Coping With Pain & Helping Others

By: Michael Appleman, M.S.


Those of you who have suffered life-threatening burns can speak with the authority when talking about pain tolerance. After all, for have different pain. Therefore different pain assessment techniques and management strategies will be appropriate depending on the population. Five general populations will be discussed: elderly (burn survivors), infants and children (burn survivors), cancer and AIDS patients, patients at the end of life, and patients who have difficulty communicating (burn survivors).

Family members and the individuals on the burn team look to a burn survivor for insight on how to deal with the ongoing pain when alone or interacting with other individuals. It has been seen that pain usually eases off gradually as physical and psychological healing takes place. For many burn survivors the pain can take a severe turn. The pain can increase until it takes on a life of its own. People with chronic pain syndrome cab become imprisoned in their own miseries. They always hurt in some part of their body. Many lose friends and have been seen to suffer enough to cause them not to enjoy life.


Burn Teams have seen that many burn survivors can find it easy to feel another person's pain, to have an empathetic nature. It is found unlikely that this type of burn survivor will develop a full-blown chronic pain syndrome, no matter how serious the burn.

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Many people still feel that our own suffering can become less acute when we take on the suffering of another. Many burn survivors go back to the burn unit after they have been released for different reasons. Some want to see it in a different light. Others want to say hello and thank the team for all the help they had received. And a group of burn survivors go back to reenter the unit in a very different way. That type of burn survivor wants to help others from time to time or even full time with encourage. If this individual is doing it in order to find relief from their own distress, they must review the situation. When this occurs it is found that this burn survivor may possibly hurt themselves and/or the burn patient. That individual would be in a much better state of mind emotionally if he/she finished their recovery prior to helping the burn patient in the hospital setting. That does not mean that a burn survivor cannot help in other ways. But they must always remember not to go over their own boundaries. When that occurs it is best for the burn survivor to review the situation, possibly refer the case to another individual, accept their own issues and do what is needed to work through their present problems and better themselves. Then they have a chance of bettering others.