Every day is a grueling fight for a Sulphur man living with a terrible condition that causes him constant pain. It has turned his foot purple and taken away his ability to walk, but Bob Rust is not giving up.
Every day, Bob puts himself through intense physical therapy. "I'm tired," he said. "It takes everything I've got."
It has been seven months since Bob had surgery on his right knee and ankle. A few weeks post-op he knew there was a problem. "The ankle was so red and swollen, and I could not move my toes, nor could I move my ankle at all. It was frozen."
That is when Bob started seeing physical therapist, Jay Stelly at Stelly Physical and Occupation Therapy. "As far as severity, he's in the top two I've ever seen," said Stelly.
Some days Bob's foot is red, sometimes black, and today it is purple. No matter the changing color, the pain is the same. "It feels like if you douse your foot in gasoline and you light it on fire, and it stays on fire 24/7, and there's no putting it out," he said.
Bob got a diagnosis he had never heard of: CRPS, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The root is damage to the peripheral and central nervous systems. This can happen after a surgery or trauma or in some cases, for no reason at all. "It can lead to increased swelling, increased redness, decreased functioning, capillary restrictions. There's just so much that it can impact," said Stelly.
Bob insists on doing physical therapy five days a week to keep the condition isolated. "It can go to people's eyes. It can go to their face. It can go into their hands -- any part of the body it can go into."
For Bob, it is isolated to his foot. Aquatic therapy has helped him gain enough strength and motion to walk underwater, but it is only tolerated because of nerve blocks and an implanted stimulator. "They put wires in my back, and I have to wear a belt brace, and I have a remote control to be able to block the pain from the brain to the ankle," he said.
Bob's future is unknown. Some people with CRPS suddenly wake up in remission, others might suffer for years. Bob hopes his pain goes away, that he can walk again soon and one day enjoy a much-missed hobby. "The short term is to be able to get rid of the crutches and walk with a cane," he said. "The long term goal would be, of course, to get back on the tennis court."
Children and adults can be diagnosed with CRPS, although the average age is 40.
If you want to learn more about the condition and resources to manage it, mark your calendar for Sunday, February 16. The Integrated Solutions to CRPS Conference is happening in Lafayette. Click here for information.
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