Why humor is important when you have chronic pain the mighty persistent chest pain

I’ve always believed laughter is the best medicine. To me, laughing helps distract me from the fear and anxiety I am feeling. I was first diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) when I was 11 years old. CRPS is a neurological disorder that affects the sympathetic and autonomic nervous systems. Often CRPS develops in a limb, after a trauma to the body, and it impacts everyone differently. It is categorized as the most painful condition on the McGill Pain Scale; it is rated higher than amputation or having a child naturally.

During my junior year of college, my pain doctor suggested a spinal cord stimulator trial to see if this was a good fit for me. This is an implanted device that sends electric currents to your spinal cord, to help treat certain pain conditions. Any time I undergo a medical procedure, my family would spend the evening with me the night before to keep my spirits up.


For some reason, I have always thought my pain doctor resembled the character Kramer from Seinfeld. The night before my surgery, the discussion of my doctor’s resemblance to Kramer entered the dinner conversation. I remember my brother asking me if I had ever seen “The Junior Mint” episode. When I replied that I hadn’t, my brother shook his head in disappointment, and told me I had to watch it that night. Long story short, Jerry and Kramer observe a surgery being done in the hospital’s teaching theater. Kramer drops a junior mint from the viewing gallery, and it lands in the patient’s body.

The next day I had the procedure, and everything went well. I remember waking up in the recovery room and looking over at my dad, who could barely contain his laughter. I asked him what was so funny, and he responded, “You called him Kramer.” I didn’t believe him, and told him he was lying. His next response was the icing on the cake. “No, you called him Kramer, and you told him to not drop a Junior Mint in you.” Let’s just say I woke up pretty quickly from anesthesia realizing I just called my pain doctor Kramer.

When I went back to school after my procedure, I was telling this embarrassing moment to my roommate, and she was in tears laughing. She majored in graphic design, and was always on her laptop working on different branding projects. She was working on something and started laughing. When I asked her what was funny, she told me that I’d see soon. Twenty minutes later, she designed, printed, and put together this white box. On the box was the Junior Mint logo, with pictures of both Kramer, and my surgeon’s face. As we were hysterically laughing, she commented, “You know you are giving this to your doctor.” I told her there was absolutely no way I was bringing that box to him.

Well, the box somehow landed up in my bag, and it came with me to the appointment. I was having an internal panic attack as I had no idea if he would bring up the subject first. The appointment lasted 30 minutes, and I thought I was in the clear as the Kramer discussion didn’t come up. As the doctor was wrapping up, my dad chimed in, and mentioned I had a gift for him. At that moment, I thought I was about to piss myself. I looked over at my doctor and said, “I’m sorry for calling you Kramer, and telling you not to drop a Junior Mint in my back. When I told my roommate this story, she felt it was necessary you had this Junior Mint box to remember this moment.” He looked at me, and started hysterically laughing when he saw the box. His comment was priceless, and something I wasn’t expecting. “That’s what you were trying to say! You kept saying something about Kramer and a Junior Mint, and I had no idea what you were talking about!” Seven years later, I still call him Kramer, and he still has the Junior Mint box I gave him.