How Pain In John's Testicles Drained His Will To Live

Lying face down in the gutter of a busy Sydney road, John Rahme was the most humiliated he’d ever been.

He was across the road from Sutherland Hospital in Sydney’s south when he collapsed. He desperately needed help for the unexplained pain in his lower abdomen and testicles. He couldn’t walk with the excruciating stabbing he was feeling.

Finally someone stopped to help among the sounding horns and the jeers from drivers, telling him to move along. That person moved him off the road, further into the gutter and left him there. At least he wouldn’t become roadkill.

Someone eventually someone called paramedics for him but the fact is, Rahme’s chronic pain meant he lost his ability to work, play with his children and even his will to live.

“It takes you to a place where you actually feel you are useless, you are a burden to people and the best thing for you to do by everyone is for you to die,” John Rahme, 48, told ten daily.

John Rahme with his three boys. Image: John Rahme

Rahme first noticed pain in his testicles nearly three-and-a-half years ago. Initially, he didn’t see a doctor but after the pain intensified he saw his GP. This would begin years of visits to specialists, multiple rounds of antibiotics, countless scans, rushed trips to emergency and seven operations.

But after all this, Rahme’s pain worsened.

His career as a mentor and life coach and his role as a father to sons Khalil, 18, Christian, 12, and Andrew, 11, were put on hold.

Rahme said his biggest challenge was getting people to understand the severity of his invisible illness.

“People have no idea about how hard it is,” Rahme said.

“There were some mornings where all I wanted to do was have the ability to get out of bed so I could commit suicide.”

But there were four people he could rely on for support -- his sons and his partner Tracy. Tracy would drive three hours from Canberra where she worked to Rahme’s home in Sydney to help him everyday. 

John Rahme with his partner Tracy. Image: John Rahme.

“I am six-foot-three and 120 kilos and she only a five foot little thing … she would take me into the shower, wash me, while I was there she would go and change my sheets, dry me, dress me, cook dinner for me, feed me, put me back into bed until I fell asleep, give me a kiss goodbye, jump back in her car and drive back to Canberra for work the next morning.”

Chronic pain took away Rahme’s whole life and well being, but he is not alone.

In fact, one in five Australians live with chronic pain and that number is set to rise. By 2050, it is estimated five million Australians will be living with the condition.

The National Chronic Pain Roadshow starting in Sydney on Tuesday will aim to raise awareness of the debilitating condition. 

Pain becomes chronic when it lasts longer than three months according to pain medicine specialist Dr Lewis Holford.

One of the main difficulties with chronic pain is the term chronic doesn't describe the type or severity of the pain.

Chronic pain persists long after an injury has healed. Image: Viva Communications.

"As it is largely invisible, it is difficult to see and often patients feel misunderstood by work colleagues and family and obviously medical practitioners … and I think this interference with life is what makes chronic pain such a burden to live with," Holford said.

Chronic pain is made up of a number of complex factors, which can contribute to its intense nature.

READ MORE: Chronic Pain Sufferers Face Stigma From Medical, Wider Community

READ MORE: What I Wish I'd Known About Chronic Pain Before I Got Sick

“Pain is a very complex, individual condition and everybody’s pain is different, there is no one-size-fits-all for treatment and we use this combination of a biopsychosocial framework for how we manage pain.”

This can include medications, physiotherapy, clinical psychology and interventional treatments -- like nerve blocks and steroid injections.

Pain is complex and everyone's experience with it is different. Image: Getty Images.

Holford said the role of the National Chronic Pain Road Show is to raise awareness of the condition so people with the pain can take control of their condition.

Just 12 weeks ago, Rahme got a neurostimulator put in his back -- a device that delivers mild electrical pulses to a person’s spinal cord, back and brain as a means of treating chronic pain.

A week go he went back to the gym for the first time in three-and-a-half years.

“I’ve got my life back,” Rahme said.

John, with the help of his family, has got his life back. Image: John Rahme.

“I am out there rebuilding my company and I’ve got this new drive and this new passion. I am always remembering being dragged along the main road and how I want to change people’s mindset about life itself.”

And Rahme’s message correlates with his selfless approach to life.

“For people who are suffering chronic pain, it not just about them. People need to be more aware of the effects it has on everyone around them ... sometimes all I wanted was someone to just sit beside me and hold my hand,” he said.  

“Just don’t give up like I did.”

If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

The National Chronic Pain Road Show - Taking Back Control Of My Chronic Pain- starts in Sydney on Tuesday October 30. For all event details and locations visit the event website.

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