Hi everybody, my name is Melissa McCormick, I'm 23 years old, and this is my story. When I was 17, my life changed completely. In the begining of my senior year in high school, I was excited to spend my last year with my friends and to start applying to colleges, knowing that if I kept up with my accomplishments in track and field that the coach was ready to get me a decent scholarship for shotput. In November of 2007, that all changed. I started getting a tremendous amount of pain in my left arm and left leg, along with swelling and weakness. I spent 11 days in Cooper Hospital after 3 trips to the ER. They found a blood clot in my left leg, but they couldn't understand why I was having excrutiating pain along with it. After 11 days, my parents couldn't watch me suffer anymore so they had me transfered to CHOP, where within 24 hours, they knew what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with a neurological disease called RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). This disease is caused by any type of small or signifigant trauma to the body (in my case, it was a blood clot in my left leg), which sends wrong signals to your brain saying your body is in excrutiating pain, along with weakness. This is all nerve pain, which literally feels like someone is burning you alive, and the pain is constant and always there. I felt relieved that I recieved a diagnosis, but little did I know that this was only the begining of a long and very rough battle. The diagnosis of RSD was only on the left side of my body, so the first couple months I got around with using one crutch. After a few months, I had a non-related, regular dental procedure of a root canal. A few weeks after the procedure, my tooth was killing me and my RSD seemed to be getting worse. I found out that the dentist who did my root canal didn't finish it all the way, causing a major infection in my mouth. This infection sent my RSD raging throughout my whole entire body, in which the pain was unbearable. Within a few weeks, I could no longer walk and had to use a wheelchair to get around. This didn't stop me from going to school, I was completely determined to be normal and enjoy my senior year. Everyday, my parents would take me to school and help me crawl up the steps to the library, where friends and teachers could visit. After about a month and a half, it was too much for me to handle, and i finally agreed to a home tutor. I was absolutely miserable staying at home, but I worked hard so I could graduate with the class I spent four years with. The years after graduation were just horrible. Even though this is extremely embarassing for me and not many people know the specifics of what I went through, I'm going to share it. The pain got to the point where they had me on at least 3 different pain killers and I still wasn't getting relief. I was put on Ketamine treatments as well, which are experimental, but was really my only option for some type of pain relief at the time. My body was just so weak, many days and nights I would spend in my bed, crying myself to sleep. It got to the point where I was so weak I couldn't make it to the bathroom from my bed and had to have my bed changed multiple times a day by my parents (who are saints for doing what they did for me). My family members could barely touch me, because of the sensitivity I had to everything, along with the pain. I could only wear certain types of clothing, and showers were so painful it felt like I was bathing in acid. This went on for multiple years, along with surgeries for pic lines, a port (for bloodwork and medications), a defibrillator, and eventually all of my teeth. In 2010, my teeth were getting so bad from all the painkillers I was on, that I was constantly getting infections in my mouth. The last straw was when I had about 2 major infections in my teeth that caused my RSD to go crazy, where for about 5 days I had no use of either arm. After a nerve block and medications, my arms were back to normal. My doctor didn't want to take anymore chances and told me I had to get all of my teeth removed. I was devestated, I was only 19 years old, almost 20, and was going to have no teeth. My doctors set out a plan for me to get implants and special dentures so it wouldn't flare up my RSD. The problem was the cost. Just for the surgery to get the implants, it would cost $10,000. My family just didn't have the money, after paying multiple doctor bills and for Ketamine treatments, we were broke. My RSD was just getting worse, and we didn't think I would be able to handle the surgery anyways. After four years of watching me suffer, my mom had finally had enough. She did research of different treatment options for RSD patients, and found an RSD facebook group. She found out about a doctor in Corpus Christi, Texas who was doing an all natural treatment and started making calls. In November of 2011, we finally got the call we were waiting for; my dads' charitable foundation at his work offered to pay for my travel expenses and treatment in Texas. The first week was very rough. This doctor started to slowly take me off of the pain killers, while using the treatment that he invented for RSD. His treatment was a machine that he built that works kind of like a TENS unit, that gives blood flow to the nerves, which helps the RSD. Within the first couple weeks, my improvement was amazing. After the third week, I started to learn how to walk on my own again. After that, I started swimming daily and practing walking on the treadmill, and building muscle in my legs again on the bike. By the time I was ready to come home (after 7 weeks), I was walking without the wheelchair and was completely off any pain medicines. Within the last two years, I got my life back to normal. I'm back in college, in my second year at Community College, going for forensic psychology with a 3.8 GPA. I've lost a bunch of weight, met a great guy, and am finally happy with where I am in life. The only problem I have is the constant thought in my head of no teeth. I have tried everything to get money together in order to get this surgery. I'm currently on social security, because my back is severely messed up from sitting in the wheelchair for so long. I've tried to save up as much money as I can in the past two to three years, but have only come up with $1,200. I've tried to get loans, and have been denied over and over again because of all my past medical bills that have been adding up over the years. My parents don't have the money and can't get a loan either, my dad has been on disability for a couple years now from heart complications, and my mom has issues with her back so it's hard for her to work, too. My insurance won't cover it because they consider it to be "cosmetic" and the only way they will cover it is if I had an active infection in my mouth right now. I can't go to just any dentist, because of my RSD, I need 6 implants that the dentures snap into so they don't rub against my gums and cause my RSD to flare up again. Like I said, this is extremely embarassing for me because not everyone knows about this. I have no other option and am desperate to try and find a way to pay for this procedure. The surgery for 6 implants is $10,000 and the dentures cost another $10,000. My goal is $15,000, which is probably unrealistic, but I thought it doesn't hurt to try. To a lot of people, it might seem like it's not that big of a deal. So what, you have no teeth? What you don't understand is what I deal with on a daily basis just trying to have a conversation with somebody. Can you imagine being 23 years old and not being able to smile in a picture? Or trying to keep your mouth closed when talking so people won't find out and make fun of you? I'm not going to lie, it's hard and it bothers me on a daily basis. Especially when I start looking for a job and get into the real world, who is going to want to hire me with no teeth? It's just very embarassing and I can't take it anymore. I have come so far and the only thing that will make my life complete again is being able to fully smile like everybody else. I appreciate you taking the time to read this, it means more to me then you know.
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