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When Kara was seven years old, she began to suffer from intense pain. It first started in her right foot, then her left, and moved up to her legs and before too long, her whole body. The debilitating pain started to cripple her from enjoying a regular pre-teen life. She missed days of school, family gatherings, and basically lived in her bedroom. Her struggle was real, but to some of her friends and classmates, it was all in her head. They teased her about it, and even tossed her crutches aside when she was trying to walk with them. Some friendships fell apart when some of her friends thought she was being “flakey” when she wouldn’t go out with them because of her pain. She began to suffer from depression. The pain was so intense, she had suicidal thoughts.
Doctors where she lived in Northwest Territories couldn’t pinpoint the cause of her pain. The family visited a sports clinic in Edmonton that suggested she might have a complex pain condition, then during Internet searches of support groups, her family learned about Dr. Peter Faran, a pain expert at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Through email and phone consultations, Dr. Faran recognized he needed to see Kara. He was caring for her before they even met. The family came to Calgary for a meeting with Dr. Faran along with a psychologist, physiotherapist and others from the Vi Riddell Pain and Rehabilitation Centre. They left feeling there was a team rallying around her, with a plan for her. Kara felt accepted and validated.
Kara was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a chronic pain condition affecting limbs and caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems. At the Alberta Children’s Hospital, she began to learn how to manage her pain. She also began seeing rheumatologist Dr. Miettunen when it was discovered she had another joint inflammation disease Muckle Wells Syndrome. About that same time, Kara was referred to the Vi Riddell Intensive Pain Rehabilitation Program (IPRP), a six-week program of recreation, music and art therapy and psychology appointments. There she developed a support system of therapists, nurses and two friends going through similar journeys.
Thanks to her pain specialists and the IPRP, Kara can cope with her flare ups. She and her family could not be more grateful for the hospital and its generous donors, especially the Riddell family, who through the program have given her hope for a bright future.