Monthly Archives: August 2009

A Chance to Help a Hero: Marine Spouse Aids Drowning Marine

A Chance to Help a Hero: Marine Spouse Aids Drowning Marine

II Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs
Story by Lance Cpl. James W. Clark

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – While swimming at the area two pool here, June 18, with her 18-month-old son, Sarah Elliott, the assistant family readiness officer for 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, saw a Marine swimming near them in the shallow end.

After swimming laps, Sgt. Sam Sokphal, Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, Wounded Warrior Regiment, had a seizure wading in the water. While holding her son and calling for help, Elliott pulled Sokphal up and kept his head above water while she waited for assistance. Sokphal was taken to the hospital and released after his recovery.

Sokphal, who suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in his arm and pain in his back due to surgery, said he uses the pool as a way to ease back into physical activity.

“The swimming helps a lot with the nerve damage. It hurts at first, but feels much better the more you do it,” he said.

Elliott said when she saw Sokphal submerged in the water, she thought he was holding his breath, but when he didn’t come up she came closer to see if he was alright.

“He was on the edge of the pool and underwater, shaking. I walked over to see if he was alright, but had the feeling he wasn’t okay,” Elliott said. “He didn’t respond when I touched his arm, and that’s when I pulled him up out of the water and called for help.”

After Sokphal was taken from the pool in an ambulance, Elliott tried to find out who he was to check on him, but could only learn his first name from lifeguards at the pool.

“I was told he was a single Marine with [Wounded Warrior Battalion-East] and I don’t like the thought of someone being by himself going through that traumatic experience,” Elliott said.

Elliott has been volunteering with the battalion since April, and is known as a caring person…

“Her biggest concern was making sure he was doing okay,” said Shelley Rodriguez, family readiness officer, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. “The fact that she saved him is one thing, but the fact that she was so concerned about his well being speaks depths about her character.”

Click Here For The Original Article Online.



Two girls lean on each other for support against a rare disease

Two girls lean on each other for support against a rare disease


LA CRESCENT, Minn. — Sarah Kratt lives with pain every day.

“A lot of people don’t get it because I’m always smiling and happy,” she said.

The 14-year-old, who lives with her family on 20 acres outside La Crescent, was diagnosed in May 2007 with the rare and mysterious complex regional pain syndrome — a chronic pain condition resulting from a dysfunction in the central nervous system.

A chance meeting with April Tillinghast, 15, of Kingwood, Texas, who also has CRPS, sparked a friendship that has helped Sarah handle the pain in her left leg and back.

Sarah’s leg began to hurt in April 2007, said mom, Jill Colbert. It got bad enough that Sarah couldn’t walk and her leg would turn purple.

Doctors were perplexed. Despite physical therapy and pain medications, Sarah’s condition worsened. First she was on crutches, then a walker, then a wheelchair. Finally, she was bed ridden.

“It’s so hard to see your child go through something like this,” Jill said. “You feel so helpless.”

Sarah saw more than 20 doctors, but as time wore on, nothing worked. “Sometimes I wish I could’ve given the doctors my pain, so they would know what it’s like,” she said.

In December 2008, a ray of hope entered their lives in the form of kinesiologist Dr. Alan Trites, who has an office in La Crescent.

“He said Sarah was like an onion,” Jill said, “peeling back each layer and working through her body’s

issues, slowly getting her body back to where it would work with her again.”

Then, in June 2008, while at a month-long pain rehabilitation program at Mayo Clinic, Sarah met April. The connection was almost instant.

“She’s really a positive personality,” April said, “but there’s also this really deep understanding of each other.”

April’s pain was in her right foot, with secondary pain in her head. She had been living with CRPS since 2006.

The girls remained close and continued to communicate via Skype, the online video and phone service, as well as by text messages and e-mails.

“It took that friendship with April to understand and to help Sarah get through all this,” said Sarah’s stepdad, Tom Colbert.

As the girls became closer, so did Jill and April’s mom, Susan Tillinghast.

“I lived in my own shell, taking care of Sarah, finding different things to do,” Jill said. “So it was interesting meeting other parents going through the same thing. You have a connection there. It feels so good.”

In July, Sarah spent two weeks in Kingwood. April also came to La Crescent for a week.

“It’s easier to deal with everything when I’m with her,” Sarah said. “If I hadn’t met her I don’t know where I’d be right now.”

Susan, who spoke on the phone from Kingwood, said the girls have formed a healthy bond.

“The greatest thing is the happiness they seem to share,” Susan said.

Both girls are grateful for simple things and want a normal life.

“I hope I can do something good with this and help somebody else,” April said.

While April would like to volunteer at places like headache clinics, Sarah can see herself becoming a nurse.

“The doctors would breeze in and breeze out, but the nurses were the ones who would take care of you and comfort you,” Sarah said.

There isn’t a cure for CRPS, Jill said, but she wants people who might be suffering from pain to know there is hope.

“Different things work for different people,” Jill said. “Be open to the possibilities.”

Click Here For The Original Article Online.


Brave woman vs. disabling disease CRPS

Brave woman vs. disabling disease CRPS



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Kathleen Belliveau of Barre took advantage of a quiet Saturday afternoon last fall to finish some housecleaning. The next morning, she woke up and couldn’t move.

“I couldn’t get up,” the mother of seven remembered. “There was a burning pain on my right side and I couldn’t put any pressure on my leg.”

Her husband brought her to Barre Health Center, where she was given a shot and a painkiller and sent home. The next day she went to her doctor, who gave her another shot and some OxyContin. Nothing worked. A few days later, the pain was so intense that she was admitted to the UMass Memorial Medical Center.

She was hospitalized for two weeks before being transferred to Harrington Memorial Hospital for rehabilitation. Only then was she diagnosed with a poorly understood condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, characterized by severe and relentless pain.

“It hurts,” Ms. Belliveau said simply. “It’s very, very painful, and it never stops. I’m 42 years old, but I feel some days like I’m 100.”

CRPS is a chronic neurological syndrome in which nerves misfire and send constant pain signals to the brain. It develops in response to an event the body regards as traumatic, such as surgery, stroke, an accident or injuries. An early diagnosis is the key to recovery, but many doctors are unaware of the condition’s symptoms.

Unfortunately for Ms. Belliveau, her diagnosis came late, in the third or last stage of the condition. Known as the atrophic stage, it involves the loss of motion or body function. While the syndrome isn’t fatal, there’s no cure for the atrophic stage.

What this means for Ms. Belliveau is constant burning on her right side and the loss of use of her right leg. She uses a cane, brace and walker to get around and takes a cocktail of more than 15 pills a day. She described the pain as ice water coursing down her leg, with a “deep flame” heading the other way. “Some days I’ll feel good and can do stuff, but then I’ll be in bed for four days. And it’s going to be like this forever. It stinks, but it is what it is. My body doesn’t work, but my brain is still strong.”

Looking back, Ms. Belliveau remembers that she would sometimes trip, be clumsy or feel pain long before she was diagnosed, but she attributed the symptoms to a previous shoulder injury. Plus, she was busy working and raising her kids. A divorcée who has since remarried, she put herself through dental hygienist school while waitressing on weekends, but she was forced to quit her job last year when she was diagnosed.

“As a hygienist, you have to have control of your instruments or your patients won’t like you very much,” she noted wryly. “I can’t do a lot of what I used to do. The most frustrating part of this is having to depend on other people. But my husband has been a rock through all of this. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me and my children.”

Mark Belliveau, her husband of 12 years, is a sergeant at the Worcester County Jail and House of Correction. He had planned to retire this fall now that their kids are older; the couple looked forward to going on hikes and taking trips to the Cape and the mountains.

CRPS has changed all that.

“This condition comes from nowhere and whacks you,” he said. “I love my wife and I hate to see her like this, but there’s nothing anyone can do. It’s very heavy on my heart. We had everything, and we were looking forward to everything.”

Sgt. Belliveau has been active in the Knights of Columbus at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, and the Knights will hold a dinner dance and fundraiser for the couple at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 in the church’s recreation center. Tickets are $20 and can be obtained by calling Pasquale Totaro at San Remo hair salon, (508) 755-5852.

Ms. Belliveau said she agreed to the fundraiser on the condition that it includes an educational component, to raise awareness of CRPS and the importance of an early diagnosis. “I’m learning a lot about this disease myself. I’m at a crossroad, so I just have to take a different road. You deal with it, and the sun comes up again the next day.”

Click Here For The Original Article Online.