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Gina Scuffins , 2012 Victorian Mother of the Year

Gina suffered a serious spinal cord injury in 2004 which resulted in severe pain and neurological deficit. Despite this she raised five kids alone as a single mother and was named Victoria’s Mother of the Year in 2010.

Gina Scuffins has raised five kids on her own, despite living with High Impact Chronic Pain.

My name is Gina Scuffins.  I have raised five kids as a single mother.  Some I gave birth to, some I fostered and some I adopted, and in 2010 I was named Victorian Mother of the Year. 

In 2002/3 I started experiencing pain under my ribs and other strange symptoms. This went on for over a year despite many doctor visits. Eventually I was experiencing pain so severe I became bedridden and was very close to taking my own life. If I hadn’t had children at that time I most assuredly would have.

To cut a very long and painful story short, a disc had prolapsed in my spine at T8/9 and was compressing my spinal cord causing incredible pain and severe neurological deficits. Finally, after dropping my kids with my mother and promising to be back in an hour, I presented at emergency and then was rushed to Melbourne by ambulance. There I spent one of the worst times of my life waiting while they tried to figure out what to do. Eventually after 2 hospital stays and the absolute worst pain I have ever experienced, I was operated on and had a T8/9 laminectomy by an amazing neurosurgeon who without doubt saved my life.

Despite the worst of the pain being gone, I was left with lingering nerve pain mostly in a band around my chest.

This, I was told, was probably the result of nerve damage and repair is not possible.

At the time I had an excellent GP who spent almost 3 years with me juggling different pain medications until we finally settled on buprenorphine patches and opioid medication.

Additionally, I tried physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments but these were of no help.  I had several nerve blocks to try and relieve the pain, and also tried anti-epileptics, SNRI anti-depressants and then a high dose of oxycontin but the side effects made these treatments untenable.  Eventually my GP prescribed buprenorphine patches (Norspan) with endone for breath through pain.  This combination was very effective and allowed me to continue working, raising my children and running a small farm. 

I managed my pain pretty well but have to say it took several years to get a regimen that worked for me and meant I had some quality of life while still being a good mother and employee.   

Life continued fairly well until recently. I continued to work, study and raise my kids. Pain was always there but in generally manageable levels. I learned to take my meds before my pain became unbearable and modified my life to cope as best I could. Generally, I was pretty happy and managed most daily activities pretty well.

In the past few years however the new regulations around opioid prescribing that came into effect in June 2020 have meant my pain medications have been drastically reduced. This meant I had to learn to manage my life around my much- increased pain. I was forced to reduce my working hours to three days a week, giving me a day on, day off schedule. This gives me a day off to recover from the increased pain caused by working, before going back to work again the next day.

In 2021, as the last of my children grew up and moved out, I took on a fulltime job as a TAFE teacher. I revel in the opportunity to teach the next generation of workers to assist those in our community who are vulnerable and to be non-judgemental and person centred. Working full time has been very hard but I was determined to manage. Using my pain medications in a very careful way I have been able to do this fairly well. I can’t say it has been easy and there have been many times I have struggled but I am determined not to be a drain on society and to contribute to a better world.

Now comes the crunch. In the last 2 months my GP tells me he has been instructed to stop my pain medication. Initially he stated a pain review could happen first but then he decided this didn’t matter and that he had to force me to reduce my meds with the view to removing the opioids all together.

Now I’m heading back to the world of pain I was in. Already I am struggling to get through a day of teaching. It is very hard to concentrate on a class when pain is screaming at you, distracting every part of your being.

I am terrified I will be left with nothing and have to give up everything in life I value. No work, no hobbies, no ability to run my property.

When I asked why this was happening, I was told by the GP he wasn’t sure just that Safe Script said I was at risk of overdose.


I had used the same meds for over 15 years.

I have never taken more meds than prescribed, never doctor shopped, never asked for a early script and never presented as a drug seeker or drug affected.

I have always worked and provided for myself and my family. I have only one question…. Why am I being punished without a genuine reason?

I have five years now until I can retire and the future looks very bleak to me. I can only hope someone will listen and do something to change this crazy system which looks only at strange statistics and not the people it is affecting.

Gina scuffins tiny photo

“I have always fought for independence but I need the strength to manage it!”

gina scuffins

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