Brain tricks teenager into thinking she’s injured

April 19, 2011 | by | 10 Comments

A teenage girl whose broken foot healed seven years ago is living in constant agony because of a rare condition which tricks her brain into believing she is still injured.

Brain tricks teenager into thinking she's injured

Kiera Ward, 17, takes a daily cocktail of 39 painkillers even though the fracture is fully healed and the pain is all in her head.

She broke her foot during a playground game of tug-of-war aged 11 but doctors believe the trauma of delays in her treatment triggered a condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

The ailment causes her brain to experience phantom pain as if the injury is still there – and Kiera lives in excruciating pain 24 hours a day.

She said: ”The pain is unbearable, I can’t describe to anyone else how it feels.

”There are so many days where I can’t get out of bed or where I’m with my friends and I just burst into tears because I can’t take it any more.

”The hardest thing is that my foot isn’t hurt, my brain is just telling me it is. There’s no reason why this is happening.”

Kiera, from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, broke her heel bone in September 2004 on a school trip to Kilbowie, near Oban.

She was playing tug-of-war when she fell under a group of classmates.

No one realised she was badly injured until two days later when she could not walk.

The schoolgirl was taken to hospital, where doctors did not X-ray her but said she had ligament damage and sent her home with instructions to rest and take ibuprofen.

Brain tricks teenager into thinking she's injured

Two weeks later, she was in such pain her parents took her to Wishaw General where the fracture was found.

The delay in her treatment could have sparked Kiera’s Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), which sometimes affects young, sporty girls for reasons no one understands.

She should have been off her crutches after six weeks but instead could not walk for 18 months.

It was not until September 2005 that she was finally diagnosed at Yorkhill Children’s Hospital in Glasgow.

The musical theatre student at Motherwell College said: ”I was devastated when they told me and it was so difficult to understand.

”There wasn’t much the doctors could do because the problem wasn’t my foot. I felt all on my own.

”All I wanted was for the pain to end. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on my worst enemy.

Brain tricks teenager into thinking she's injured

”I was screaming at my mum to please let them cut my foot off if it would make it stop.”

Kiera’s disorder is similar to so-called ‘phantom limb syndrome’, where someone who has lost an arm or leg still feels pain even though it’s not there.

She had seven operations from the age of 12 to 16. Local anaesthetic was injected into her spine to stop the pain in her foot and ‘reboot’ her brain into realising it had healed.

But the surgery, and an epidural, all failed. She still cannot walk on her foot and the CRPS has spread through her body to her back, arms and neck.

She has refused a wheelchair because walking does her no physical harm, although it hurts more than anything else.

And Kiera tries to keep going through her pain, which is so extreme she sometimes has spasms and needs morphine to cope.

She has been told there’s a chance her condition will last for life but is hoping for a cure.

Brain tricks teenager into thinking she's injured

In the meantime, the teenager has done a charity walk for Yorkhill Children’s Foundation and raised £3,000 for Alexandra Sawmill’s Pain Reserve Fund, which helps to control agony like hers.

She has set up her own fundraising page at www.justgiving.com/Kiera-Ward.

And, although her pain too often takes centre stage, Kiera is hoping for a career in musical theatre or photography and looking to the future.

The teen, who has two brothers, Dean, 22, and Anton, 19, and lives with parents Jacqui and Jim, both 45, said: ”Sometimes it is hard to think about anything except how much it hurts and every day is hard.

”But I try to keep positive, I try to have a smile on my face and I just hope for a day when I won’t be in pain any more.”

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Comments (10)

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  1. Jason says:

    Pill popping scum.

    • Preciousangel83124 says:

      Why would you put that? Do you know anything about RSD? Before you judge get educated my friend. Yes she is taking way to many pills but alot of those pills are needed for this disease. I have had it for almost two years now and it is an awful and nasty disease and yes it is very painful, there is no reason to be calling her names and judging her. Why don’t you try to walk a day in her shoes and see how you feel.

  2. Lr_logan says:

    I too have the same condition and have had in several parts of me ..some recent some for about 20 years and it is a frustrating situation because we do feel the pain and it is real..and most ppl don’t understand it because they can’t really see it and it’s not something like Diabetes or something like that..it is sad that there are so many closed minded individuals . Hang in there I keep as active as I can. I am also 47 you may get the opportuntiy to see a cure first with the blessing of God. God bless you and keep up the good work in fundraising and school.

  3. FullBodyRSD says:

    TRICKS HER BRAIN? WHEN YOU INJURE YOURSELF, THE SYMPATHETIC NERVE FIRES OFF- WHEN THE PAIN DOESN’T GO AWAY IT MEANS THAT THE GANGLION NERVE TOOK OVER AND IT DOESN’T STOP FIRING OFF IMPULSES- WHY ISN’T THIS MENTIONED?

  4. RSDsufferer says:

    She will be dead by the time she’s 35! And the doctors who give her all these meds should be arrested and have their medical license taken away FOR GOOD! They just sealed her doom!

  5.  Or not walking for that matter. My story is very similar to hers. This pain syndrome is more than most could handle. Show some respect. Go get educated.

    • RSDsufferer says:

      Show respect to who? You? This girl who is on 39 kinds of pills? Who will be dead by the time she is 35? If YOU were educated, you would know that when the sympathetic nerve goes hay wire like in RSD/CRPS, the ganglion nerve takes over and again, if YOU were educated, you would know that if the ganglion nerve takes over, the damage is irreversable- Done- Capishe? All in the head? Her brain playing tricks on her? No- First, she needs to see a real doctor who follows strict protocal when dealing with RSD/CRPS-
      Why is the FDA cracking down on Doctors? Because of HER and her 39 medications! Doctors pass out pills like candy these days and you know that this is wrong, right?

       As for walking, I have full body RSD- I struggle everyday to do the simplest of tasks- I am well educated on this disease and the medicines that doctors use, because the doctors don’t know how to treat the disease- You may have been slighted some how but you don’t have to make a comment like that- As for the respect thing, I am nothing short of. Relax & have a glass of wine- That might help you some (:

      But never mix medication with wine- Keep that in mind, K? k…..

  6. Graham Hale says:

    I have just been told i have CPRS after a botched operation on my back my leg swelled up i was even threatened with it being amputated Now i’m getting told its all in my head.
    What about the botched operation i have had to have a operation on my leg to try and save it My consultant said after 18 months now that i have CRPS I have no fealing in my leg from the knee down 
    Who ever came up with the rubbish that its the brain is wrong if pain is there then there is something wroung  it is getting confused with when people loose a limb and they still feel things. Treating this like a mental problem is wrong Most CRPS has come from a injury or a botched op my consultant went through a nurve with the op i had to relieve the compartment syndrome i had 
    After all we have not asked for this Nore do we want it 

  7. “eat pray love” look out for the physics of the quest. Very good post, we are all happy by nature its our thoughts that make us feel otherwise. p.s. will defo start jotting 3 things that make me feel good or happy each day. @MIKKY :)

  8. I’d like to know how much of my selection of red was due to it being my fav colour and not the test? When I was asked to think of the colour I had to think for a sec and just settled on my fav, red. Idk… My mom got a red hammer though. 

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