Help Spread Awareness of RSD/CRPS This November


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    Imagine that one moment you are walking around, sipping lemonade at a Summer arts festival and the next you are admitted into a hospital after a man ran through a red light.  You awaken after a catastrophic motor vehicle accident feeling incoherent and in a lot of pain.  That was what happened to me in 2002.  I endured 3 years of brain injury rehabilitation, 8 years of Physical therapy, speech therapy and 8 surgeries. But this story is not about those days, it is about later getting diagnosed with RSD/CRPS.

     I went in for surgery on my right foot, in April of  2007.  Six weeks later I had my post-op check up. I knew something was wrong, before I arrived at my appointment.  I was in more pain and it felt as though my foot was “on fire” and had “exploded” on the inside.  I was told by the surgeon that day, that I “had a little RSD” and I was given Lyrica.  I could not take the Lyrica, as it made me very ill.  After researching “RSD” online, what I read sounded horrific!  I decided to get a second opinion. After visiting an Orthopedic foot/ankle specialist, I was told that I had “Classic RSD” and he sent me to a Pain Management clinic.  I did not go because I’d recently been through all of the “hoops” of the pain clinic, following the car accident.  I wasn’t a candidate for a pain pump or a spinal cord stimulator and so I was sent back to my primary care physician.  The pain Dr. had told me that “they are looked at under a microscope by the government”, therefore I had to have my primary Dr. do the prescribing.  I ended up getting medications to try and help with the pain.  I tried to finish up the PT but any touching of that foot was unbearable.

     I was getting by, just trying to live day to day. Then in 2013, what was supposed to be a pacemaker replacement surgery turned into a total pectoral muscle rebuild and more. I was diagnosed with “severe systemic/full-body CRPS. I am very lucky to have a Neuro-Cardiologist who’s done research on RSD/CRPS. He tried to head off the full blown systemic CRPS by taking several precautions. Unfortunately, it did not work for me.  Now I’ve explained how I got the CRPS but I’ve not told you about the depth of pain people endure when living with this Neuro- Inflammatory Autoimmune illness that is #43 on the McGill Pain scale.  The copyrighted flame CRPS awareness ribbon is a perfect example of what it feels like. Personally, it is as though the entire left side of my body, inside and out; is on fire.  It feels like a deep burning fire within and yet I feel and icy coldness as well. My knees, feet, hands and chest feel as though they might explode at any given time. This is only one of 8 or 9 high pain chronic illnesses that I live with. I think it is the illness with the worst kind of pain.

     November is the month dedicated to Awareness of RSD/CRPS, also known as “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy” and “Complex Regional Pain Syndrome”. Health advocates and patients join with non profits, such as RSDSA (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association); and we spread awareness. This is a complex and somewhat rare high pain illness. It is classified as a rare disorder by NORD (National Organization of Rare Disorders) and the FDA, but about 200,000 people are diagnosed annually.  According to the RSDSA website, “CRPS occurs when the nervous system and the immune system malfunction as they respond to tissue damage from trauma. The nerves misfire, sending constant pain signals to the brain.”  Usually it follows a surgery, a period of immobilization after a musculoskeletal trauma or some kind of injury to the nerves.  It steals the very life out of so many people who are unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with it. Early diagnosis is the key to some instances of remission. Sometimes it takes years to even get a true diagnosis, due to the fact that many physicians don’t even know anything about it.  But there are some people who can help.  RSDSA  is a 501(c)3 non profit organization based in Connecticut and was founded in 1984.  I’ve come to know and love, the Vice President/director, Jim Broatch, MSW.  Annually, during the month of November, we have quite a campaign going. RSDSA is always there to “provide support, education and hope to all affected by the pain and disability of RSD/CRPS”. They are always striving to do more research and develop better treatments.

     Some of the events that I have going for this month, include a campaign that I call “#wearthemsharethem for RSD/CRPS”. You see, when the former RSDHope.org closed their doors in June 2016; there were many treasures “gifted” to me by my “adopted” family, the Orsini’s. I was given a number of temporary tattoos with the copyrighted CRPS flame awareness ribbon on them. I have put those to good use 2 years in a row, now. I ask people to just send in a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). I return their envelope with several of the temporary tattoos inside.  I only ask for them to send me a photo of themselves or someone they love, wearing one of the tattoo’s, so I can post it to my Website  “RASEforCRPS” (R.A.S.E. represents: Research, Awareness, Support & Educate). I use the hashtag #wearthemsharethem and we post to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, in order to raise awareness. Also I have gotten a proclamation from the Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder every year since 2013. The proclamation declares that in the state of Michigan, we recognize November as the month dedicated to the Awareness and support of RSD/CRPS. Then there are 3 fundraisers that I have going on this month:  a Facebook fundraiser lasting all month, a LuLaRoe Album sale on Thursday, November 16th through Friday, November 17th for 24 hours, and a Pizzeria fundraiser and Awareness event on Thursday, November 30th from 5:00pm until 8:30pm. One more activity for Awareness and education that I did last year and am doing again this year is the “#30factsfor30days of November”.  I post a daily fact about RSD/CRPS on each social media site.  All facts are taken from the RSDSA website, with their permission of course. 

     Aside from what I am doing, which also includes writing, posting, blogging and sharing; RSDSA has many events taking place during the month of November also.  They have an “event Calendar” on the website, but just to name a few:  there is the 4th annual Central New Jersey RSD/CRPS Walk for Hope, Saturday, November 4, 2017, the 5th annual Fight the Flame 5K, in Charlotte, NC, on Sunday, November 5th, 2017, the Fight the Flame 5k, Mentor, Ohio, Sunday, November 5, 2017, CRPS Meet-up and Scavenger hunt by CRPS Forum, Los Angeles, CA Monday, November 6, 2017, Charity Ride for CRPS, New York City, Saturday, November 11, 2017, and Color the World Orange, World Wide, Monday, November 6, 2017.

   Please help us share this information and raise awareness and support for this painful illness. The RSD/CRPS community truly comes together at all times, but mostly during this special month.  We are not ones to sit in the side lines. This community comes together and creates a beautiful month of togetherness, awareness, support and raising money for the much needed research.  The monies raised, also helps RSDSA provide patient assistance.  One of the funds that helps RSDSA assist CRPS patients is the “Maria Lane Fund” and another is the Brad Jenkins memorial Fund.  You can find out about these assistance programs at the RSDSA website as well. There is also an RSDSA informational YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/RSDSAofAmerica. The other part of RSDSA’s mission, is to fund research. They have funded more than $3 million dollars in pilot studies and pain fellowships.

     Lastly, I want to personally thank Jim Broatch and RSDSA for the letter that they sent out on October 9, 2017.  I was touched and I stand along side of many other RSD/CRPS patients/advocates. This letter that was emailed to it’s members, states that they “Oppose Cigna’s decision to Not Cover the cost of OxyContin in 2018” and they wrote also “We will continue to stand with our community during the War on “People in Pain”. Thank you to all who are doing their part to spread awareness and try to educate the medical professionals and the public regarding this illness.

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Tears Of Truth…..My Story..


pie chart of causes of traumatic brain injury
pie chart of causes of traumatic brain injury (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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      I am an Interpreter for the Deaf, that’s what I went to a 4 year university to become!  I worked at the University of  Michigan hospitals as a secretarial “float”.  I  was paged whenever a Deaf person came into the clinics, hospital or E.R. and  I  would go to them to aid communication between the Doctor and patient.  

    Then in 1998 my *(see below)*abusive family got worse when I confronted them!  Depression and anxiety set in, although,  I finally felt safe with my new husband.   I started having Flashbacks and nightmares.  I  was granted  SSDI for CKDII,& PTSD (Chronic Kidney Disease stage II and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  I was going to try and go back to work in Fall of 2002, but that plan changed abruptly on Aug 11th, 2002.   A man arguing with his wife, ran through a red light and totaled our van and  my body!   I suffered:  an MTBI *(mild traumatic brain injury) & 3 yrs of TBI *(traumatic brain injury) rehabilitation.  I was horribly injured and in so much pain!  I had been knocked unconscious for about 20-30 minutes.  I was hurt in so many places and weighing only 90 lbs didn’t help me at all!  Both of my knees and both of my shoulders were torn.   My right  biceps tendon tore right off of the bone on my  right side. My right ankle and my right foot were injured.  My ears suffered nerve hearing loss (*I now have 2 hearing aids) and my eyes suffered some nerve damage as well.  Many lower back & neck disks were/are herniated, ruptured and bulging.  As time went on I ended up with two frozen shoulders.  I went through 8 yrs of Physical therapy, 3 yrs of  TBI rehab, and underwent 9 surgeries; including  2 screws in my left shoulder and an intramuscular pacemaker, twice in 10 years now.  My first one was placed inside of my pectoral muscle because of its vulnerability inside of my chest at such a low weight.  But 10 yrs later they did plastic surgery to rebuild my pectoral muscle because the pacemaker had worn right through the muscle wall!   

   Sadly, in 2004, my 18 yr old daughter left home because of reasons I won’t write here. My heart was literally broken! I had a heart attack one week after Mother’s Day, in 2005.  The cardiologist said that I was “his first case of “Broken Heart Syndrome“…my daughters were my life and I raised them 98% on my own! I had left my ex-husband, the father of my two girls, after an 8 year abusive marriage, in which he also cheated on me  several times.  He was an abusive Sheriff’s Deputy who was fired for “hurting another girl besides me!” He was given a jury trial and found “Guilty” of “Obscene conduct” and “Indecent exposure” (which were truly lesser charges than what actually happened!) . His punishment ended up being that he can never be in law enforcement again.  He also couldn’t see our two daughters, then 31/2 & 6 years old, without a supervisor approved by the court. He was abusive towards me and to our Rottweiler, ‘Bully boy”. He pushed down our then 3 year old little girl, because she “wasn’t hurrying fast enough”.  He pounded my oldest daughter on the top of her head when she was in tears over him kicking our family dog in the head and neck, as she cried “daddy don’t hurt Bully Boy”! While hitting her on top of her head, he said “I’m the dad and I can do whatever I want”!! He left his service revolver out on top of the window sill and on the back of the toilet seat! When my youngest was 2 years old, she brought it to me saying “Mommy, what is this for?” Needless to say, they took his guns away from him and he was punished after that incident and then swearing to “shoot all of us and himself!” There’s so much more…too much to write here except for one thing that sticks out in my mind so sharply.  During the time when my ex-husband could still see our girls, before he was convicted and found “Guilty” and only allowed supervised visitation; he had taken them for the weekend. They came home and told me that “daddy had a girl in his bed”. They told me that my youngest who was then 3 years old, had vomited in the bed that they shared in the apartment he lived in, that was attached to his parents house. Our oldest, who was just 5 1/2 yrs old, went upstairs crying to him and knocking on his bedroom door. She was crying and saying that her little sister had thrown up in their bed. He told her to “shut up and leave him alone”!  She was 5 years old and had to try to take care of her sick 3-year-old sister, while trying to clean up vomit on her sister and the bed !  Needless to say, that was their last visit with him unsupervised. We had to go to the Domestic violence shelter and we had interviews with Child and Family Services. They sided with me and recommended “supervised visitation and anger management classes”.  The judge agreed with their recommendation. He was embarrassed and angry, therefore he moved 1,000 miles away barely ever seeing his daughters. He was angry and wanted “revenge” on me for “taking away his kids”.  I did not do that though;  he did it to himself and then the judge ordered it!

Atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  I was never ordered to do anything but I still sent him photos, invited him to public school and other events in their lives and his parents as well. I took the girls to visit his parents who lived about an hour from us, here in Michigan at least once every month and each Christmas day they went to see them from noon until 7:00pm! I even drove them to and from their home which was an hours drive from our apartment.

   Later,  in 2006, after my  heart attack, I acquired “Atrial Fibrillation” *(Atrial fibrillation is when the heart muscle quivers and shakes, spitting out little blood balls or clots which can cause strokes) and therefore ended up suffering  a CVA *(cerebellar Vascular accident) or “stroke” from the A-Fib! I had already been on blood thinners but apparently I needed a bigger dose!     It’s been since 2004, & my oldest daughter has never wanted to see me or speak to me.  In 2007, I texted her and said “I Love you and I’m thinking about you.” She called me back and asked me to meet her and we did. We met twice and had lunch, but it did not work out very well. Another time she texted my cell phone and it was 2008 or so….she texted “Suzanne, why do you think people care about you?  THEY DON’T!!”….I fell apart once again.      

    I recently had my 9th surgery this year in February 2013….a new pacemaker and a rebuild of my Pectoral muscle!  Then on August,the 5th, 2013, I’ll be having my 10th surgery, oral surgery!  I found out that my oldest daughter got married in Oct, 2009 and to the same boy she wanted to sleepover night with while still in High school.   That was the episode that led up to her leaving home, because I said “No” (that she could not have my permission to sleep over at a boy’s house while still in High School)! I also found out that I  am a Grandmother to a little girl born in Nov -2012! Her name is Olivia, and as of this month (July 2013), she is now almost 7 months old. Again….still…I am heart-broken!  All that I’ve ever wanted is to be a Momma & a Grandmother!  I was/am a good mom..my ex-husband ran away “to find himself” !  But I’m the one who stayed and raised our daughters alone.

    I’ve lost so much…but I thank God every day for what I do have : my youngest daughter, now 241/2 & living in her own appt. since August 2012!!! She graduated last Summer (’12),with her Master’s degree in”Library & Information Sciences”.  She has her own apartment. She also has a wonderful Academic Librarian job with a tenure track etc. I have had the most wonderful husband, for the past 16 years! He’s the love of my life and my soul-mate!!  He has been an elementary school teacher for 35 years and he is the best teacher and the best husband ever!

    This is my story..PTSD that continues and never seems to end because my father and brothers  still treat me in an abusive manner.   Add that  I’m in chronic intractable pain 24/7 since that MVA in 2002!  I acquired “full body” RSD/CRPS  a painful progressive Neuro-autoimmune disease, which causes burning nerve pain similar to the feeling of being “on fire”!  I have OA and 2 Rheumatologist’s have said that I have RA  *(one of them gave me an injection kit for “Humira” and wanted me to start taking injections.  Luckily I didn’t ever start taking them because I found out that I have an IGA deficiency and that RSD/CRPS is an autoimmune disease, therefore that medication could have made me much worse off!), but my PCP and I aren’t quite sure, or really don’t think so at this point! I have Myofascial Pain syndrome, Fibromyalgia (which I’ve denied for several years, but am finally coming to terms with it).  I have Dysautonomia which is  my Autonomic nervous system dysfunction or failure.  It means that all of those body systems and things that our bodies do without thinking about it, don’t work for me.  This includes: body temperature, respiration, blood pressure, digestion, sleep disturbances, memory problems, heart arrythmia’s and more.  My brain stopped telling my heart what to do, which is part of it also and one of the reasons for me needing a pacemaker!  I also suffer from POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and NCS (Neuro-Cardiogenic Syncope), CKDII (chronic kidney disease stage II, due to tubular interstitial nephritis), Hypogammaglobulinemia ( an Immune deficiency), Sick Sinus Syndrome, Coronary Spasms, Atrial Fibrillation, MVP, TVP, (Mitral valve prolapse /tricuspid valve prolapse), Chondromalacia Patella and Patella Femoral pain syndrome, Asthma and  other diagnosis’ but just too much to keep writing for now.  

   All I pray for daily is that my oldest daughter will come back to me and to us.  I pray that one day I will get to hold and see my granddaughter, because I already love her! I am blessed with a wonderful and loving husband. Also, I have God who is my Lord and Savior and it’s because of his love that I can never give up.

**(from above…In another post, I will explain more about my life and growing up in an abusive and highly Narcissistic/abusive home, where I was starved, poisoned, weighed weekly and given punishment/reward dependent upon my weight.  I was also abused in just about every possible way by almost  everyone who was supposed to love me; and those who I was supposed to be able to trust!)

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