WASHINGTON – Making a career out of pratfalls eventually took a toll on Jerry Lewis (search).
The entertainer said Sunday on ABC's "This Week" that he spent 37 years in constant pain as a result of his trademark physical comedy, which led to an addiction to pills.
"In 1965, they gave me one Percodan (search) that took me through the day. And by '78, I was taking 13 a day, 15 a day. The addiction is devastating, because you're not even clear anymore why you're taking it. I had already discussed a variety of options, one of which was to kill myself," he said.
"Chronic pain is not like any other malady — it is consistent, it is laborious, it is constant. It doesn't leave you alone. It is the number one reason that we have suicides in this country today," he said.
Relief came in 2002 with neurostimulation, which delivers precisely controlled, low-voltage electrical stimulation to the spinal cord. The stimulation blocks pain messages from reaching the brain. Instead of pain, Lewis feels a "tingling" sensation.
"I have a battery under my skin," Lewis, 79, demonstrated. "This is the programmer. So, I pressed this on button here, as I do now. Did you hear that? A little ping. And I'm stimulating, and I don't have any pain. It also opens my garage door."