This CRPS Journey has come from Jamie-Lee in South Wales, Australia; Jamie-Lee who is now 29 years old. Jamie-Lee’s CRPS journey began in 2010 when she was just 14 years old. Please take a moment to read Jamie-Lee’s journey of living with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
My name is Jamie-Lee Penn-Bowen, I am 19 years old and I live in South Wales. I would just like to say a quick thank you to Victoria for all the work she does to help us all and for asking me to share my story .
My story begins in April 2010 when I went on school camp for teenage girls to learn team building skills. We went to working out back cattle ranch about 2 hours away from where I lived. We slept in raised bunks on groundsheets and just a shade cloth above our heads. These outdoor living quarters would be home for ten days. Teaching us about personal safety around wild animals, with dingoes visiting at night, as well as respect for animals of all varieties, both wild and domesticated. I had the most amazing time at the camp, I loved all the fun activities that went on in camp including bareback horse and cattle riding, horsemanship skills, campfire cooking and so much more.
I returned home with a more confident approach to daily life, and I was willing to be part of a team again, something that I had shied away from since my bullying experience at the College I was studying at. On my return, I had a boil on my right knee, so my parents took me to the doctor, where I had course of antibiotics, and within ten days it had healed, with just a red mark remaining.
In the three weeks that followed, I started to complain of pain in my right groin. I was checked me over but there was no lumps or redness, it was put down to the fact that I was a pubescent girl so period pains and cramps were blamed. Due to the pain in my groin I decided to pull out of a 5 km endurance race which I had been training for. From that moment on my family started to see the warning signs, as I have never pulled out of events like this, I don’t like to be the one that quits.
Two days later, I was getting ready for school when suddenly the pain started and I started crying as I was in excruciating pain. My mum who was a nurse at the time examined my leg and groin and was shocked to find red streaks, which indicated infection in the lymph system from my right groin down to my thigh, ending at my knee. After my mother examined me she immediately knew that infection was present. She then rushed me to the Emergemcy Department. Luckily, my mother was a staff member at the hospital which helped speed up the process as we went straight through to triage. After a hasty referral to the surgical team, we were sent to the ultra sound scanning room so that they could investigate the origin of the infection. The problem was apparent immediately. As the ultrasound probe was gently moved over my groin, despite my screaming and writhing around in pain, an abscess, 5 cm by 3 cm in size, was detected. No wonder I was in so much pain!
I was immediately admitted to the children’s ward, where again my mother’s staff privilege was useful , As the ward manager made sure that I had a side room, so that my mother could stay with me. The decision was made to treat conservatively initially, with IV antibiotics and pain relief. For three long days, and nights, I cried; as the pain was uncontrollable, resulting in being unable to move, walk or eat without distress. On the fourth day they scanned me again; the abscess had grown, and an emergency theatre slot was scheduled. As my mother nervously waited in the theatre staff room, an anaesthetist who had assisted in sedating me due to my distress he then went and spoke to my mother .
The surgery went as well as it could. The abscess was drained, and due to its size and the risk of infection, it would have to heal naturally from within. It could not be sutured, therefore it left a huge, gaping hole that was packed with ribbon gauze. That night I finally slept, only waking a few times in the night, when IV fluid bags were changed or IV analgesia was administered.
From then on we all thought the worst was over. The following morning, as we awaited the surgical team rounds, the nurses were busy with the children who did not have parents in attendance. The surgeon and his entourage of medical students walked in, and began chatting. As my mum walked to the door to see if the nurse was on her way with the dressing trolley. As she turned to look at me, she saw the surgeon’s hand reach for the wound packing; it was as if she was behind glass, unable to be heard. She shouted, “Stop no! Please God no!” Instead of waiting for the nurse to return with the saline to soak the gauze pack before removal, he wrenched the pack out revealing raw bleeding tissue. I was hysterical and uncontrollable.
I pushed myself off the bed, blood spurting from the wound and the ripped out IV cannula sites. As she reached me, I had curled into the foetal position on the floor, shaking and screaming. Blood and serous fluid leaked down my legs, being absorbed by the hospital gown. The surgical team made a hasty exit, shouting orders for pain relief and assistance, while nurses rushed in around us. My mum cradled me in her arms, rocking me , until they came with a morphine injection. By that time my mum would not let them move me until it started to take effect.
Alone, she gently lifted me onto the bed, where she laid holding me tightly. It took sedation, and many hours of comforting to get me to a stable condition. Unfortunately, the extreme pain she endured triggered a reaction in my brain, and ever since that time, whenever I experience pain, anywhere in my body, I feel that pain in my right leg. The term for this condition is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS.)
The abscess site took five (5) months to heal, with initially daily packing and dressing then changing to alternate days. A large scar remains; we jokingly call it my ‘shark bite’ because for a girl who loved wearing bikinis, I can now only wear shorts for swimming. The scar is a constant reminder of a surgeon’s thoughtlessness and presumption. The mental scar, which haunts me at times of weakness, is a continual reminder of the pain.
Since then I have had a couple of hospital admissions for my CRPS in Queensland and Tasmania.
Writing about my story has brought back lots of tears and painful memories but I did it so that hopefully it will encourage others to speak out & share their story and to raise awareness for CRPS. I also hope it will help other people like me realise you are not the only one, that there are other people who have the same horrible condition and that they are going to be there for you, just like Hannah Moore was for me. I just want to say a quick thank you to Hannah for sharing your story with me and for introducing me to other people like me .
If you have been affected in any way by the personal stories or details on the Burning Nights CRPS Support website, please contact us.
Thank You Jamie-Lee for sharing your personal CRPS journey as we understand that it takes a lot of courage and strength to speak out about CRPS and your journey.
November is CRPS awareness month and we are looking for more stories like Jack’s CRPS story to share with you on our website, to show that you’re not alone either living with this horrific chronic condition or that you live or love someone with CRPS.
If you’d like to share your CRPS story with us, please get in touch with your story (maximum 1000-1250 words) and a couple of photos that we can share to show how people have been affected by Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Visit How to share your personal CRPS stories to find out more. We’re here to support you!
If you would like to read some other stories of living with CRPS, here are a few for you take a look at: