I am 29 years old and married to Chad since 1998. We have three kids. Josh is 11, Caitlyn is 7, and Callie is 6.
Since I was 18 yrs old, I worked as a nursing assistant. I started community college in 1996 and went part time while getting my generals finished. In August of 2003, I started my nursing classes. I was supposed to graduate last month and as long as I had passed the boards, I would have been an RN… my dream since I was eight years old and taking care of my grandparents who had been in a severe motorcycle accident… almost losing their lives.
When I was a teenager, I had been taking ice skating lessons—another passion of mine. When I was 15, I fell and hurt my left knee. My parents were poor and had recently gone through a divorce so neither had the money to take me to the doctor. In the following years I had intermittent pain in that knee that would come every couple months, stay for a week, and then it would pass. I assumed that it was arthritis pain. It was never so bad that I couldn’t tolerate it on my own!
In the summer of 2003, my pain once again started. I wasn’t worried about it because it had always passed after a couple days. For some reason, this time it didn’t. After a couple months of worsening pain, I went to my doctor who started me on NSAIDS and pain meds. He also sent me for an MRI and started me on physical therapy. The MRI showed grade 2 chondromalacia and tendonitis. Chrondromalacia is softening of the articular surface, meaning the cartilage. It can cause arthritis like pain but apparently not to the degree that I had!
I had a cortisone injection as well which didn’t help at all. I was in horrendous pain! My knee was swollen, purple, hurt to be touched so much so that even having clothing rub across it was painful. Occasionally my kneecap took a bruised looking appearance that doctors dismissed because they said that was impossible and would mean that I was bleeding under my skin. Then with each passing month of increasing pain, my pain started to spread down to my toes and my foot was getting colder and colder.
After four months of pain meds, my doctors became uncomfortable prescribing and told me that I was a drug addict and needed rehab. They never acknowledged that I was in legitimate pain. I became so frustrated and so hopeless because I knew that something was wrong, but nobody would validate that. I saw ten doctors, three of which were knee specialists in a year’s time and not one of them could tell me what was causing so much pain. In fact, I felt that they didn’t believe that I had any pain at all anymore… they only referred to all the pain meds that I had been taking.
August 23, 2004, my orthopedic doctor performed a lateral release on my left knee as a last ditch effort to fix an invisible problem. I had had so much hope for that surgery, but unfortunately I woke up a month after surgery to the familiar aching and burning that I had felt everyday for the past year. In November, after a doctor called me the Elvis of Pill takers, I begged my ortho to send me to a pain doctor. He reluctantly agreed although he said that he didn’t think that they could help me. Thank God I went because that doctor diagnosed me as having RSD or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.
This disease is the most painful chronic pain illness known to man. It rates a 42 on the McGill Pain Index, making it double cancer pain. There is no cure for RSD, only the possibility of remission if caught within the three to six month magic window. Mine went way past that time because doctors were too busy calling me a drug addict. It has now spread to both of my legs in entirety and I have recently begun having pain in my right arm and shoulder. My only option for pain relief is to have a spinal cord stimulator implanted and I will be having the trial at the end of this month. I will never work again or complete the college degree that I was so close to achieving. I have over $13,000 in student loans and no way to pay for them. I can’t walk long distances and have to ride in a wheelchair.
I can’t sit with my legs down for long as it causes me unbelievable pain and suffering. I spend my days sleeping or sitting in my recliner and my only social life is the one I have online, running my support group. I will be on narcotics for the rest of my life… this is the only way that I can tolerate the severe pain that I am in every minute of every day! My legs are a constant purple and my feet always feel like they are resting on ice blocks. My doc takes the temp in both of my feet and they run anywhere between 84-86 degrees. Quite a bit under the 98.6 normal temp that we all have. For this I wear heating pads wrapped around both my feet. I have to be careful not to burn my feet because the heat feels so good and I have a tendency to leave them on for too long.
Basically life sucks and I struggle the most mentally knowing that my life and all my dreams have been stolen from me! That’s a bitter pill to swallow!
Thank you for listening to my story.