It can be tough for anyone to keep up with a 4-year old. But when you spend most of your day in a wheelchair due to constant pain, it’s nearly impossible. Jill Elrod tries to make the most of each day and enjoy time with her daughter who tries to understand that ‘mommy’s legs hurt.’ Jill tries to protect her as much as possible from the reality of her chronic pain saying, “I try to keep a smile on my face.”
Jill was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes (Type 1) at age 3 when she fell into a 24-hour coma. Being raised by her grandparents and with her parents absent during her childhood, she had no one around to monitor her blood sugar daily. Quickly, her health began to fall through the cracks and throughout the years, Jill has developed additional chronic diseases due to poorly-treated diabetes, including the most common, yet often unknown, side effect: peripheral neuropathy (PN).
During high school, Jill began to feel the typical symptoms of PN – numbness, tingling – and went to visit her doctor. It wasn’t until 2009, at the age of 21, that she was finally properly diagnosed. Today, she is in the wheelchair more than she is out of it due to her constant pain and ongoing problems with balance issues, not uncommon in those suffering with PN.
While traditional pain medications have had little to no effect on her PN symptoms, at her neurologist’s recommendations, she began looking into physical therapy. She was intrigued by the possibilities but, unfortunately, her medical insurance would not cover physical therapy sessions. Spending time doing research on the web, Jill found the Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy (FPN). She contacted FPN with her story, hoping we might be able to help her.
Reaching out to a physical therapist in her area, FPN was fortunate to find someone willing to treat Jill pro-bono. She began going to sessions three times a week several months ago and has found benefit through massage and electrical stimulation – both encourage blood circulation to help reduce the pain and hopefully slow the progression of her PN. She recently started using a machine that would help her regain some of her balance but has not been able to get to therapy as often as she would like.
When asked about the treatment she has been receiving she remarked, “I feel very blessed to be getting this care. No one has ever cared for me in this way. They make me feel so good.” She is grateful to FPN for connecting her to this caring group of professionals.
Soon to turn 24, Jill was anxious to become more independent. With her diabetes under better control thanks to the use of an insulin pump, she was able to move into her own apartment recently. She stays home most of the time but is grateful to be able to get up and get her daughter off to daycare. With friends who help her and family nearby, she knows she can always go back to her grandparents but for now is relishing being in her own space – even in her wheelchair.
With a positive attitude that many in chronic pain understandably cannot maintain, Jill exudes a love for life and has no self-pity! Keep it up, Jill…and Happy Birthday!