Local woman suffers from years of pain
Published: May 07, 2007 10:34 am
ADA — Coni Turner certainly wasn’t pleased when doctors told her she had a rare disease called RSDS. But — at least — she was relieved to know that her intense, excruciating pain was not “imaginary.”
It has been 15 years since the 47-year-old Ada woman had her first episode with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, a debilitating chronic pain disorder involving the sympathetic nervous system. It typically results from an injury or trauma, which sets off the body’s mechanism for pain recognition.
In RSDS, the normal system of pain perception begins to misfire and an abnormal cycle of pain begins. As the disorder progresses, the abnormal pain of the sympathetic nervous system affects other areas of the body and can result in total disability as muscles, bones, skin and the autonomic immune system become involved.
The pain that Turner and other RSDS sufferers face is often “out of proportion to the severity of the injury,” according to officials with the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association.
While a diagnosis of RSDS is difficult, the RSDS Association estimates that between 1.5 million and 6 million people suffer from the disease.
“When I was 32 years old, a coffee cup fell off the table and hit my knee,” Coni said. “It swelled up and kept swelling. Then I twisted the same knee. I began having intense pain. And it was two years before my doctor determined that I had RSDS.”
In 1983 Coni was a very active 22-year-old — the second woman to operate a forklift at General Tire, which was located in the Flex-N-Gate facilities then. There, she met her future husband Ricky, a Tupelo native. After a courtship, the two married and their future looked bright.
But Coni’s illness has snuffed out many of their hopes and dreams.
During that period, she has been hospitalized more than 20 times. Today, her world has shrunk to one room in their Ada home — a room without a bathroom. After having her left leg amputated at the knee, Coni’s traveling is limited to a wheelchair.
“I can’t get into the bathroom because the door is not wide enough to get my wheelchair through,” she said. “I’m almost like a prisoner in my own house. But we can’t afford to remodel.”
While Coni is on disability and has Medicare, there’s never enough cash in the household to keep up with the bills. Ricky, who has worked at Flex-N-Gate and its predecessors — Camrose, JP Emco and General Tire — for almost a quarter of a century, makes a decent wage — just enough to disqualify the family for some assistance to make their home handicapped-accessible.
Farmers State Bank in Allen has opened a special fund to help the Turners out. You can contribute at the bank or mail to The Coni Turner Special Account, Farmers State Bank, Attn: Glenda Howard, P.O. Box 467, Allen, OK 74825.
Coni said her husband has been a rock of support over the years.
“Ricky has been the perfect husband,” she said. “He has stood by every step of the way and worked a full-time job. My mother has also helped, staying with me when he’s at work. I wish every woman had a husband like mine.”
Ricky said officials at his workplace have been very supportive.
“I really have some outstanding supervisors at Flex-N-Gate,” he said. “They understand what we are going through and they’ve given me time off when we’ve needed it. That has really meant a lot.”
The Turners said they were very appreciative of the assistance provided by Southwest Church of Christ in Ada.
“They put a new roof on our house,” Coni said. “That really meant a lot to us.”
Meanwhile, Coni, who grew up in Allen, continues to live with her disorder one day at a time.
“It was very frustrating in the beginning when doctors and friends thought my severe pain was in my mind,” she said. “RSDS is a very serious disorder, one that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m just very fortunate to have my husband and mother to look after me. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”