Life As I Know It

LIFE AS I KNOW IT

Kris at Pain Center
Kris at Southeast Pain Center

On August 10, 2015, I, Kristin R. Thomas woke up nervous about if this day was going to change my life or not.  Before I dive into all of that, maybe I should give you a little background.  In 2013, I fell while being the fabulous multitasker that I am because I was carrying groceries and slipped on the ice while talking on the phone with one of my clients.  You can only imagine how hard I fell, but I didn’t let it ruin my business call.  Sadly, toward the end of the day, I started to feel pain in my shoulder, resulting in a rotator cuff sprain.  Throughout 2013, Dr. Jackson worked with me to get my shoulder back in shape.  After some physical therapy, I was able to lessen the pain until the following year when the injury came back with extreme pain.  Dr. Jackson ordered CAT Scans, ultrasounds, and x-rays to figure out why my pain would not decrease in any way.  It took one weekend while visiting my partner in Asheville, for my symptoms begin to worsen significantly.  My right arm was completely swollen and I was beginning to lose feeling from my forearm down to my fingers.  It was scary!  Dr. Jackson acted quickly and rushed me to University ER, this where I received a life alternating diagnosis of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy also known as RSD. 

Night sweating, limb discoloration, muscle spasms beginning in my shoulder and spreading to my arm, back, neck, stomach and even leg, extreme sensitivity to cold and hot weather, and pain more extreme than cancer….these are a few of the symptoms that have become a part of my routine struggle with RSD.  Some symptoms happen daily and my condition can change from hour to hour, and some days, symptoms just happen occasionally.  Some of them are simply annoying, some embarrassing, and some are at times almost crippling.  Seven months after diagnosis, my journey has been interesting to say the least! I have learned to cope with the complete lack of feeling from my bicep down to the tips of my fingers.  This can be funny at times like when I completely misjudge where the edge of a surface is and miss the item I was attempting to grab.  Other times I get so frustrated I could scream, like when I can’t handle the weight of silverware at a restaurant and look like a toddler trying to eat my nice dinner. What frustrated me the most, however, was learning that RSD could have been prevented.  It resulted from my doctor missing the neck injury that likely happened when I fell on the ice and as a result, was never treated.  Fast forward several months, the untreated injury began to turn into irreversible nerve damage and eventually RSD, which is chronic and will be with me for the rest of my life.

The is good news??!! There actually is good news believe it or not!  My faith was something I relied on a lot during this process and that combined with a generous dose of hope has led me to an excellent prognosis for treatment and a whole lot of entertaining stories. At 31, I am uncharacteristically young for an RSD patient. There are patients my age and younger, however, this is less common than elderly patients.  Mostly, RSD is treated with pain medication and physical therapy.  I had my share of both with some relief of the symptoms, however facing a lifetime of these as my only treatment options, I wasn’t hopeful that I would live a normal life.  My doctor then introduced me to the idea of the equivalent of cesarean section blocks, but in my neck (yeowch is right!!) and when that didn’t work, a fascinating device called a Spinal Cord Stimulator. I went through a series of three of the cesarean section blocks that left my neck black and blue, my voice horse to gone, and my spirit bruised.  In early June of this year, after one of the blocks, I began to experience what my partner feared were stroke symptoms.  After a long and intense evening of unending spasms all over my right side, I began to lose the ability to speak and think clearly.  Thank goodness after a trip to the ER and a full day of rest, I was able to get through the bad episode.

Kris Power Stance

In August of this year, my doctor notified me that I had been approved for a Spinal Cord Stimulator and its accompanying trial run.  This stimulator is a permanent implant that goes under the skin from my upper back to the top of my neck and blocks the pain signals that run from my injuries (neck and shoulder) to my brain (which is where the pain registers as being “felt”).  In essence, this stimulator actually blocks me from ever feeling the pain that RSD produces!!  On August 10th, I began a 4 day trial of the stimulator that was inserted into my upper back and neck through a small incision in my back so that I could determine if it would work for me.  The best of news of all?  IT DID!!!  I was able to experience my pain levels (usually at a level 8-9) all the way down to a level 4 and I didn’t have a single spasm in four days.  I had hope that life could be a little less about managing pain and symptoms and a little more about living my life again.

Kris Implant

 Kris After Implant

Why am I sharing this story and what does this whole story have to do with Trip Out and our amazing fans?  First of all, I want you all know why I have not been travelling and shooting as much in the last several months.  Travelling with RSD has taken some adjustment, and I am learning that I have to bring along an ample sense of humor everywhere I go.  My hope is that in September or October of 2015, I will have my permanent stimulator (I am just waiting for the date of surgery) and I can begin to manage my pain and symptoms in a way that allows me to travel more and more.  However, in the meantime, Trip Out is still a HUGE priority for me and I am thinking about and planning for it constantly.  I am so excited to say that we have 1 MILLION fans worldwide!!!  I am so excited to be a part of the energy and forward momentum for the LGBT community!  I feel privileged that all our fans and friends allow me to share my journey and I am so excited to continue travelling and covering LGBT luxury travel for you!

Thank you for your continued support!

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