While the turnout may not have been quite a great as organizers had hoped, those who did come out to the inaugural Chronic Pain Management and Addiction Prevention Symposium on Saturday at the Townshend Theatre here found no shortage of information.
About 80 people, including representatives from various agencies, attended the symposium, which ran from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
In addition to keynote speaker Dr. Jackie Gardner-Nix, who spoke on her “Mindfulness-Based Chronic Pain Management Program,” the symposium sported a full slate of presenters.
Deirdre O’Sullivan-Drombolis, physical therapist for Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc., explained the physiology of pain, noting the experience of pain is unique to the individual, and that a person’s thoughts, beliefs, history, and emotions affect the pain they feel.
But with more knowledge of one’s pain, and self-awareness of factors that may be affecting it, people can do things to better help manage their pain—an idea best summed up in the motto, “Know pain or no gain.”
Pharmacist Renate Winkler of Pharmasave here stressed the importance of patients knowing all about the prescribed pain medications they are taking, and how they interact with each other and natural medications.
She encouraged patients to utilize dosettes and blister packs to help keep track of when and how many drugs they need to take, as well as medication recorders, which available at the hospital, to keep track of what drugs they use—and let others know what they are using in the case of an emergency.
Winkler also stressed those who use pain medications must never share them or give them to anyone else, and take care to secure them from theft.
Jennifer L’Hirondelle of Moss Yoga, meanwhile, gave a simple explanation of what yoga is, the relationship between the body and the mind, and how meditation can help people “let go” of pain and stress by focusing on the “now.”
She also demonstrated a basic meditation exercise for beginners meant to raise awareness of posture, breathing, and sound.
Eileen Gagné, manager of the counselling unit of the Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Authority, reminded attendees that if they or someone they know needs help, addictions counselling is available locally.
Tying into the addiction prevention part of the symposium, three addiction recovery speakers brought in from Winnipeg by the Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team shared their heartfelt stories of perseverance.
Roland, Brendan, and Shelly, each of whom was addicted to alcohol and a wide range of illicit drugs since their youth, also all came from abusive backgrounds and troubled families with a history of addiction.
Their addictions led them to lives involving gangs, sleeping in ditches, and broken relationships before they managed to turn things around and start realizing their dreams, whether by furthering their educations and getting good jobs, becoming a boxing coach, and becoming better parents.
All three agreed their breakthrough moment was when they met others like themselves, realized they were not alone, and could begin to talk about their problems knowing they had others to support them.
Continuing to tell others, like they did here, is an ongoing part of that recovery.
The trio said drugs are a growing problem among youths, and that young people must realize there is help out there, adding peer-to-peer counselling is especially effective.
They also noted lines of communication must always remain open—and that adults must talk with kids, not at them.
The speakers also shared their message with hundreds of district Grade 7/8 students on Friday morning at the Townshend Theatre.
“They were awesome,” said Patti-Jo LeDrew, chronic disease management program co-ordinator for the Fort Frances Community Clinic/Family Health Team.
“I even got a few personal phone calls at home from parents very pleased about the event because their kids really opened up to them.
“So I think that’s positive. It seemed to really touch some of these kids,” LeDrew added.
Saturday’s symposium also offered informational booths representing numerous local health organizations, where the public could visit, ask questions, get information, fill their totes with free giveaways, and enter draws for prizes.
Participating organizations included the Fort Frances Family Health Team, Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. (Valley Diabetes Education Centre, the stroke prevention program, dietitians, and physiotherapy/occupational therapy), Northwestern Health Unit, Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team, Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Authority (home and community care program, and counselling unit), the Gizhewaadiziwin Access Centre (FASD, asthma, mental health, and health educator programs), Curves for Women, Moss Yoga, Pharmasave, Marie Allen of Healing Touch, and Dennis Fisk.
“I think it went really well,” said LeDrew.
“I was pleased with the booth presentations. I liked how the community came together to embrace this topic,” she remarked.
“I would have liked to see a better turnout with people, but it was a beautiful, warm day. I think, looking back, next time when we plan an event like this, we’ll do it when it’s a little colder and people are more apt to want to find something to do indoors.
“But even though we had fewer numbers than we had hoped for, I think we had the people that really needed the information,” LeDrew added.
“We got really, really positive feedback from all the talks.
“I think it was great how they all tied in together, and it was a wonderful learning opportunity for the community to find out what kind of resources are here and how they partner together.”
“We didn’t quite have the quantity of people we had hoped, but it was the nicest day of the summer,” echoed O’Sullivan-Drombolis, who was a co-organizer of the event.
“But there was good quality,” she stressed. “We had a lot of people interested, asking a lot of good questions.
“I had taken Dr. Gardner-Nix to Betty’s to do a book-signing, and pretty much half the people that were [at the symposium] stopped by to buy a book and get it signed,” O’Sullivan-Drombolis added. “I think we touched a lot of people.
“And you know as well I do that being in a small town, word of mouth is more powerful that anything else, so we’re hoping to get the word that way, as well.”
O’Sullivan-Drombolis said if there’s a common theme to the event, it is that people should realize stress is a major cause of nearly every chronic disease, including chronic pain or addiction, and being able to manage that stress is very important.
“We just want to really make sure that people know where they can go in the community to get help with that,” she remarked. “To be perfectly honest, meditation and things like that may not be for everybody, but there is something out there to help everybody.
“We just wanted people to know in our community where they could go,” she explained.