“In 2006, I had a fall at Christmas, which resulted in fracturing my wrist, displacing my collar bone and shoulder blade. Soon after the fall, I showed signs of developing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which is a chronic pain condition which mostly affects one limb, and in my case I was diagnosed with it in my left arm.
“The fall changed my life significantly and I spent nine years grieving for everything I’d lost in that split second. I was a teacher, but I lost my job and haven’t been able to drive since. My husband become my carer, so I felt I had lost him as my husband and I couldn’t hug or hold my grandchildren as I was in excruciating pain all the time. I also suffered from sleep deprivation and also depression and stopped socialising.
“I couldn’t use my left arm at all and I had it in a sling for three years as having CRPS in my arm meant that it became sensitive and a slight touch, bump or even a change in temperature provoked intense pain. I couldn’t tolerate water on my arm, loud noises and people coming close to me as this would increase my pain levels and covered my arm with a compression glove and wore a splint. I couldn’t look at it or touch it, and I wouldn’t let anyone else look or touch it. I felt like my left arm did not belong to me.
“That’s all the negatives and they were all completely turned around following my inpatient stays at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases (RNHRD) in 2016 and 2017 as I learnt how to control my CRPS rather than let it control me.
“At the RNHRD, I had a full assessment by the specialist team and they helped me set realistic goals and concentrated on physical rehabilitation by providing; physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, occupational therapy, psychological support and gave information on my condition.
“Thanks to the Physiotherapists, I haven’t used a crutch or walking stick since. I found hydrotherapy very beneficial, it was relaxing and was able to do exercises in water without pain levels being raised. Plus, I got a real buzz from cardio workouts in their gym and in turn this decreased my pain levels and improved my core strength and balance so I rarely stumble or fall.
“I also learnt how to pace myself and be realistic in what I could achieve. I’m now able to talk more freely to family members and be honest about how I feel and the impact CRPS has on my life.
“Having learnt strategies to cope with CRPS and how to use relaxation techniques, my sleep has improved significantly. I keep a diary of three positives things every day and any negatives I write on a piece of paper then screw it up and put in the bin.
“My life has changed so much this year and I have achieved so many things including; kayaking with my husband, attending ballroom and Latin dance sessions – I never thought this would be possible, plus I can run around the garden with my grandchildren. I’m beginning to enjoy being in the kitchen and doing some baking. I can now swim with my grandchildren, go for long walks both on the beach and along coastal paths. I even enjoy the gym and signed up as a member during my last inpatient stay so I went every day and it felt good!
“I have made the most significant progress this year thanks to the care provided at the RNHRD. I hope my story highlights the importance of therapy services in helping people like me cope with life changing conditions, that’s why I’m supporting The Forever Friends Appeal’s Therapies Matter Campaign.”
Sue shared her story with BBC Wiltshire, to watch the clip, click here