Monthly Archives: July 2006

Mobile businessman Robert Paulk, injured in Iowa plane crash

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Iowa Plane Crash, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Mobile businessman Robert Paulk, injured in Iowa plane crash

Last Update: 7/20/2006 11:55:55 PM

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(MOBILE, Ala.) July 20 — A Mobile businessman is one of those injured in a small plane crash that killed two pilots and injured another passenger. The plane went down in a northeastern Iowa cornfield near the Cresco Airport, just south of the Minnesota border Wednesday around 11:10 a.m. Robert Paulk, president of Paulk Moving and Storage in Mobile, is listed in critical condition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The Howard County Sheriff’s Office said pilots Clyde Lewis and William Eisner, both of Jackson, Miss., were killed. The other passenger, Johnny Fayard, 51, the owner of John Fayard Moving and Warehousing in Gulfport, MS still is unconscious but is in stable condition at Gunderson Lutheran Hospital in La Cross, Wis.

Federal officials were in Cresco Thursday trying to figure out what caused the Cessna Citation jet to go down. The plane overshot a runway, crossed a highway and plowed into a cornfield.

The flight, which began in Oxford, MS, was headed for Rochester, Minn., however, family members have said the eventual destination was the Mayo Clinic where Johnny Fayard was scheduled to receive a brace for his foot and leg. Fayard suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD, a painful, neurological condition that usually develops from an injury.

The National Weather Service reported there were thunderstorms moving through the Cresco area at the time of the plane crash.

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Other versions of story posted below…

July 21, 2006

Investigations ongoing in pair of plane crashes

# Families, friends mourn four men killed in two separate accidents

By Chris Joyner

Friends and family are mourning two Jackson-area pilots killed in Wednesday’s plane crash in Cresco, Iowa.

Clyde James “Jim” Lewis, 41, of Brandon and William Eisner of Pearl were killed when the plane overshot the runway, crossed a highway and plowed into a cornfield. The men were employed by Jackson Air Charter, a private charter plane service that operates out of Jackson-Evers International Airport.

Little information about the accident was released Thursday as investigators with the National Transportation Security Board and the Federal Aviation Administration continued to gather information at the scene just south of the Minnesota border. NTSB officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Jeff Lewis said his brother, a Jackson native, had 26 years experience as a pilot, including 15 years with US Airways. He said the family has not been told much about what caused the crash.

“Everything is speculation,” he said.

Jim Lewis is survived by his wife, Leslie, and 10-year-old son, Zachary. Funeral arrangements for Lewis tentatively have been set for Sunday at 3 p.m. at Pinelake Church at 6071 Mississippi 25 in Brandon.

Information on services for Eisner was not available Thursday.

The plane’s two passengers are being treated for their injuries. Robert Paulk of Gulfport is listed in critical condition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Johnny Fayard, 51, also of Gulfport, was unconscious but in stable condition at Gunderson Lutheran Hospital in La Cross, Wis., according to his wife, Tanya Fayard, who was at the hospital on Thursday.

The Cessna jet crashed in a landing attempt at the Cresco airport around 11:10 a.m.

The flight, which began in Oxford, was destined for Rochester, but Fayard said her husband’s eventual destination was the Mayo Clinic, where he was scheduled to receive a brace for his foot and leg.

Johnny Fayard suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD, a painful, neurological condition that usually develops from an injury.

Tanya Fayard said she has not heard what caused crash. “We have no clue,” she said.

The National Weather Service reported thunderstorms moving through the Cresco area at the time.

Two men were killed Wednesday in an unrelated small plane accident in Petal.

Life-long Petal resident Ernest R. “Buddy” Myrick, 92, and 49-year-old Jim Hartman of Gulfport were killed when the single-engine plane crashed during or shortly after takeoff from a private airstrip near the intersection of Smithville Drive and Corinth Road in Petal. National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator Tim LeBaron said preliminary results of the NTSB investigation will be completed by next week, but a full investigation likely will take a year to complete.

He said investigators aren’t sure which man was piloting the plane.

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News > Regional
Friday, July 21, 2006 12:13 PM CDT

Pilots were likely trying to escape storms before crash

By TOM BARTON, Courier Staff Writer
CRESCO — One of the passengers on the ill-fated jet that crashed Wednesday was headed to the Mayo Clinic for treatment.

Johnny Fayard’s wife, Tanya, said her husband was to receive in Rochester, Minn. Johnny and the other passenger, Robert Paulk, both of Gulfport, Miss., are friends and business acquaintances, she said.

Ironically, Paulk was transported to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. Fayard, however, wound up at Gundersen Lutheran Hospital in La Crosse, Wis. Both are listed in critical condition.

Fayard, 51, reportedly suffers from reflex sympathetic dystrophy and was scheduled to receive a leg brace. Also known as complex regional pain syndrome, the condition is a chronic neurological syndrome characterized by severe burning pain, changes in bone and skin, swelling and extreme sensitivity to touch.

Tanya Fayard said doctors sedated her husband to prevent additional damage from head and neck injuries suffered during the crash. Fayard operates a moving and warehouse company in Gulfport.

The pilots — Clyde Lewis, 42, and William Eisner, 62, both of Jackson, Miss. — died at the scene. Both were licensed and certified commercial airmen, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The plane, a 10-passenger Cessna Citation 560, apparently overshot the runway, according to law enforcement officials. The flight ended along a tree line in a cornfield after the airplane vaulted across Iowa Highway 9.

FAA and National Transportation Safety Board officials resumed efforts Thursday morning to determine a cause for the incident.

Much is still unknown, but local aviation specialists speculate the small twin-engine jet flew into rough weather and that the pilots were attempting an emergency landing at Ellen Church Airfield in Cresco.

“The weather was horrible. It was nasty out there,” said Paul Roloff, sales manager with McCandless Aviation in Waterloo.

A storm front moved through Northeast Iowa late Wednesday morning, and the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning. The weather service in La Crosse also issued a hazardous weather outlook for the area.

Airport officials in Waterloo, Rochester, Dubuque and Mason City issued no ground stops. Technically, the FAA doesn’t close airports but a ground stop prohibits aircraft from taking off and can divert incoming flights.

Roloff said rapidly developing storms perhaps forced the plane’s pilots to find a close place to land.

“I think the weather was such that they were just trying to get on the ground,” he said.

Roloff added that landing at Cresco put the pilots in a “tight spot.”

The Cresco airport has 3,000-foot runway, too short for a twin-engine jet that requires 3,500 feet for takeoffs, according to Cessna specifications on its aircraft.

“They’ve got enough information on that airplane to know the length of the Cresco runway. They knew they were pushing it, but it was probably their best option,” Roloff said.

Better choices were available, he said, in Waterloo, Mason City and Dubuque.

“For them to land in Cresco, it had to be an emergency situation. It had to be something serious. You wouldn’t do that on a normal day,” Roloff said.

FAA officials recovered the plane’s flight recorder, which was in plain sight and beeping after the crash, according to Iowa State Patrol officers on scene. Details about the plane’s impromptu landing were not available.

FAA records show the plane is registered to Tomco II, which is based in Nashville, Tenn. The company is owned by Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., brother of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Thomas Frist was leasing the craft to GNS Holding pending completion of a sale and was operated by Jackson Air Charter of Jackson, Miss.

According to flight records from Jackson Air Charter, the plane left Jackson, Miss., at 5:55 a.m. Wednesday and made stops in Gulfport, Miss., the Destin and Fort Walton Beach, Fla., airport and Meridian, Miss., before departing Oxford, Miss., at 8:34 a.m.

The plane was scheduled to land in Rochester at 11:02 a.m.

Contact Tom Barton at (319) 291-1570 or The Associate Press contributed to this story.

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Living with RSD Part II

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Shannon Baldwin II, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Living with RSD Part II

Imagine living in a constant state of pain, 24 hours a day. That is the reality for those living with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome. Last night, we introduced you to an Archer City woman who’s lived with this condition for nine years. Tonight, we take a look at treatment options for the disease. Newschannel Six’s Jennifer Kim concludes part two of her Special Report: RSD, a life of pain.

This was Shannon Baldwin 10 years ago–active and full of energy. This is Shannon today–bound to a wheelchair, unable to do even the simplest task without help.

“You get depressed because you feel bad, and you know you look bad compared to what you used to,” she says.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome took hold of Shannon’s life after she sustained a knee injury. Her days are now marked by countless doctor visits, and endless amounts of medication. Her nights are marked with insomnia. And always, there is a searing, burning pain that never goes away.

Wichita Falls Neurologist Danny Bartel says “the pain will deplete you. It’ll deplete your mind, your body, your soul and spirit.” Ini fact, the pain is so bad, oftentimes, patients feel suicide is the only option…especially because doctors say there is no cure.

Shannon’s mother, Janice Alsup says, “if tears could have cured it, it would have been cured a long time ago.”

But there are options. In some cases, clipping the sympathetic nerve in the lower back will diminish the pain. Certain types of medication can help control the pain.

The disease has advanced so far in Shannon’s body, clipping her sympathetic nerve didn’t help. Even so, Shannon says this disease has taught her an extremely valuable lesson.

“You learn so much about humility. Things that were once so important fall by the wayside. You think of yourself and kick yourself for worrying about those things in the past. They are so inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.”

Doctors say Shannon’s positive attitude has helped her cope with the disease.

“You don’t want your life to be in a chair, dependent on pain medication, but you have to cope with it. And you do your best, which she’s doing and I’m glad she’s doing her best,” says Shannon’s doctor, Dr. Fazel.

If you or someone you know suffers from RSD, there are resources to help with the pain.

For more information, go to:,, and Those websites should be able to hook you up with support groups, and connect you to others in the area living with RSD.

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Living with RSD Part I

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Shannon Baldwin, originally uploaded by rsdscrpsnews.

Living with RSD Part I

Chronic, burning, pain, muscle spasms, insomnia and depression–all symptoms of the disease known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, or RSD for short. It’s a disease marked by constant chronic pain, usually striking middle-aged women. Newschannel Six’s Jennifer Kim takes us into the life of one woman who has lived with RSD for nearly a decade In this special report.

At Pleasant Acres Apartments, life has been anything but pleasant for Shannon Baldwin. For 9 years, she’s lived with an intrusive and uninvited guest.

“It’s the third person and the controlling dominant person in the household,” she says.

Shannon suffers from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome–a disease that attacks your nervous system. One out of 5,000 people get it, usually following a sprain or fracture. Shannon’s life changed forever in December 1997 when she collided with a stranger while leaving a restaurant.

“It was just our kneecaps crashed,” she says. The pain started soon after that. “White, hot, burning pain. Stabbing, tingling, and kindof crushing sometimes.”

Shannon says she often can’t sleep at night. She takes over 8 types of medication just to numb the pain.

“It’s a huge amount…they call it a lethal dose. I take more than terminal cancer patients take.”

Because of the high level of medication, Shannon has lost most of her teeth. She breaks out in rashes, has developed a heart murmer, and is often rocked with muscle spasms.

Her mother, Janice Alsup says, “it affects the whole family because you never know what you might be doing to trigger the nerves.”

Shannon’s daughter and caretaker, Peyton says she would do anything “just to take my mother’s pain away. Just a week. Half the pain, a quarter of the pain. Just not to have to see that look in her eyes when she wakes up in the morning.”

Shannon’s world now consists of constant doctor’s visits, endless amounts of medication, and of course, the pain that never goes away.

Doctors say RSD usually stays in one part of the body, like in an arm or a leg. But in 11% of all cases, like Shannon’s, the disease spreads to your entire body. Tomorrow we’ll follow Shannon as she visits the doctor, and we’ll look at treatment options for people living this life of pain.

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Residents still scramble to recover from flood

Residents still scramble to recover from flood
By Gordon Fraser
Published: July 15, 2006 12:00 am

SALEM, N.H. – For Marcia McLaughlin, finding the money to repair her flood-damaged Azarian Road home has been a waiting game – a more than $12,000 waiting game.

“I’m in up to my ears having to pay this,” said McLaughlin, a 64-year-old widow with from Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis. “It’s just a farce.”

McLaughlin said she’s most frustrated with her flood insurance company, which recently told her it wouldn’t pay for any of the damage to her home. She’s still waiting on word from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

It’s the waiting that prompted McLaughlin’s decision to cash the certificates of deposit she had through her bank and withdraw the $2,000 in savings she had set aside for a trip to Hawaii with her daughters.

It also affected her decision to seek help from Rockingham Community Action yesterday, when the nonprofit organization had a workshop for residents who need help applying for local flood assistance.

With New Hampshire Republican Congressman Jeb Bradley on hand, residents filed into Mary Foss School on Lawrence Road yesterday, bringing with them pictures, receipts, letters from the federal government and, mostly, questions.

George Thirsk, executive director of Rockingham Community Action, said nearly half of the $425,000 raised by a recent telethon is available to residents of Rockingham County. Residents of other counties affected by the flood will receive the remainder of the money.

Thirsk said his organization’s main goal is to make up the difference between what people are actually spending on flood repairs and what they’re receiving from the federal government – a pretty big discrepancy, according to some who came out for help yesterday.

Donna Holahan, who lives in a first-floor condominium in Salem Crossing II, said she just got her letter from FEMA Thursday. The federal agency is giving her $5,400 for home repairs and $179 for miscellaneous repairs.

That money isn’t nearly enough to replace the furniture, carpets, Sheetrock and insulation in her condo, but she’s happy she got something.

“I keep saying to myself, I’m not as bad off as a lot of people,” said Holahan, who has been living with her mother since the May floods.

She said she went to the flood workshop yesterday to get assurance that the letter she just got from FEMA is actually a promise they will pay. She still hasn’t decided whether she’ll apply for local aid through Rockingham Community Action because she feels that others – those with young children, particularly – probably need the money more than she does.

Thirsk, the executive director, is encouraging everyone to apply, although he acknowledged the slightly less than $200,000 the agency is distributing now is not nearly enough to fund the damage. He’s looking for other funding sources.

While 2,400 people in the county have filed claims with FEMA, Thirsk said, only about 220 have filed with Rockingham Community Action. He hopes to get everyone’s application processed in the coming weeks and months.

But the real danger, he said, is the fast approaching July 24 FEMA deadline. If residents don’t apply to FEMA, they will have real problems getting assistance from the county nonprofit organization.

Applications to Rockingham Community Action can be submitted anytime in the next 12 months, but the organization measures a person’s need by subtracting federal aid from the total cost.

But as residents wait for money from the federal government and other organizations, they’re finding creative ways to fix their homes.

Jim Roach, a 63-year-old on disability for his reflex sympathetic dystrophy, said the FEMA inspector initially told him he had $30,000 in damage, although the FEMA award was less than $5,000 when it came.

The solution, Roach said, has been to do the work himself. He works a few hours at a time each day, being careful not to overexert himself, he said. Sitting in a chair with a cordless screwdriver, he’s been replacing the walls in his home. His two grown daughters have helped him.

Roach said he is replacing his interior walls with vinyl siding, in case his Haigh Avenue home ever floods again.

“It looks like tongue-and-groove lumber,” he said.

But, he added, there’s one key difference – vinyl doesn’t rot.

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Ryckman: The world of hurt

Ryckman: The world of hurt

‘Invisible disease’ of pain afflicts one in four Americans

July 18, 2006

Pain cost Dennis Kinch his job, his home and his family.

“You end up feeling alone on an island wondering who you are now,” the Boston man says. “Pain runs your life.”

But it wasn’t going to ruin it, Kinch decided. The 51-year-old cook suffers from two diseases that make walking painful, if not impossible – so that’s exactly what he did. He walked 2,400 miles, from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., along Route 66, starting last fall and ending Friday. Along the way, he stopped at 35 pain clinics to talk to patients and doctors as a spokesman for the National Pain Foundation.

“Do what you can when you can,” Kinch says. “Sometimes it seems like everything is negative. You have to learn to tune that negative stuff out. That’s what keeps people in pain on the couch – they get scared. They’re afraid of the pain.”

Pain has become a national epidemic and one of the nation’s most dismissed and undertreated conditions. More than 75 million Americans – one in four – suffer from chronic, debilitating pain, and more than 50 million of them are partially or totally disabled by it, according to the Englewood-based NPF.

Government statistics show that pain is a factor in more than 80 percent of all physician visits, yet fewer than 1 percent of doctors have training in pain treatment, says NPF Executive Director Mary Pat Aardrup.

“Pain is viewed as a character flaw. It’s an invisible disease,” she says. “You don’t have a bandage, you haven’t lost any hair. When someone is in pain 24-7 – and a lot of people are – family and friends tire of hearing about it, and they often go away. Your self-worth and dignity go away. Your identity as a person vanishes. You become the pain.”

The portrait of pain in America looks like everyone: It cuts across all genders, races and ages, including an estimated 20 percent of children. But surveys find that people are afraid to talk about it, reluctant to treat it and dismissive of it in themselves and others.

Nicole Hemmenway, of Corpus Christi, Texas, was 12 when she was diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, a neurological disorder. It began in her right hand, which swelled, purpled and stayed clenched for more than five years.

“It felt like my hand was being submerged in hot oil,” says Hemmenway, now 25. “It slowly went up my arm until I wasn’t able to use it at all, then down my left side and throughout my body. I was in a wheelchair, I was bedridden, I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t get dressed by myself, I didn’t take a shower for 10 months.”

Hemmenway went through every drug, every procedure, every device. But she never let a doctor tell her she wasn’t going to get better. At 19, she realized that her pain didn’t have to control her life.

“Most of the time, people are belittled and told it’s in their head. You feel like an outcast,” says Hemmenway, whose pain is under control. She’s now running a couple of miles a day. “I want people to hold on to hope. It will get better, and they’re not alone. People do believe their pain.”

A third of sufferers in the Partners Against Pain 2000 survey didn’t believe that people understood how much pain they were in; one quarter said their families were tired of hearing about it. Nearly 40 percent said they felt isolated and alone.

More than 40 percent said they would spend all their money on a treatment they thought might work.

“There are days when I feel like a broken bottle,” a woman wrote to the American Pain Foundation. “All the pieces hurt, and I can’t seem to bring them together to make an entire vessel.”

Compounding the treatment problem is the belief that pain medications lead to addictions, a misconception that contributes to undertreatment, Aardrup says.

“The vast majority of people in pain are not addicts and abusing or diverting drugs,” she says. “(That belief) is putting the squeeze on access to care for chronic pain. There’s a fear on the part of doctors that overprescribing may put them in jeopardy, losing their license or even going to prison. People in pain are absolutely dependent on having as many resources as possible.”

Pain annually costs the nation more than 50 million lost workdays, more than $3 billion in lost wages and more than $100 billion in lost productivity. About 75 percent of that lost production came from reduced work performance, not absenteeism, according to a 2003 study in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

“We only spend 1 percent of our research budget on pain even though it is our most costly problem,” Dr. Rollin M. Gallagher, director of the Center of Pain Medicine, Research and Policy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, told a congressional hearing on pain last month. Congress is considering the National Pain Care Policy Act, which would improve pain education for physicians, improve access to pain-management services and increase funding for pain research.

The voices of people in pain reflect frustration and despair. In the Partners Against Pain survey, nearly 30 percent said they felt there was no solution for their pain. A third of sufferers had chronic pain so severe and debilitating that they felt they couldn’t function as normal people and sometimes felt so bad that they wanted to die.

Writing to the American Pain Foundation, one woman said she lost her job and her marriage and attempted suicide after a car accident left her with chronic, debilitating pain. But she keeps going, with help from doctors, drugs and determination.

“I struggle every day, a delicate balance, like walking on a cliff path. One strong gust of wind and I know that I will fall over,” she wrote. “But I turn my face to the wall, take a deep breath and dig my fingers into the rock and walk on.

“As far as I can go.”

The hard facts

Here are some facts about pain from the 2000 Gallup survey Pain in America and the 2000 Partners Against Pain report, A Survey of Pain in America:

• Nine in 10 Americans suffer from regular pain; 89 percent reported they have some sort of pain monthly or more often.

• Nearly 26 million Americans suffer from severe pain. Forty-six percent reported moderate pain.

• Nearly 42 percent said they experience pain daily.

• On average, people with moderate to severe pain have lived with it for close to 1 1/2 years.

• Eighty-three million Americans reported that pain frequently affects their participation in some activities. Forty-three percent of respondents reported that pain occasionally affects participation.

• Four in five Americans believe aches and pains are a part of getting older, and 64 percent would see a doctor only when they couldn’t stand the pain any longer.

• Sixty percent said pain is something you just have to live with, and 55 percent said they’re uncomfortable taking medications.

• More than half said that they prefer being alone when they’re in pain and that they’re in a bad mood when in pain.

• Eighty percent of patients surveyed think their pain is a normal part of their medical condition and something they have to live with.

• About 40 percent said they’re uncomfortable discussing their pain.

• More than half said pain interferes with their sleeping or mood, 30 percent their ability to drive, and 28 percent their ability to have sexual relations.

• Patients are so dissatisfied with the efficacy of their prescription and over-the-counter pain-control medications that 78 percent are willing to try new treatments.

• Two-thirds said their over-the-counter medications aren’t effective, and 52 percent of those taking prescription medications said they’re not effective.

Pain practitioners

If you’re looking for a pain specialist, ask for a referral from your primary- care physician. Here are some questions for a potential pain practitioner from the National Pain Foundation:

• How many cases of my type of pain condition have you treated?

• What are your special qualifications to treat my pain condition?

• Have you participated in any special training about pain-management techniques?

• What is your philosophy of management of my pain condition in terms of medications and alternative therapies?

• What types of medications do you usually prescribe?

• What types of non-medication therapies do you use?

• Where do you refer patients who need additional treatment?

• Is your clinic listed with any professional societies?

• Are you, or is someone in the clinic, available 24 hours a day if I need help?

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RSD Suffer Wants To Educate

RSD Suffer Wants To Educate

by Sarah Bissonette
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

McKELLAR TWP. – Prior to November 28, 2003, Sue Hicks was an active woman who went to work, cut the grass, and played with her dogs. Now, she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to get out of bed on any given day and is in constant pain due to the incurable Reflex Sympatric Dystrophy (RSD).

Ms Hicks wants to make the public aware of the disorder, also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which she hadn’t even heard of before being diagnosed over two years ago. At her request, on June 20, Parry Sound Town Council declared July as RSD/CRPS Awareness Month

“I don’t want to be known for my disorder,” said Ms Hicks. “I want our disorder known because of us. The first part of education starts with awareness.”

According to the British Columbia-based Canadian Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Network, RSD is a neurological disorder that affects blood flow, muscles, bones, joints and the skin. The first case of the disease was diagnosed during the American Civil War.

It can spread throughout the body, sometimes by something as simple as getting a needle in an unaffected region of the body.

Approximately 1 in 2,000 people have RSD. There is no known cure.

The disorder can begin from soft tissue damage, such as a sprained ankle, and surgery.

In Ms Hicks case, life with RSD began on November 28, 2003 when she shattered her right ankle at work and then had it operated on the next day. Six months later, an orthopedics’ specialist – a surgeon who corrects bone and muscle deformities – diagnosed her with the disorder in her right leg, which has since spread to her left arm.

Symptoms include: excessive sweating; muscle spasms and tremors; skin colour, hair and nail growth changes; decreased motor function and blood circulation; and constant pain.

“The sympathetic nerves realize there is damage there and it’s suppose to hurt. So, it tells the brain, all the time, that it’s hurt,” said Ms Hicks.

While Ms Hicks has the support of her husband and sister, she would like to start a support group in this region for chronic pain sufferers and their families, and understand exactly what each other is going through.

She only knows of one other woman with RSD in the Parry Sound and Muskoka area, but suspects there are others.

“Once you have it, you watch other people, how they are acting and reacting, you get some insight,” she said.

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Scientists find chronic pain on-off switch

Scientists find chronic pain on-off switch

NEW YORK, July 19 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have discovered an “on-off” switch for chronic pain in which current medications are ineffective or have serious side effects.

The Columbia University Medical Center scientists have discovered an enzyme called protein kinase G, which acts as a switch for chronic pain.

Most prior attempts at alleviating chronic pain have focused on the “second order” neurons in the spinal cord that relay pain messages to the brain. But the scientists say it’s difficult to inhibit the activity of those neurons with drugs because the drugs need to overcome the blood-brain barrier.

Instead, the CUMC researchers focused on the more accessible “first order” neurons in the body’s periphery, which send messages to the spinal cord.

It’s been known for years that for chronic pain to persist, a master switch must be turned on inside the peripheral neurons, but the identity of that switch was a mystery.

The discovery by Cell Biology Professor Richard Ambron and Assistant Professor of Anatomy Ying-Ju Sung appears on the Web site of the journal Neuroscience, and will be published in the journal’s August issue.

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