On the morning of November 6th, in a suburb just north of Atlanta, GA, the students and teachers of Woodstock Elementary School arrived wearing orange in support of individuals living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/RSD. “It was a sea of orange today,” said Principal Kim Montalbano, who organized the awareness event.
Each November for CRPS/RSD Awareness month, people around the world participate in Color the World Orange, and this year, for the first time, the students and faculty of Woodstock Elementary School joined the cause!
My mother, a long-time teacher at W.E.S. was overwhelmed by the support shown to people living with severe daily pain and families affected by the debilitating neurological disorder, RSD/CRPS. When she arrived to work that morning, my mother was excited that the children in her own classroom would be sporting orange; instead however, she saw orange everywhere she looked! “It was a very emotional moment when I realized the entire school was supporting you today,” she told me that evening with tears in her eyes.
Many of my mother’s colleagues know that I have grown more disabled over the years, however she was encouraged to share my story in more detail on the 6th along with information on the condition that started it all:
I sprained my ankle when I was a healthy, active and focused 22-year-old; Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/RSD began immediately following the injury. The constant pain has spread to other parts of my body over the last 11 years and I now have several other disabling chronic illnesses. They say that RSD/CRPS is the most painful condition- more painful than childbirth or amputation, but people like myself don’t get a break from the pain. I have traveled to see specialists, I have stayed in hospitals like Emory and Mayo among others, I have utilized western medicine, alternative, and holistic type treatments and therapies. Because of the enhanced awareness in recent years, new treatments for RSD/CRPS are being developed so there is always hope for remission! Anyone can contract RSD/CRPS from a minor injury, but research shows taking vitamin C after sprain, fracture or surgery will reduce your chances by helping your nerves heal. It is an extremely difficult condition to manage, but a loving family, faith, online support groups, and doctors who truly care make a world of difference for people like myself.
A few of my mother’s co-workers shared that they struggle with their own chronic pain conditions and felt that no one understood what they lived with on a daily basis. A mother of one of the students wrote a note to my mom saying that she has had CRPS/RSD for years and has always felt very alone in her pain. She was so overwhelmed with the support of the entire school and was extremely grateful it was being recognized so near her home. She thanked my mother specifically for educating her child’s class on RSD and extended a special thank you to Principal Montalbano for organizing such a meaningful awareness event.
Several of the students tried to understand why wearing orange would make a difference. Some were disturbed by the idea of living every day in pain. One student asked my mother, “Can’t your daughter just take medicine to feel better?” Another asked his teacher how his orange t-shirt would help people in pain recover. His teacher explained that it wouldn’t, but for people like my mother and myself, his support would be “a very big deal.” He then felt compelled to run down to my mother’s classroom to show her his orange shirt, and to say, “I hope your daughter feels better soon.”
Because of this incredible awareness event at W.E.S., classes upon classes of children know what RSD is. Their parents, who read the memo and found them something orange to wear that day, are now familiar with the term “RSD”. Faculty who helped explain the illness all day will recognize it whenever they hear the term again. The next time a person they care for is diagnosed, it won’t seem like the most foreign illness on the planet and they will know treatment must be sought out immediately.
When I shared pictures of the children wearing orange to my Facebook timeline, my friends were so touched and inspired by this amazing gift of support. We all feel incredibly uplifted and deeply moved by the entire school of Woodstock Elementary. On behalf of myself, my family, and my extended family of survivors living with indescribable pain, thank you W.E.S. for your support, your kindness, and for raising awareness for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/RSD.