What I've Learned About Pursuing Purpose Living With Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

It was just another afternoon in the hospital. I was awaiting a nasojejunal (NJ) tube placement because my medical conditions had dropped my weight to dangerously low levels. Knock knock.

“Come in!” I replied. I had just finished a lap speeding around the floor in my wheelchair with physical therapy, and I was looking forward to an opportunity to relax before my procedure. A short, middle-aged woman stepped into the room and after exchanging greetings, I found out she was a social worker just making rounds to see if I needed anything. I told her I was doing well and a little about how I had gotten my complex regional pain syndrome (and other conditions), which was a part of the reason I had ended up in the hospital. This led to a conversation about how I was a student at the University of Pittsburgh, had initially entered as a neuroscience major on the pre-medicine track but changed my major to Emergency Medicine, and how life’s circumstances had again forced me to change my major to Communication Rhetoric. I’d realized I had the brains to do anything I set my mind to, but my body would not be able to handle the demands of medical school.

I explained that medicine was such an important part of my life. I’ve been an EMT since the age of 16, served as a ski patroller and dealt with life-or-death situations on the slopes. I know the demands of saving the life of a child about to drown in a wave pool. I explained how I hoped to get a certificate in National Preparedness and Emergency Management. Medicine would always be a part of my life.

At this point, she started to cry. She said my parents must be so very proud of me and my ability to rise above the adversity. The social worker expressed that she was impressed with the spirit and determination of a child who was forced to grow up so fast and never had an easy path. She told me that is what makes me strong beyond measure.

She explained that she was going through a rough patch in her life and often told her daughter about unique cases she’d had throughout the day without divulging personal information. She asked if she could tell her daughter about me, to which I responded, “Absolutely!” I even gave her the link to a video I had made and posted on YouTube for her and her daughter to watch.

She felt that my story would serve as a beautiful reminder to her and her 9-year-old girl, that if the first path didn’t work, find an alternative route because there is always another way. A new fire was ignited inside her to make things better for her and her daughter. I told her to hold something close to her heart, a reason to fight. Once you have a reason, don’t take your eye off the prize.

Maybe medical school won’t work out for me, but I will be right where I should be in life at the perfect time. In every moment, we have a purpose. It isn’t always obvious, but in that 30 minutes, I was meant to be lying in that hospital bed with the courage to open up to and comfort a woman who needed a little extra boost that day.

Follow this journey on The CRPS Ninja Chronicles.

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