If you read my last post, you will know that I, along side 3 other CRPS sufferers, gave a talk on our experiences living with the condition, during Adelaide’s first Colour The World Orange event on Nov 6, 2017. It was a great event ad by doing this we were able to give the Drs, Researchers and students some insight into living with CPRS.
I decided to participate partly because I felt I needed a challenge because part of having this condition is that it has chipped away at my self-esteem and I felt I needed to push myself somehow to gain some back. I agreed without allowing myself to think about the fact that I would be standing in front of people who knew a lot more about the condition than I do. Add to that my speech became a big issue in the week leading up to the event. Damn you CRPS!!!!!!!
In the end I was so glad I was there and gave my speech. I started out so nervous that I stumbled through the first paragraph and then after that I was fine. After I felt I could do anything, but really what I wanted to do was do it over so I could do a better job of it. lol.
So here is my speech..
Hello, My name is Sarah and I have suffered from CRPS for around 5 years. My CRPS was triggered by a burn incident that left me with second degree burns to my left arm, hand, shoulder and the left side of my face. I was at my parent’s place where my Dad had a fire burning for doing a pre-summer clean up. I didn’t realise that a can of spray paint had accidentally been put into a box of documents that I had the bright idea of throwing onto a fire to get rid of. Unfortunately the care I received at our local Hospital was far from adequate and It was four days before I was sent to the burn unit at the old RAH and by then infection had set in and I was in a bad way.
Despite signs that something was wrong, it was 4 months before my first pain flare, Suddenly my left hand and arm were swollen, stiffening and loosing movement. I had electric like pain shooting up my arm and down my fingers, as well as a crushing pain in my joints and bones. It was during this time that I started researching online and discovered CRPS as a rare complication of burns. I was diagnosed with CRPS the day before my 30th B’day after I took my findings to my GP.
After my diagnosis the condition took off quickly and within 5 months it had spread into both my legs, and soon after to most of my body from the neck down. My list of other symptoms is pretty long ranging and changes from day to day. These include insomnia, fatigue, forgetfulness, and speech, vision, hearing and motor issues.
Finding other sufferers online and in person locally here in South Australia has also helped me with support and advice that has been invaluable. Alone this is a very isolating condition. Through joining Facebook groups for CRPS, I was able to meet other sufferers in person here in Adelaide and we now have our own group with over 50 statewide sufferers. That’s CRPS South Australia if anyone is interested.
Another turning point was coming under the care of the Royal Adelaide’s Pain Unit. At that point, I was losing strength in my legs, my flares left me bed ridden and I was a general mess. At the pain unit, I soon started having Ketamine infusions for 3 days every 3 months and although the first time the relief was delayed and short lasting, it did quieten down my other symptoms. A friend with CRPS had advised me that it might be this way and to not feel disheartened if change wasn’t immediate. By my third round was having lasting effects and slowly with each infusion I have gotten more control over my condition. Aside from Ketamine, I treat my condition with Lyrica and Tramadol on a daily basis.
I have also found that gentle daily exercise helps keep my pain and symptoms in check. I walk, use a stationary bike and do a mix of small weights, yoga and Pilates. This year I also started riding a bike, something I previously couldn’t do.
I am also a big fan of adding Magnesium to my bath about once a week. I find it relaxes my muscles and helps calms my pain to a level I can deal with, especially when I have over exerted myself.
There are things that I have found hard about having this condition. Initially it was hard explaining my situation and seeing the look of doubt or confusion in people I care about, Sadly I also found myself with only a few friends left.
Now after 5 years of CRPS, for me the fatigue that comes with my CRPS is the most debilitating part. I am now working a few hours a week, and to do that I need to plan my week around the rest I need before and after each work day.
Health wise, I have been diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes, an underactive thyroid and high cholesterol since my crps diagnosis.
Mentally the condition has been a struggle with periods of anxiety and depression, I have mourned over the life I have lost and struggled with losing my independence. For a long time I wondered if there was point to life with this horrible condition, especially if it stopped me from living a meaningful life. But in a lot of ways I have also been very lucky.
Despite the negatives of having this condition, there are positives. Including the fact that I have responded so well to the treatments I have tried, the friendships I have made through this condition and the progress I have made in the past 5 years.
I have benefited from a positive living environment at my parents’ house, in the country where It is quiet; I have my cat and my dog for company and my two horses who get me out of the house each day. I have a veggie garden to potter about in on good days. Plus I am close to the beach.
Having a positive attitude is also essential for getting through this condition
I try to treat the 3 days of my Ketamine infusions as a little holiday from my CRPS where I can rest and catch up on my sleep, as well as being looked after by the wonderful staff at the pain unit. I have also had the opportunity to speak to student doctors touring the ward about my CRPS
Having a team of Doctors, specialists and practitioners who support me is essential to my care and initially that wasn’t easy. I now drive 100km to a GP because I wasn’t the help I needed in my home town because they did not understand the condition. That is why I feel events like tonight are so important.
Thank you all for listening to my story and for educating yourself about CRPS. Good night.