CBS News 48 Hours takes a look at pain. For millions of Americans, pain is an everyday fact of life, a force that must be dealt with every minute of every day. Whether the pain comes from a poorly understood neurological disease, a migraine, or a blown-out knee, it can be overwhelming. We'll introduce you to people who must deal with tremendous levels of constant physical pain. Then we'll show you some of the new scientific approaches that could help these people live normal lives again.
Among the extraordinary people featured on the show:
Picabo Street: the charismatic gold medal-winning skier, who badly injured both legs in a race last year. We follow her through her arduous rehabilitation, as she tries to recover her lost strength and mobility.
Rebecca Olivares, a 32-year -old businesswoman who has been stricken with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), an enigmatic disease that sends pain shooting into her legs and leaves her barely able to walk. Both Rebecca and Picabo are being treated by the same doctor, and they strike up a friendship. Over their months of rehab, they become closer and closer. They take a vacation together to a spa in Arizona, and Rebecca decides that she will attempt to scale a 45-foot high rock-climbing wall. Before she'd come down with RSD, she'd been an avid rock climber, and she wants to conquer this obstacle. Amazingly, she does it, and in the process gives herself - and Picabo - a sense of the power of the human will.
Robert Garcia, a 33-year-old man who also suffers from RSD. His case is much more severe, racking his entire body with awful pain, as well as tremors and seizures. Having tried all the available therapies, Robert is at the end of his rope. But an innovative doctor, California neurosurgeon Jacob Chodakiewitz, offers to try a new procedure, that will implant an electrode deep into Robert's brain, and a small generator into his chest. Known as deep brain stimulation, this approach can sometimes short circuit the pain messages, allowing the patient to live a normal life. Although the operation is dangerous - a millimeter mistake can mean death or paralysis - it is a success, and Robert can reurn to the land of the living once again.
Donald Ober, a former body builder who hurt his back badly, and must now take huge doses of morphine and other pain killers just to get through the day. But for many like Donald, there is no relief, because state medical boards investigate, harass, and even take licenses away from the doctors who dispense these pain killing narcotics. Ober must drive 100 miles to see a doctor who will write him a prescription. And that doctor, anesthesiologist Arnold Feldman, is himself being watched very closely by the medical board in his state, Mississippi.
Adam Buxman, a 14-year-old boy who lives in Hannibal, Missouri. He looks like a normal kid, but he suffers from paralyzing migraine headaches. He is just one of the 23 million Americans with the condition. The headaches have put a crimp in his life - he missed 2/3 of his seventh grade school year because of them. But now, with new medicine, Adam is able to lead a more or less normal life.
Zamora The Torture King, otherwise known as Tim Cridland. Cridland has a phenomenal tolerance for pain. He has taught himself to slow down his body's reaction to pain, and so is able to pierce his arms with needles, walk barefoot on glass, and swallow swords. It is a real-life case of mind over matter.
Aired: 4 Mar 1999