I'm a Pain Patient Who Woke Up With a Bowl of Blueberries in My Bed. I Swear.

By Josh Bloom — Nov 18, 2020
Hey, pain patients: You've got company. Me! Thanks to a herniated disc in my neck I'm going through some of the same stuff I have been writing about for years. Stuff that you're well aware of. With one exception. You did not wake up with a bowl of blueberries in your bed.

Dear Pain Patients,

If you didn't listen to my interview with George Knapp on his Coast to Coast AM show this past Sunday 11/15 (1) you might not know that I have joined your ranks. I am a pain patient who is navigating the same nonsense that I constantly hear from you guys. It's a real pain in the ass, but there is some humor here and it needs to be shared.

About 30 years ago I herniated a cervical disc doing something moderately stupid. Make that supernaturally stupid. But it's not really my fault (2). Who could have guessed that carrying a refrigerator up a steep flight of stairs on my head was a bad idea? 

A week later it started. Vicious nerve pain down my left arm. Insane and unrelenting muscle spasms across half of my back. I was terrified of surgery so I fought it for a year. PT, NSAIDs (which destroyed my stomach), a chiropractor (3), acupuncture (4), and plenty of suffering – nothing worked (5). Sound familiar? It then got to the point where I couldn't stand it anymore and decided to take my chances with (my very first ever) surgery. In retrospect, I waited way too long. The surgery was a big nothing. Four months later I was playing tennis (but my backhand still sucked). 

In the ensuing years my neck got a little sore now and then, but it was no big deal. I was able to continue doing other stupid things (naturally) resulting in many other surgeries. In a twisted way surgery is kind of fun thanks to propofol.

Last month the pain came back out of nowhere, and it was very bad; pulses of nerve pain shooting down my arm every two seconds. All day.

What does this have to do with a bowl of blueberries in my bed? Keep going.

My GP gave me a week's supply of tramadol and referred me to a very good pain specialist (6). A urine sample was required and I cheerfully supplied a batch that was so clean that you could have irrigated wounds with it. Then the craziness started. You've all been through it.

It was pretty clear that I wasn't a drug abuser looking for a bunch of Oxy. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) confirmed this. That wasn't much help, though. Here's the conversation:

Me: "Can you give me more tramadol? It might help a little but I can't really tell."

Doc: "No, your GP already prescribed some. Ask her."

Me: "OK. Although I prefer not to take it. How about a week's worth of Percocet, just in case this gets worse."

Doc: "No, you already have tramadol, a narcotic."

Me: "But it doesn't work."

Doc: "Doesn't matter. You'll have to wait until next month. You already have a prescription for a narcotic."

All of you probably are going through this, and certainly a lot worse. For me, at this time it's pretty bad, but not hopeless because I have options; injections, oral steroids, or surgery which would probably work. Even with nerve pain running down my arm 24/7 I'm scared but not desperate. 

The next stop was a consult with a neurosurgeon. He described what the surgery would be like and the success rate. But he wouldn't even consider it until I tried other options. One of them was a course of Medrol, a powerful steroid, which seems to be working. But I have this strange urge to go up on the roof and start replacing shingles.

The other drug was Neurontin which makes perfect sense since it's a pretty good drug for nerve pain (7). That's where the fun (probably) began. 

I took 600 mg of Neurontin and went about my usual evening activities (even though I have little memory of it). The next thing I know it's 8:00 the next morning and I'm lying on my bed with my clothes on and a bowl of sugared blueberries next to me. Make that a spilled bowl of sugared blueberries. Make that spilled blueberries with water, which turned into some mutant syrupy mess all over the place, perhaps reminiscent of the sheets you'd see in a brothel in a Western. (8) How did the blueberries get into my bed? Beats me.

I looked up the side effects of Neurontin. There's a long list even though the drug is generally considered to be quite safe. Here are some of them. 

  • Memory loss (infrequent)
  • Confusion (uncommon)
  • Drowsiness 
  • Mental Status Changes (uncommon)
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Taking blueberries to bed (unknown)

Was it the Neurontin? I'd say so. Of course, we need a controlled experiment. Once I'm done with it If I wake up with a plate of Eggplant Parmesan stuffed in my underwear then it wasn't the Neurontin. Probably some deep seated food issues. Like I need more personality defects. 

I'm feeling a bit better but it's still not fun. But maybe this article was. If you can get a few yuks at my expense, I can live with that.


(1) And who could blame you? The damn thing was a two-hour interview from 1-3 AM. Just when I'm at my best.

(2) That's complete BS. I know it. You know it.

(3) The chiropractor did one of those neck snaps. To say it hurt would be a massive understatement. I almost beat Elon Musk to Mars by three decades.

(4) This shows how desperate I was. I've got a disc fragment wrapped around a nerve root and sticking needles in my ear are gonna help? I don't think so.

(5) The only exception was a long course of the very powerful NSAID indomethacin. It is the standard that is used in rat models of bleeding ulcers. That's all you need to know.

(6) I was damn lucky to find one. Apparently, New York isn't as bad as the smaller states.

(7) And a really lousy drug for other types of pain.

(8) OK, you and I both know this is vulgar and unnecessary. But about 700 of you have read this thing so far. Ask yourselves why.


Josh Bloom

Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science

Dr. Josh Bloom, the Director of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Science, comes from the world of drug discovery, where he did research for more than 20 years. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

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