- Associated Press - Sunday, December 14, 2014

ALGONQUIN, Ill. (AP) - Imagine the pain of trying to walk with a broken foot that just wouldn’t heal.

Except nothing is wrong with your foot — nothing doctors definitively can point to, anyway. And other people, your parents included, have a hard time believing your pain is real.

That’s been 14-year-old Danielle Stratton’s experience for the past four years with a chronic condition that produces off-the-charts pain. She was diagnosed with the disease only in the past year.

The Algonquin teen has poured all her feelings and emotions into “Kryptonite,” a song she wrote to raise awareness about her disease, called complex regional pain syndrome, or reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.

“Either we launch ourselves forward and be strong, or we’re just going to let something silly hold us back,” she said. “Pain isn’t silly, but it’s something you have to overcome yourself. It’s your own weakness — no one else’s.”

Danielle recorded the song, available on iTunes, in October with the help of James Currie, a sound engineer who works at Algonquin Middle School, where her little sister Jamie, 12, goes to school.

The song’s video was shot by Andy Burns, video director for The Chapel church in Mundelein, with the help of Danielle’s 16-year-old brother, Jack.

These days, Danielle is doing much, much better, thanks to a recent, intensive three-week therapy program at a pain management clinic in Cleveland.

Before that, the pain was so bad she couldn’t wear shoes; she resigned herself to staying home from school and keeping up with her peers via online schooling.

By the time she left Ohio, she could run for a few minutes on the treadmill.

“We did a lot of physical therapy that helped get the sensitivity down. You take things like towels and brushes, and you go over (the pain area) until you can handle it. You also learn coping skills like deep breathing, and things like, ‘Don’t think about your pain or talk about it in negative ways,’” she said. “I feel a lot better than before. And emotionally, it feels a lot better.”

Danielle returned to class Monday at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville, where she’s a freshman.

To mark the disease’s awareness month in November, Dundee-Crown students and staff members wore orange — the color representing the disease — on Nov. 3, and many teachers showed Danielle’s music video in class.

“She’s really an amazing young woman. She’s incredibly courageous,” said vocal music teacher Lisa Bettcher. “She’s happy she’s feeling better, but she was very concerned about the many other people who go undiagnosed with this disease. How mature is that for someone who’s 14? That’s pretty commendable.”

Danielle’s video was also featured on the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association’s website.

“I think it’s fabulous (what Danielle did),” said Jim Broatch, RSDA executive vice president and director.

“CRPS is probably one of the more painful syndromes there is. It’s a 42 on the McGill pain index (which goes up to 50). It’s greater than cancer pain or amputation of a digit. You’re basically talking about 24/7 pain.”

Danielle said the pain in her foot started in the fifth grade, when she was a competitive cheerleader and swimmer, sports she eventually had to give up.

She underwent surgery a year ago to repair what doctors thought was chipped cartilage in her big toe, but it turned out that wasn’t the problem. In fact, the surgery only intensified the pain.

The mystery wasn’t solved until Danielle’s mother Diane heard about CRPS from a family friend, researched the disease, and took her to a specialist who confirmed the diagnosis.

“My back hurts every day, but I get up and do things. It was like, ‘What’s your problem?’” Diane Stratton said of her daughter’s condition. “But now we know.”

The whole family is now championing Danielle’s cause, including wearing orange bracelets.

“Just seeing what she went through as a parent, you don’t want to see any kid go through this,” said her father, Eric Stratton. “It’s nice to have her back, to see her going through this path, because the alternative is just diabolical.”

Music always has been her escape, said Danielle, who plays the guitar, plus a little ukulele, piano and bass. “When you’re focusing on music, you’re kind of forgetting about everything else,” she said.

Going back to school was first on her list of plans, Danielle said.

Next, she wants to audition for school musicals, start playing music again at local coffee shops, and even get back into swimming.

She knows there’s a chance the pain will come back, she says.

“But there’s also a chance that I’ll keep getting better as I keep moving forward,” she said. “Another part of the program is having a positive attitude. If you believe you can get better and you want to get better, you will.”


Source: (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, https://bit.ly/1B9KnKm


Information from: Daily Herald, https://www.dailyherald.com

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