Most mornings mom and I go for a walk (well, “roll” for me) around the parking garage that is part of our building. If we go early enough, before it is deathly hot out, you get a great breeze and awesome views of the mountain. It’s great exercise (for mom) and I take pictures of all of the cool different license plates I come across (there are so many in Mexico!)
On one of our walks a few weeks ago we had a little mishap. The short version of the story is while being pushed in my wheelchair I was accidentally pushed into a wall. The long story isn’t much more interesting, so I’ll leave it at that. I hit my left foot pretty hard. We quickly came back upstairs and got me into bed with pillows under my foot, but within 2 hours it was very swollen, throbbing, and already bruising because I am on blood thinners. Not good! ...time to call Dr. Cantu.
He answered. “Bueno!”
“Um…Hi…Dr. Cantu?... I think Jess broke her foot.”
This poor doctor. I could almost hear his eyes bulging out of his head. Yet, he never loses his cool, ever. We love that about him.
He came over later and checked it out. He said because of the osteoporosis I have and how weak my bones are from being in a bed for years, it possibly was fractured…but even if I had an Xray and it was, he wouldn’t want to cast it because immobilization is one of the worst things you can do with RSD.
He gave me some extra medication to take for the pain and swelling and said we’d keep a close eye on it.
Unfortunately over the next week it was very obvious this was not healing the right way.
The left foot was still bruised, swollen and stiff, but that was to be expected… seeing as how the left foot was actually injured. What was more concerning was what started happening to my right foot.
In just 4 days, the right had become even more swollen and discolored than the left and I was having increased pain and uncomfortable sensations (like prickling running water.) By looking at my feet, you’d never be able to guess which foot was actually banged into the wall! So weird!
RSD is truly so bizarre. It’s hard to understand and even harder to explain. But I’ll try.
The best explanation I have heard for this is to try and imagine that your nerves are streams that carry information into little pools that form your brain. When you hurt your foot, the pain signals run along the stream that will get them to the pool the fastest- to alert you and protect you. For example, if you're stepping on something hot, your brain sends the signal to retract it ASAP.
Perceiving and interpreting pain is one of the brain’s highest functions.
As far as the brain is concerned, more pain=more damage. More damage=threat to survival. Sounds good. Having this built in ‘alarm system’ is a wonderful thing… until it malfunctions, as it does in RSD.
The brain can’t tell the difference between a malfunctioning nervous system and a healthy one… it just knows the signals it is being sent and the more signals that travel along these streams, the wider and deeper they become.
Now, picture the little pool in your brain that is responsible for perceiving pain in your left foot… and then right next to it is another little pool that is responsible for your right.
When the brain is flooded by a strong acute pain signal, the small pools overflow into each other, their water gets all mixed up. The brain becomes confused and isn’t sure where the pain it is feeling is coming from! Is it the leg, or the hand?… the left, or the right?
So it might start to interpret it as both.
Merging pools activate different pain streams and flood the brain with further confusion.
The thing about this type of spread is that it is actually taking place in the part of the brain that perceives that body part, rather than the actual body part itself.
So, my left foot was acutely injured, but because my most severe and remaining RSD symptoms have always been on my right side, years of chronic pain have made those streams deep and wide. My brain sent the ‘injured foot’ signal along the path it knew would reach my ‘alert system’ the quickest.
My nervous system was responding as if I had two injured feet- pain, swelling, discoloration and all!
Dr. Cantu was not happy to see this occurring and felt at that point having a series of booster treatments would be the best thing.
The boosters went really well and the swelling in both feet is much less. The purple discoloration in the left foot is almost completely gone and the movement is back to normal. The right foot still has some swelling and odd sensations, but they are less frequent and intense. I have never had boosters after an ‘acute’ injury before now, and the quick transformation is amazing to me. This stuff works!
My mom has felt so bad about this that I felt like even writing about it on here would have been like pouring salt into the wound. I keep telling her it’s not her fault. These things are bound to happen now that I am moving around a lot more, and the beautiful thing is that I am able to move around because I am feeling SO good!!
I’d appreciate prayers that my feet continue to heal in the right direction and that any possible fracture in the left foot will heal completely, on it's own, so that it doesn’t re-trigger this cycle again.
I am thankful for a God who saves, a doctor who cares and a treatment that works for me.
...I know I am blessed.
Thanks as always for your prayers.
In God’s love,
PS- Thanks for your prayers for my friends! Kerri has left the hospital and is on her way back to Pennsylvania! Also, I heard yesterday from Juan Pablo’s mom that he was successfully transferred back onto his own ventilator and remained on it throughout the day! He must continue to maintain stable o2 levels on his own ventilator before he can go home. Today he is that much closer! Continue to keep him in your prayers!
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
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