Texas pain treatment works
By: Julie Novak
By JULIE NOVAK
WAKEFIELD – Elizabeth Bergan visited her pain doctor in Westerly for a check-up recently. She removed the shoe on her left foot to reveal a sparkly sock and wiggled her foot.
“What are you doing?” the doctor asked.
“I’m showing off,” she replied.
Just weeks ago, flexing her foot would have been an impossibility for the Wakefield resident who has Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a disorder characterized by intense burning and vibrating pain in the limbs stemming from a damaged nerve.
But Bergan traveled to Texas with her husband David the week before Christmas for a procedure invented and performed by Dr. Gabor Racz, a specialist in pain medicine, that eliminates scar tissue surrounding a nerve. She opted to have the surgery and pay out of pocket after Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island denied her coverage three times. The insurance company only covers the cost of pain medications that help control her symptoms.
“It was wonderful to have my husband there,” Bergan said. “I was petrified but I knew it had to be done – I want my life back.”
Although not fully recovered, Bergan’s condition has improved some as a result of the surgery. She exercises two or three times a day as part of her therapy and uses a cane now rather than a walker. While she still experiences episodes of “vibrating pain” they are less frequent, she said.
The surgery gave Bergan an emotional boost, too. She is returning as a volunteer for the Wakefield YMCA’s Reading to Rover program, where she visits local schools with her dog Marley to teach children how to read.
“That always lifts my spirits,” she said. “When a pre-schooler recognizes a word for the first time their eyes light up. It’s the coolest thing – I get the shivers. [The experience] helps me put things in perspective.”
Bergan’s long-term goal is to be well enough physically to resume training for bike races in support of causes that benefit the homeless, diabetics and AIDS patients.
She acknowledges that the road to recovery won’t be traveled quickly.
“I’m testing myself,” she said. “Things are looking up, not as much as I was hoping, but they’re looking up.”
The cost of Bergan’s surgery is less than the family anticipated, in the ballpark of $13,000. To help with those expenses as well as transportation and medication the costs, the Bergans, with the support of family, friends and the Elks and Lions Clubs, are organizing a fundraiser. A date has not yet been set, but the Bergans plan to include a raffle at the event and are seeking gift certificates and contributions from local businesses.
If you are interested in donating a gift certificate to be raffled off at the fundraiser, contact Bergan at 401-741-3773, P.O. Box 384, Narragansett, RI 02882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.