arms, though no dexterity in my fingers. It’s amazing what you can learn to do over time,” she remarks. But still the pain continued.
“I tried absolutely everything – hypnotherapy, acupuncture, meditation, but nothing helped.
“In 1994, I went into Royal North Shore spinal unit for three months with another kidney infection, and I just could not bear the pain any more. I said to myself, ‘This is no life, I’m so tired of this.’ I felt like I was being punished – for what? – for living! It was so awful. I even told the doctors to take my kidney out and, if they wouldn’t, give me a knife and I’d cut it out myself.
“Pain pumps were a new concept then, and it was my last resort. I underwent trials, and it was amazingly effective for me.
“It requires much less medication, and it’s delivered continuously, rather than in the peaks-and-troughs effect you get taking drugs orally.
“The pump has made a huge improvement to my life, as the pain is dramatically reduced. I feel so different now, so much happier, more energetic and relaxed.