How I've Been Able to Share My Skills Despite Struggling With CRPS


Working with CRPS is a tussle between my goals and deadlines and what my body will allow me to accomplish each day. Every morning I assess myself and discuss with my business partner, who fortunately is my mum, what I can get done and we reprioritize the day’s or week’s activities.

This is a vast improvement from where I was when my journey with CRPS began in 2008. I experienced incredible pain in my wrist and it was interfering with my ability to use my right arm. I went to the GP who asked me to see an orthopedic surgeon who diagnosed ganglions. I was operated on to remove them, only to have the pain increase post-op. I was referred to a hand specialist in Johannesburg, who after a number of tests, scans and shots of cortisone, operated on me, removing 3 cm. of inflammation and prescribed six months of rest and rehab. I was on a cocktail of potent anti-inflammatories and painkillers, none of which made an iota of difference. My occupational therapist and physiotherapist worked tirelessly to regain my movement and try and relieve my pain.

Two years in I was in excruciating pain. I spent most days in bed or on the couch crying and was physically a wreck. I had managed to complete my degree by doing my exams orally as I could no longer write. I couldn’t do any of my hobbies aside from spending time with Texie, because my horse is so amazing and doesn’t need a rope or saddle to respond. I did my best to work but it was a disaster.

By divine intervention, an associate referred us to a neurologist who took the time to understand my pain and booked me into the hospital for two days of extensive testing. On the evening of the second night, a specialist physician/rheumatologist came in and diagnosed me with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as RSDS.

CRPS is defined by the RSDSA as “a chronic neuro-inflammatory disorder… CRPS occurs when the nervous system and the immune system malfunction as they respond to tissue damage from trauma. The nerves misfire, sending constant pain signals to the brain. The level of pain is measured as one of the most severe on the McGill University Pain Scale. CRPS generally follows a musculoskeletal injury, a nerve injury, surgery or immobilization. The persistent pain and disability associated with CRPS/RSD require coordinated, interdisciplinary, patient-centered care to achieve pain reduction/cessation and better function.” I am a living testimony to this, and, through a multifaceted approach, I am back to working in marketing and enjoying life.

Recently, as social media has come to the fore, I have engaged with it and created campaigns for our brands on it with success and it has led to others in my community asking for help with their social media. They want to be able to do it for themselves and so are looking for training. CRPS doesn’t take kindly to dates and times and the idea of 20 people relying on me for several hours is stressful! Thank goodness for technology; the online learning platforms appear to be the best of both! Udemy, Skillshare and the like allow those with the desire to teach to reach out to those with the problems without leaving home!

So, I began a two-month journey of learning how to lead an online class, how to film it, edit and resource it. Wow! Firstly, I have a new level of respect for teachers – they are amazing people! Secondly, it was a lot harder than I anticipated but also a lot more fun. Thirdly, I cannot tell you the sense of accomplishment I have now that my course is online. The best part was I could fit this around my good and bad days, no pressure, and it will be a passive stream of income! If you are someone with a limitation like CRPS but have knowledge to share, I encourage you to do it! Let the world see the uniquely beautiful you!

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Thinkstock photo via Merlas.

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