Changing the Course of My Dreams
By Yvonne Larity
My life is going to be full of adjusting and changing, but I will never let CRPS stop me from living my life.
If we were to meet today, I would appear to be an average teenager. I go out with friends, and participate in school activities and sports. What you may fail to realize is that every day I cope with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). I was diagnosed with CRPS in October of 2005, after a minor sprain to my left ankle.
CRPS is a syndrome that causes extreme pain in a particular body part due to miscommunication of the nervous system. Not only are doctors not sure what causes CRPS, they are also not sure of how to get rid of it. All theycan do is hope to reduce the initial flare-up, then provide you with pain management procedures.
To reduce the initial flare-up I had no choice but to go to physical therapy three days a week for an hour and a half, for four months. I could not even walk because the pain was so excruciating. Unlike a fracture, immobilizing my left ankle would have made this worse. The problem, however was, that the more I moved my ankle the more painful it was. It was like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not only did my physical therapist have to regulate the temperature in my ankle (one of the symptoms of CRPS is a temperature change in the area, and my ankle became ice cold) and desensitize it, he also had to teach me how to walk again.
Walking had never been so difficult before. Due to the CRPS I had no control or support of my ankle. Without the control of my ankle, my foot just flopped around. For the first month I was on crutches and needed a light weight brace to support my ankle during school. When I was home, bound and determined to get off crutches, I would take off the brace and walk while dragging my foot and leaning on whatever furniture was closest to me. After that month I was excited to be using only one crutch and began to perfect a gimpy walk. I was so proud of my gimp that I could not wait to show my physical therapist. After working with this gimp for another month, it happened; I was finally able to walk again! It is so hard to describe the emotions that accompanied this! event b ecause I was still in pain, but happy at the same time.
During this time I had to quit my job and I missed a tremendous amount of school because I never knew how much pain each day would bring. I could not judge whether to push myself through the day in pain or let it rest and hope the next day would be better. In addition there is no set healing time with CRPS, so I could not even focus on a time frame the pain would end. On top of this I was unable to try out for the indoor track team. Missing the entire indoor track season was unbearably devastating to me. I had recently recovered from a broken femur, preventing me from running my whole sophomore year and had been eagerly awaiting to return to my favorite sport. As if that was not bad enough now I was faced with the reality that I may never run again. I had been running since I was 10 years old and track was ME. In fact, my goal one day was to be on the Olympic team. Running released everything on my mind; I was in control and at that moment nothing else mattered. It was just me, the track, and the mindset of pushing myself to my ultimate limit.
CRPS has changed my goals significantly.
I am now faced with the challenge of accepting that this will always be a part of me. Throughout the past year I have discovered an inner strength I never knew I had. This strength and determination is what pushed me to walk when my doctors thought I should still be on crutches. This strength is still with me everyday from the moment I get up as a reminder I can overcome my CRPS. Although I have had to change my activities, I have found I can still be active. I swim a couple days a week to keep my ankle strong without inflicting pain. I also now horseback ride competitively. I can not end this paragraph of my life because it is not yet over and perhaps never will be. All I know at this point is that my life is going to be full of adjusting and changing, but I will never let it stop me from living my life.
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