Brooke Shields broke her femur in January when she fell off a balancing board at her gym. At the time we were at the height of the pandemic and Brooke had to spend a lot of time alone at the hospital relearning how to walk. Then Brooke got a staph infection, complicating her recovery. During a recent event for Marie Claire, Brooke said that she chose not to take painkillers stronger than Tylenol. Brooke did not want to become reliant on opioids. She also wanted to understand and recognize her pain so that she could monitor her injury. Below are a few more highlights from People:
Shields, 55, never took anything stronger than over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol out of concern that she would form a reliance on opioids like OxyContin or Vicodin, she tells PEOPLE.
“I didn’t want to leave the hospital with no pain, get home, and think I was dying, because the pain was excruciating,” she explains after speaking at The Marie Claire Power Trip: Off the Grid event. “I was like, ‘I’d rather have excruciating pain in the hospital.’ ”
Shields also wanted to make sure that over the course of her recovery, she was able to recognize the difference between the pain from her original injury and anything new that could crop up.
“[I wanted to] get used to it and understand what’s pain and what’s further injury, because what happens is when you start to feel pain, you think you’re injured again, but you might not be as injured. You just might be sore or in pain,” she says.
“I wanted to really understand what kind of pain it was, because when you leave, and you go home, and you feel pain, you get really scared,” she adds. “And I wanted to at least go, ‘Oh, I felt that pain before. Okay.’ You don’t feel sort of like a victim to it.”
The mom of two, though, found that it was hard to convince the hospital staff — “I said, ‘What’s the over the counter thing that I can take at the highest dose where it’s safe? And I won’t leave with a prescription.’ And everybody wants to give you Oxy.”
Shields feels as though the reliance on intensive painkillers is “part of the whole epidemic” with opioids that is hurting people all around the country.
She adds, though, that her decision not to take opioids “is not about being a hero.”
When I first saw this headline, I thought it was a humble brag. When I read why Brooke skipped opioids despite being in excruciating pain, it sounded like a very smart move. Since Brooke was relearning how to walk, being able to recognize different pain may have helped her avoid further injury. I believe Brooke when she said that everyone were pushing Oxy on her. I have a high pain threshold, however I know broken bone pain and am not sure how Brooke tolerated that. She must have tapped into a deep reservoir of determination. Being able to state your boundaries with doctors is no easy feat either.
I am so happy that Brooke is still with us. Dealing with a broken and infected femur at a time when you cannot see family must have been difficult for Brooke. Brooke found her strength and was able to make it out on the other side to tell the tale. Hopefully, Brooke’s story will help other women advocate for themselves within the medical system. I also hope these pharmaceutical companies will find a less addictive drug to help people manage pain.
Photos credit: Instar and via Instagram