Three years ago, Anika slipped on the sidewalk while playing outside and sprained her ankle. The injury healed up fine, but Anika continued to experience terrible pain. She was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome – a condition in which the nerves still send messages of pain to the brain. She was back to functioning normally after community physio, but she still experienced mild pain on a regular basis. This time last year, Anika was almost completely reliant on crutches and at times crawling to get around and the pain was so overwhelming that it overtook her life. Ravi, her father, brought her to the Emergency Department at the Alberta Children’s Hospital. Anika was referred to the pain clinic here at the hospital and was seen on an outpatient basis over the next six months – coming in for monthly appointments with the doctor and nurse for medication, physiotherapy in the pool once a week, pain counselling every two weeks and family counselling every three weeks.
In October, Anika was enrolled in the Intensive Pain Rehabilitation Program (IPRP) and she came to the hospital every weekday for the next six weeks. Through the program, Anika had access to physio, occupational, recreational, relaxation, art and music therapy, weekly check ins with the doctor and nurse, and psychological counselling. This allowed both her body and mind to learn how to cope with the pain and not let it control her life. The main purpose, says Anika, was not to cure the pain, but for her to understand it and learn to manage it in her day-to-day life. Anika’s family also received counselling as part of the program, which helped them to understand how pain works and how best to support their daughter. There were also weekly meetings with other parents of children in the program, which was extremely helpful as they realized they were not alone in this battle – other families could relate to their struggles.
After the six-week program wrapped up, Anika had gone from relying on her crutches to walking around all on her own, even managing to go up and down staircases unsupported. It gave her a huge sense of independence and control over her life again, and it was amazing to have her struggles not only validated, but understood, she says. Preety, her mother, says after watching her daughter struggle for years, the level of transformation she saw over just six weeks was absolutely remarkable. Since the program ended, Anika has continued working hard on the techniques she learned, and now she is even able to run short distances and has a very positive outlook towards life.