Paula Abdul, Chronic Pain, and Bad Jokes

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • Last week American Idol had their annual Idol Gives Back program.  If you haven’t seen it, they bring dozens of top celebrities together for a two-and-a-half hour live show to raise money for charities in the U.S. and Africa.  Later that night Jimmy Kimmel, on his late-night TV show, was talking about Idol Gives Back.  He said, “This year they estimate they raised $100 million, which will be divided between a variety of good causes: fighting malaria, Save the Children, and the search for a cure for whatever’s wrong with Paula.”  Of course he was referring to Paula Abdul.

    His “joke” got a big laugh from the audience, but not from me.  I’m tired of comedians and, even worse, serious journalists intimating that Ms. Abdul is whacked out on drugs because of one or two incidents (taken out of context) where she appeared to be acting a little strangely.  The fact is Paula Abdul has Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), which can cause continuous and often excruciating pain.

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    I researched her situation three years ago when I took Geraldo Rivera to task for insinuating Ms. Abdul was addicted to pain killers.  He questioned the fact that on one occasion she said she does not take pain killers but on another she spoke of medication she takes for RSD.  At that time the medication she was taking was pamidronate, which is not a pain killer but is a bisphosphonate that reduces breakdown of the bones.  At the time it was being studied as a treatment for RSD.  

    As chronic pain patients, we all face the hurt of being misjudged and maligned because people don’t understand our illnesses.  Celebrities with chronic pain illnesses are no exception.  Unfortunately, they have to endure their pain in a very public arena.  

    I’m afraid there will always be people who won’t take the time to learn the truth, who will use innuendo to spread false rumors, and who will make cruel jokes at the expense of others.  Realistically, all we can do is increase our efforts to educate people about chronic pain illnesses.  I hope Paula Abdul has a personal support system that believes in and encourages her.  That’s something we all need.  And that’s something I hope you’re finding here at ChronicPainConnection.


    About RSD:  Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) is a progressive disease of the autonomic nervous system affecting one or more of the extremities.  It usually follows a trauma or other injury.  RSD involves nerves, skin, muscles, blood vessels (causing constriction and pain) as well as bones.

    For more information about RSD/CRPS:
    American RSDHope
    Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association

Published On: April 14, 2008