For teen in pain, suffering is optional

For teen in pain, suffering is optional

Delmar resident is honored by Cleveland clinic for learning to deal with his chronic condition

By CATHLEEN F. CROWLEY, Staff writer
First published in print: Monday, May 3, 2010 BETHLEHEM — Connor Menneto felt pain that most of us can’t imagine. Diagnosed at 16 with a rare disease called complex regional pain syndrome, Connor’s left arm and leg burned in crushing pain.

“It would literally take three grown adults to get it into position because the muscles would just fight it because the pain was so bad,” Connor said.He screamed in agony. He swore in frustration. He threatened to quit.

“You just think ‘Wow, these people are putting me through a ton more pain. What benefit can that be?’ It was horrible,” he said.

He saw some progress, but more disappointment and pain. Banez pulled Connor aside and told him he had to commit himself or leave.

Connor’s dad, John Menneto, who owns J.M. Rose Construction, wasn’t able to stay in Cleveland, but he called often. On one of those calls, he lit into Connor.

“Quit screwing around,” he told him, as Banez recalled. “You need to work with these people and we don’t expect anything less.”

Connor’s case was one of the worst the pain clinic had seen in three years of treating children with CRPS, Banez said. The level of pain, the fact that two limbs were affected and the atrophy made Connor’s situation tough.

The clinic doesn’t allow patients to talk about pain. Instead, they talk about what they can do today that they couldn’t do yesterday.

The philosophy began to stick. Connor started to see improvements. The therapist told his mom that his personality was changing.

“No,” she said. “That is the real Connor coming out.”

He stayed seven weeks instead of three at a cost of $60,000 but he left as a new person. Insurance paid a portion of the cost.

Back home, he continued his therapy and regained full movement of his arms, fingers and leg, surpassing the expectations of his therapists. He is playing baseball and basketball with his friends, he returned to school and is physically back to normal, he said.

Connor’s pain is about an 8 on the scale of 1 to 10.

“I learned how to live with the pain rather than live around it,” he said. “I do the things I want to do and not make decisions based on the fact that it’s going to hurt.”

On Friday, Connor received a Courage Award from the Cleveland Clinic at a black-tie fundraiser attended by nearly 1,000 people.

“He embraced and embodied what we try to impart to the kids here,” Banez said.

Some days, Connor wakes up and his mom can see his arm is purple, but he trundles off to school. They don’t talk about the pain scale anymore.

“The biggest thing about pain is your mind-set toward it,” Connor said. “If you let it encompass your mind and everything you think about is pain, then you’ll end up focusing on it and it will always be worse that it could be.”

The color is back in his cheeks, his gray-green eyes don’t droop anymore and dark curls tumble over his now peaceful face.

Sometimes, his parents just stare at him in disbelief.

“I am thrilled to hear him go up and down the stairs, pounding. To hear him laugh with his brothers, we hadn’t heard that in so long,” Rosemary Menneto said. “It could make me cry just listening to him run through the house.”

Cathleen F. Crowley can be reached at 454-5348 or by e-mail at ccrowley@timesunion.com.

Click here for the original article online.
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