I started high school on a good note. I managed to soar through my freshman year without being bullied by any upperclassmen and I managed to work my way back to my elementary school standards by getting all A’s on my report card. I felt as if I was on top of the world. Little did I know that my life was getting ready to change.
Toward the end of my freshman year, I began having pain in my right knee. I hadn’t had any recent injuries, so I wasn’t sure why my knee was hurting. As time passed, the pain became more severe. It was a deep burning pain like someone had poured burning coals inside my leg. My entire leg and foot began to swell, turn purple, and cold. My leg and foot also became sensitive to touch. The slightest breeze cause me severe pain. As a teenager, I wondered what was going on with my body. Eventually the pain became bad enough that I couldn’t stand to walk on my right leg and foot and had to start using crutches.
I made an appointment and went to see my primary care doctor. He thought maybe I had done damage when I had fallen and injured my knee a year and a half earlier, so he referred me to an orthopedic. I must admit, the first orthopedic I saw wasn’t my favorite. She congratulated me, called me an old woman, and told me I had arthritis. She wrote orders for physical therapy and sent me on my way. As a fifteen year old, all I knew to do was to trust the doctor’s advice and do what I was told. They have the medical degree, that means they know what they are doing right?
I went to physical therapy as directed. The pain continued to get worse, the swelling became greater, and the leg and foot was staying purple and cold most of the time. I returned to see my primary care doctor. The orthopedic he had previously sent me to see was on vacation, so he sent me to another orthopedic to get his opinion. This orthopedic thought I might have something he called “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy”, so he referred me to a pediatric orthopedic in a larger town a couple of hours from my home. He also recommended my school put me on homebound schooling while the doctors tried to solve the mystery.
I was now a sophomore in high school. I was getting ready to see a third orthopedic and I was still looking for answers. I went to the appointment with the third orthopedic hoping to find answers. She agreed that it appeared to be Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and sent me to a pain clinic.
At my first appointment with the doctors at the pain clinic, they confirmed that I did have Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and began treatment. Some things in life stick with you. Being diagnosed with an incurable chronic pain disorder exactly one month before your sixteenth birthday is not a date you easily forget. The pain clinic treated me with medication, epidurals, nerve blocks, and physical therapy. Two and a half months later, twenty some doctors, a week in the hospital with an epidural catheter, and seven needles into my spinal area later, I wasn’t making much progress. Against their own judgment, the pain clinic agreed to send me to a sports medicine doctor for another opinion.
I saw the sports medicine doctor in December and through examining my knee and having an MRI of the knee, the doctor found I had an enlarged plica. Due to the fact that I had been diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, this doctor was hesitant about doing surgery to correct the problem. In January, I did have surgery to remove the enlarged plica, which had caused a meniscus separation and rubbed a hole in the bone.
I recovered from surgery and went to physical therapy to get off the crutches I had been on for approximately nine months. Everything seemed to be going good and the pain seemed to be gone. I returned to regular school and finished my sophomore year.
I had completed the first half of my high school experience. Things hadn’t gone as I had planned, but I was still fighting to win the game… even if Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy had changed things up a bit.
Graphic from: http://www.mycutegraphics.com/