Rachel H Learning to Walk Again: Rachel’s Story of Managing Chronic Pain

Trust the process, encourages Rachel. There are days where it’s going to be really hard but it’s worth it. Tell your therapists what’s on your mind – they really care.

Rachel Hansz was 14 years old when she was bucked off a horse and broke her left leg. Even after her injury had healed, she continued experiencing excruciating levels of pain in her leg that left her unable to walk or participate in many of her favorite activities. Over the next four years, Rachel saw doctors and specialists near her home in Northeast Ohio, and was finally diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a chronic condition of excess and prolonged pain and inflammation that is thought to be caused by an injury to the nervous system.

Rachel HanszDuring the years leading up to her diagnosis, Rachel was not experiencing any relief with treatments and therapies. When one doctor suggested that amputating her leg would be the only option to manage the excruciating pain she was experiencing, she began researching more about her condition and other possibilities for treatment and rehabilitation. That’s when she came across the Chronic Pain Management Program at Children’s Specialized Hospital.

Trust the Process

“It definitely wasn’t easy,” recalls Rachel of the intense inpatient program. “I went through 2 hours of physical therapy and 3 hours of occupational therapy each day. I remember the first day I arrived and my therapist took away my mobility aids and told me I was going to walk again. I was scared.”

Rachel began working with Physical Therapist, Alexandria Price, working on standing, then progressing to bearing weight on her leg, then walking heel to toe. She was even able to incorporate elements of color guard, which Rachel was involved in prior to her injury, into therapy sessions.

“At the beginning of the program, Alex and I didn’t always see eye to eye,” shares Rachel. “But I know I would not be who I am if it wasn’t for her. She was the first one who told me I was going to walk again and did not give up on me no matter what.”

During her occupational therapy sessions, Rachel said they also worked a lot on desensitization in her leg using hot and cold therapy, brushes, and other objects.

“Trust the process,” encourages Rachel. “There are days where it’s going to be really hard but it’s worth it. Tell your therapists what’s on your mind – they really care.”

Rachel HanszRachel shares that when she first arrived at Children’s Specialized Hospital, she was feeling very pessimistic and felt that she had given up on ever finding a treatment for her chronic pain, but by the time she left the program, she was filled with hope and had self-confidence again.

“After 6 weeks, that hospital became like a home, and the people there became my family. I left there an entirely different person, filled with hope and optimism. I was so aware of the power of my mind and the way I think. I saw endless possibilities ahead of me.”

Moving Forward

Now at 22 years old, Rachel is currently applying to receive her Masters in Social Work, with her ultimate goal to become a pediatric social worker. She says she would love to work at Children’s Specialized Hospital to help the kids and families the way she was helped, and would eventually want to earn her PhD and open up her own practice. Since leaving the Chronic Pain Management Program, Rachel still is receiving outpatient physical therapy and still does not use any of her mobility aids.

“Before I left Ohio for New Jersey, my doctors were telling me that this program would probably be a waste of my time,” shares Rachel. “But after 6 weeks at Children’s Specialized Hospital, my life changed forever. Thanks to the staff in the Chronic Pain Management Program, I can walk and run again.”