Kelly, an Irish surname means “warrior or fighter”
This seems fitting as I have taken on an invisible war in my body called CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) or RSD (Regional Sympathetic Dystrophy).
Growing up in rural Virginia, I was always active. Equestrian on the hunter jumper show circuit, backpacking, snowboarding, skiing, spelunking, running, biking, swimming, water skiing and an all around adventure junkie.
I never liked traditional rules of society so after graduate school and working as a Clinical Social Worker in a children’s psychiatric hospital, I decided to take on a new adventure: Moving to the beautiful island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands.
The island held even more adventures as I traveled and learned to scuba dive, sail, kiteboard and surf. I even signed up to work a summer at an island adventure camp in 2011. And then it happened. I got injured hiking on the east end of the island.
Little did I know that this sprain would cause me a lifetime of pain and misery.
“Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, CRPS, formerly known as RSD Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, is a progressive disease of the Autonomic Nervous System, and more specifically, the Sympathetic Nervous System. The pain is characterized as constant, extremely intense, and out of proportion to the original injury. The pain is typically accompanied by swelling, skin changes, extreme sensitivity, and can often be debilitating. It usually affects one or more of the four limbs but can occur in any part of the body and in over 70% of the victims it spreads to additional areas.” (www.rsdhope.org)
In a nutshell, once your body has physically healed, the nerves continue to send signals to the brain that the injured body part is in extreme pain (rated as the most painful disease and on the McGill Pain scale it is higher than natural child birth and amputation). For 4 years I did not know what was wrong with me and I was misdiagnosed due to the rarity of the disease. READ MY STORY HERE.
For numerous reasons, I moved back to my roots in Virginia, fell in love and continued to work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Every day I fight to put one foot in front of the other (literally).
Every day I fight through burning pain with a smile on my face.
My CRPS has spread to both feet and to my mouth, causing extreme dental issues. Behind my blue eyes, there is a river of tears waiting to be released at the end of the day but very few people see this.
I fight. I fight because I am terrified if I quit that I won’t get up again. I fight because I can’t imagine a life that I am confined to a wheelchair. I fight because there are also others who are fighting their own battles that are greater than my own. And lastly I fight because my sole purpose in life is to help others. To advocate, to give others a voice and help them overcome adversity, trauma and chronic pain and illness.