Power of pain

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Having cheered and danced from a very young age, Barby Ingle was overjoyed when Washington State University offered her the head coaching job; she was living her dream.

It only took 8 seconds for that dream to shatter. Barby was in a parking lot when she was rear ended by a van. She says immediately shockwaves of pain ran through her body.

The fender bender triggered a string of medical problems including shoulder surgery and multiple lung collapses. Later Barby was diagnosed with RSD; a progressive nerve disorder involving severe, often debilitating pain.

Barby says she questioned herself, "Am I crazy?" she would ask, "Is this really happening?" And she says the people around her also questioned how she could possibly be in so much pain all the time.

The excruciating pain, Barby says, required a lot of medication. And after finally finding a course of treatment that seemed to be working, Barby’s husband changed insurance companies. They wanted her to start all over again. "It’s taken so long to get to the right doctors and on the right medications" Barby told us, "Now they wanted me to go back to things that I know don’t work."

It is not uncommon for insurance companies to approve only generic or less expensive medications, even if doctors insist that these are not the best course of treatment. Dr. Steven Reeder, a family practice physician in Mesa says the patient should be able to make the choice about how much they are willing to spend to get the drugs that doctors recommend. But too often, he says, the patient has no say whatsoever. "The power has shifted to insurance companies and away from the patient," says Dr. Reeder, "The frustration comes at the pharmacy when the patient is denied or charged some ungodly price."

Even if some type of health reform passes, it won't be a magic bullet. Patients need to learn how to fight for themselves; that's exactly what Barby Ingle did. "If I go to see a new doctor," Barby says, "I take my medical records with me and let them see the big picture."

Every time she goes to the doctor, she brings a medical records request (that form is posted below) and asks that as soon as the doctor types his notes, she receive a copy. Barby now has binders full of documentation to show which medications she's already tried. We asked her how it feels to go up against the insurance companies and win, "It feels very good," she told us, "And now I help other people win."

For Barby, years of living in pain and fighting for her health care have taught her many lessons. Not the least of which is the power of having hope. "I think the future is going to be great," she told us as we were getting ready to leave, "Even when your team is losing, you still keep on cheering."

Barby Ingle and her family have set up a non-profit organization called The Power of Pain.

The organization is hosting its annual fundraiser on October 24th at Tempe Arts Center. It is called Comic Pain Relief. The hope is to build awareness for pain disorders and help people learn more about their rights as patients.