Dino Lee Ogden
Chronic Pain Patient & Medical Marijuana Prisoner
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is being written concerning our son Dino Lee Ogden. He is 34 years old, and lives near Brownwood, TX. At the age of 22 (in 1985) he fell 15-20 ft., landing on his back and the back of his head onto a cement floor. He had been welding near the top of a metal silo at his place of employment in Brownwood. He was taken up front to the company doctor, who sent him home.
After being off work for over a month, the company doctor told him that he was recovered enough to go back to work, but only if he signed a form releasing the company from any responsibility. Dino was still experiencing a lot of discomfort in his neck and back, but he had a family to support. He also had no medical insurance and could not afford to seek a second opinion from another doctor, and so he signed the release and went back to work. After he went back to work, he was under constant harassment, because his pain kept him from working at his previous speed. After several months, Dino couldn't deal with it, and quit the job.
At that point, he started a lawn and tree service so that he could work at his own speed and within his limitations. He managed to survive at that for close to nine years. He had upgraded his equipment, and in spite of his injuries and pain, had built a reputation as honest, reliable, and hard working. In 1994 he was able to acquire medical insurance so that he could get treatment for his neck and back. He was finally diagnosed with cervical disk syndrome. His myieograms showed bulging disks at C5-6 and C6-7 with significant narrowing of the foramen; also herniated nucleus pulposus C6-7 and nerve root cut off. At that time he made his doctors aware that he was using marijuana for relief when he was in pain. A discectomy and inter-body fusion was performed on his neck vertebrae in Nov 1994.
He tolerated the procedure extremely well, and his pain and weakness were improving. In fact, Dino's surgeon Quirico Tonez was quite impressed with his progress and remarked to family members that his biggest challenge was getting him to rest enough to allow the surgery to heal. Dino was supposedly not allowed to work for three months, but he was so panicked about his financial situation that he was back to work within a few weeks after his surgery. Things went pretty well for Dino until about six months after his surgery. And then his problems really began
On May 26, 1995 he was hit in the forehead with a 30-pound log that had been thrown by a friend who was helping him do a tree job. Since that day, Dino's life has been a nightmare of chronic, severe, unrelenting pain. The log hit him with such force that his brain was slammed into the back of his skull. He then fell with such force that his brain was slammed into the front of his skull. We were told by one of his doctors that this type of injury is called Coupe-contracoupe. The results of this type of head injury, aside from the pain, are severely scrambled and/or damaged brain cells. Dino has a visible lump on his right forehead that seems to swell in correlation to his level of pain.
The swelling has been documented on his doctor's reports as normocephalitic that was approximately 3am x 3cm at the time it was measured. EEG readings performed by Dr Rexford Anderson on 11-13-95 showed abnormalities consistent with a structural lesion such as a mass or infarction. He has been diagnosed as having post-concussive syndrome and closed-head injury with total body pain. For three years Dino has experienced debilitating pain in his head, neck, shoulders, back legs, groin, feet and hands, along with numbness of left arm, hand, three fingers, legs and feet, along with extreme weakness and periodic bouts of dizziness and blurred vision. The mental symptoms of this injury have included long-term memory loss in many areas, mixing of memories, concentration difficulties, inability to retain new information, easily confused, and unable to perform simple tasks without becoming agitated.
He has extreme difficulty sleeping due to his level of pain and even with heavy medication is lucky to get two or three hours sleep a night. Dino stays stiff and rigid ftom trying to cope with his pain and has much difficulty turning to the left. His movements are more noticeably slow and awkward at times, depending on his level of pain. His height has deteriorated ftom 6' 5" to 6' 2". This information can all be verified with medical reports from his doctors. Dino also had surgery for kidney stones in 1995 during which one of the stones was lost and his urethra was punctured. He has since developed chronic urinary tract infection, prostatitis with painful urination and inability to have sex. Dino has also developed esophagial ulcers, severe digestive problems, and irritable bowel syndrome with chronic diarrhea and extreme weight loss.
Dino lost his business after the head injury because he was incapable of functioning mentally or physically. He sold all of his equipment, and was able to survive on the money ftom that for awhile. He has since been dependent on family and friends while we are in the process of trying to get disability for him.
Following the head injury Dino became severely depressed and suicidal. A chronic pain assessment performed by Dr. Pennissi Taylor dated Oct 1995 concluded that Dino was completely unable to cope with his high level of chronic pain and disabilities. On March 15, 1996, his treating physician Dr. Debbi Crawford was afraid to allow Dino to leave her office because she was afraid he was going to commit suicide. She called MHMR to come to her office immediately for crisis intervention. We made numerous trips to the emergency room with Dino screaming and sobbing in pain. They gave him shots of Demerol which were helpful sometimes, and sometimes not.
On May 5, 1996 the ER doctor & Brownwood Regional Hospital called MHMR caseworker Charles EIIison to the ER because he believed Dino was suicidal. Mr. EIIison made arrangements for us to take Dino to the psychiatric unit at Baylor Hospital in Dallas. The assessment by Dr. Vobach at that time was that Dino was suicidal because of his pain. He was then turned over to the pain clinic. Less than a month after he was released from Baylor, we had him back in to keep him from doing harm to himself. At that point, Dino's doctors had tried him on just about every kind of strong pain medications, but they were unable to find anything to provide long term relief. The doctor at the Baylor Hospital pain clinic even offered to give Dino a morphine shunt, but Dino lived too far from Dallas to make the constant trips to have it monitored and filled.
Besides medicatons, Dino has tried massage therapy, hypnosis, epidural blocks, Tens Units, and trigger point injections. All of Dino's doctors have written statements that, due to Dino's severity of pain, mental confusion, medications required to treat his pain, and the level of his depression, he is severely disabled and unable to maintain job training or employment.
Dino has had some success using pain management techniques and is now coping better emotionally. He has learned to have more control over his suicidal thoughts, and has worked through a lot of anger over what has happened to his life. He is also waiting to be scheduled for a surgery to insert a trial stimulating catheter in his neck. This procedure would be done at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, TX. It has apparently been used with good results on patients like Dino who have not been responsive to other interventions.
It is unfortunate that Dino will probably not get the opportunity to have his surgery. In a few weeks, Dino will begin serving ten months at Huntsville in the Substance Abuse Felony Punishment Program. It is a work program that is based on getting the prisoners up at 4: 00 in the morning and keeping them busy until 10:30 at night. Dino is being sentenced to this program for his crime against society of using marijuana.
Dino has been arrested three times since March, 1997 for possession of marijuana. Each time he has been arrested, he has been fully cooperative, and has been told by the arresting officers what a nice guy he is. Dino's attorney told us how everyone at thc courthouse and the probation office really like Dino, and think he is such a nice guy The counselor from the drug group that Dino attends as part of his probation has also told us what a nice guy Dino is, and that he feels so sorry for him.
Just about anyone who knows Dino will be happy to tell you what a gentle-natured, kind-hearted nice guy he is. All of these people in the legal system are aware that Dino's use of marijuana gives him more relief from his pain and stress than the powerful narcotics being given to him by his doctors. They are also aware that it helps to settle his stomach so that he can better tolerate his medications, feel like eating. and be able to keep his food down.
So why is a presumably "nice guy" like Dino with diagnosed brain damage, chronic debilitating pain and a host of other serious health problems being sent to a Felony Punishment Program? Yes, we are aware that marijuana is illegal (although study after study are proving it to have therapeutic value) Yes, we are aware that Dino has violated his probation because he continues to use it, and because he has only been able to make partial payments on his probation fees. We are also aware that there should be other options for Dino, including drug programs that are not as harsh as the one he is being sent to. The other option would be to at least delay his entry date into the program long enough to allow him to have his surgery and fully recover, and then to reassess his medical condition and determine if he is able to withstand a program of that type.
The question is whether our legal system is about rehabilitation, or simply punishment. We all want our laws to be respected and followed, but that cannot happen unless our legal system is perceived by its' citizens as being based on common sense and compassion.
Sincerely, Bob and Kathy Ogden, Dino's parents.