Sunday, October 22, 2006

Living with chronic pain (click here)

The only time Michael DeGroote isn't in severe pain is when he is sleeping, or sitting perfectly still.

Since the wealthy philanthropist suffered a stroke five years ago, the slightest movement triggers a burning, stabbing pain on the left side of his body. Even the touch of clothing against his skin is painful.

Nothing has helped, not the 17 different medications or combinations of drugs, not hypnosis or acupuncture. His stroke damaged a part of the brain called the thalamus, a central processing site for pain, and he endured two operations in Belgium that required opening his skull to place electrodes on top of his brain. They didn't work.

Mr. DeGroote is one of an estimated five million Canadians who suffer from chronic pain, but, unlike most people, he faces no financial obstacles in seeking help. The former owner of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the waste-management company Laidlaw has sought out experts around North America and Europe without finding relief.

Hope, he has come to believe, lies in laboratories around the world, in scientists struggling to understand the biology of pain and figure out new ways to subdue it.

He is doing his part, giving $20-million to McMaster University in Hamilton to establish the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care, which seeks to find new ways to treat and manage chronic pain.

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