Chandler battles painful disease while pursuing dance dream
TOUGH! Not even CRPS can keep K. Chandler Rosemont down, she is still working on her dream of a dance career.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010 By Elizabeth Ivy, Las Lomas High School
In the first purple room on the left in the Teen Care Center at Kaiser Permanente hospital, K Chandler Rosemont sat propped up by pillows with an IV attached to her left hand and a grand smile on her face.
The Las Lomas Senior had just been admitted to the hospital in January for the second time in a few weeks for pain control. Although her face was slightly swollen and her neck was spotted with yellow from the needle that had been planted there for a quarter hour, she seemed surprisingly happy.
Chandler was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in her right hand and wrist. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “The key symptom of CRPS is continuous, intense pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury … accompanied by intense burning pain, skin sensitivity, sweating and swelling.”
“Basically what it is, is because of stress and some kind of impact, probably from dance, all the nerves [in my hand] started freaking out,” said Chandler. “This is a disease common in 50-year-old men.”
On Dec. 5, Chandler first noticed symptoms; including, itchiness, swelling and severe pain in her right wrist. The following morning she had no control over the movement in her right hand.
“Nobody knew what it was. Every hour the pain [got] worse,” Chandler recalls. “My pulse in my right hand, they could barely feel it. My right hand was so weak and [it was] bright purple. There was no circulation. And [my right wrist] was all just ice.”
After she was admitted to the hospital for pain control, the doctors diagnosed her with CRPS and performed a nerve block treatment.
“So they’d go into my neck and put a really small needle in my jugular vein and then it would go in half way through the middle of my spine. And they would inject all this stuff into my inactive nervous system,” explains Chandler. “I didn’t have any numbing whatsoever … so I [had] the needle in my spine through my neck for 15 minutes just chillin’ there on a table. And if I moved it [would] hit an artery that [would] stop my heart instantly, so I [had] to have an IV in my arm.”
In addition to the nerve block, Chandler was also heavily medicated. She was taking Methadone, Dilaudid and Gabapenin, which are all stronger than morphine.
“The good side effects were that it helped with my nerves and my hand. The bad side effects were that I [couldn’t] walk. I had something called a gate reaction and I didn’t have any control of [my chest area] or sometimes my legs lock up when I walk[ed]. And I could only walk maybe ten steps without being exhausted,” said Chandler.
Chandler underwent the nerve block treatment procedure three times and stayed at the hospital for eight days in mid-December. She was scheduled for a fourth procedure; however, her hand was recovering more quickly than expected so the doctors sent her home. Recovery was going unbelievably well: Chandler had full control of her right hand and was no longer reliant on medicine to soothe it. She felt only a hint of the pain she had felt before.
“She’s already such a strong girl, and I’ve seen first hand how much stronger she’s become after going through so much pain,” sophomore Sydney Boral said. “I’m amazed at how optimistic she stayed. I’m so proud of her and I love her.”
Sadly, on Jan. 20, Chandler relapsed. The discomfort in her hand escalated rapidly and she was re-admitted into the hospital for pain control. After a three-day stay and yet another nerve block, Chandler returned home.
“She’s one of the most amazing, resilient and life-enhancing people I’ve ever met,” said Chandler’s English teacher Lori Gieleghem. “I wish I could confront serious illness with half of her grace and serenity. She’s my hero.”
Fortunately, catching CRPS so early on has nearly eliminated the chances of it recurring later on in life.
“I caught it in stage one and if it got into a higher stage, obviously it could have traveled throughout my body and it could have come back at other times,” explained Chandler. “But I got it so strong just at the beginning [that] there is no way [I could have ignored it].”
Due to the H1N1 pandemic, Chandler’s younger brother, Wesley Rosemont, was not allowed to visit her in the hospital.
“I went to the hospital to see Chandler, and they wouldn’t let me in the lobby. They ran out of wheelchairs so she couldn’t come down and see me,” he said. “I missed her and when she was in the hospital it was kind of hard [for me].”
Support from friends, family and even strangers has helped Chandler during her recovery.
“The support’s been great. The support has helped me recover faster,” explained Chandler. “It’s been great. [During] winter break, the Las Lomas Leadership came and sang to me here at my house and caroled to me. And Christmas Eve there was a ‘get better’ sign on my garage … And then I guess Leadership made a sign up sheet for bringing my family dinner.”
Chandler fondly remembers how compassionate people at Las Lomas were.
“I’ve met so many new people from [my accident] at Las Lomas, like new faces in the hallway that smile or wave or just say ‘hi’,” she said.
On the contrary, people in other public vicinities would judge her based on her incapacities. The medication she was taking made it difficult for her to walk without a severe limp and awkward shake.
“The looks that I would get … with my little shake versus being in my wheelchair. The looks I’d get from the shake were ‘That’s disgusting,’ ‘What kind of foul person is she,’ ‘What disease is she carrying,’ ‘How could [her mother] let her daughter get this way,'” Chandler said. “And the wheelchair [was] smiles and sympathy because people thought I was paralyzed.”
On Jan. 25, Chandler attended her first dance practice in nearly eight weeks. Despite the pain she still feels in her hand, she is again fully committed to dance and is overjoyed to return.
Chandler reflected back on her experience.
“[This whole experience] definitely makes you appreciate people who are handicapped and who are just disabled in general,” she said. “It just makes you think twice about everything.”
Before she was diagnosed with CRPS, Chandler was a dancing enthusiast. She has danced since the age of three and by the time she was eight, she knew her passion and career in life was dancing.
Unfortunately, her injury occurred during her dancing auditions for college.
“I applied to 11 schools and I want to dance at all of them. I did four of my auditions before this happened, and obviously I have seven left. So … for the ones until I can actually do them, we are sending video auditions because I have ‘extenuating circumstances,'” said Chandler.
Along with dancing, Chandler has always been interested in becoming a nurse.
“I want to be a nurse [and] this made me appreciate it,” she said. “I know it from both perspectives now … I know it from the patient’s perspective, so I know how to treat patients because I know what I wanted.”
Chandler’s perseverance and determination has not only changed her life, but it has also changed the lives of the people around her.
“I think her experience has inspired other people, including me, not to take advantage of the precious gifts we have, and Chandler has taught many people to never stop fighting when faced with a hardship,” said senior Melissa Mink. “I have grown to love and respect Chandler even more.”
Chandler explains what she will remember most about this whole experience.
“Hopefully how much I’ve grown from it … and just how when tragedy [hits], even though this wasn’t a tragedy, but something bad happens to someone, everyone drops everything they are doing to help that person out …. It changes everything. It changes your perspective.”
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