When I was 16 I was diagnosed with a rare nerve disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and my life was never the same.
I began dancing at the age of 3. Dance was the only constant in my life, it was my outlet, my passion, and quite frankly my world. My dream was to become a famous broadway dancer and live out my New York City dreams! Everything shattered around me when I fractured my wrist at dance one day. I had broken my toes before so I knew what a broken bone felt like. Something about this was different. Something about this left me with a sinking feeling in my stomach.
Over time this fracture triggered an inappropriate nerve response in my arm. I began to process any kind of stimulation as unsurmountable pain. The soft cast that was protecting my fracture made me feel like I had third degree burns, the wind felt like a knife slicing off my fingers, and the center of my wrist felt the pressure of an enormous elephant stomping on it. After a few trips to the emergency room I was finally properly diagnosed with CRPS and immediately hospitalized for pain management. This disease wasn’t life threatening, which I am eternally grateful for. However, it was earth-shaking and life-altering to my 16 year old high school self.
I found myself in a wheelchair, unable to walk, unable to use my right arm at all, and worst of all, unable to dance. I was soon transferred to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital where I met Dr. Elliot Krane. Dr. Krane said I was the worst case of CRPS that he had ever seen. He created a pain rehabilitation program centered around my case, a program that to this day is treating children like me. Through intense physical, occupational, and neurocognitive rehabilitation, we were able to retrain my nerve cells to stop processing stimuli incorrectly. This was the hardest part of my life to date. The pain was unimaginable and the only treatment was to move my arm more, use it more, and touch it more. This unleashed cognitive strength that I didn’t know I had. I was hospitalized for a year and finished my senior year of high school through the hospital school. This was easily the lowest point in my life but what it gave me is my calling.
It was through this experience that I was called to nursing. I didn’t understand the dynamics within the hospital until I was lying in the bed. I will never forget the nurses who gave me a pedicure during the night of my homecoming or the nurses who fought to let me go to my prom. This experience also made me realize how imperative pediatric healthcare access is. If I didn’t have access to healthcare, I would probably be completely debilitated right now.
I like to think my past makes me a strong nurse today. Every shift, my heart is dedicated to my patient and their family. I will do whatever it takes to make them feel better. You can find me shamelessly dancing and singing to my babies. However, I don’t want to limit myself to just the bedside! This is why I am so passionate about medical mission work and expanding pediatric healthcare access. I once had dedicated nurses that changed my life, now it is my mission to do the same for pediatric patients everywhere.
For more information on my condition I have linked Dr. Elliot Krane’s TED Talk on my case below.