Teen walks with aid of spinal cord stimulator

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Chloe Holzhausen, 18, of Greenfield, is walking again after a painful six years with a leg that just stopped working. Six years ago, she fell at a basketball game and bruised her tibia. By the next day, she was in excruciating pain and couldn’t put weight on it.

Chloe was finally diagnosed with something called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Doctors can not explain it, but it is very real. Chloe has all the indicators for CRPS: changes in her leg and skin. She suffered with stiffness in her ankle and had pain. Her father says it was so bad, she couldn’t wear pants or socks.

“At the peak of her problems, she was not able to have anything touch her leg from her hip down. We’ve altered pants, we’ve rolled pants up. We’ve cut pants off. Up till now, she’s never had anything on her foot,” said Michael Holzhause, Chloe’s father.

Her parents, Dana and Michael Holzhausen, tried any and all treatments. They took her to the Cleveland Clinic, where they considered amputation. They tried medications, but there was no real effective treatment until they met Dr. Jeffrey Raskin, a Pediatric Neurosurgeon at Riley Hospital for Children. He recommended she try a spinal cord stimulator to help with her pain. She underwent the procedure this past spring.

“She was asleep, awake, asleep in the operating room and we placed these electrodes in the area above the spinal cord. And then woke her up and asked where she felt the tingles and the sensations that are caused by the activation of the electrodes,” said Dr. Raskin.

The spinal cord stimulator worked. It blocked most of the pain signals. That meant she could get into physical therapy to strengthen her muscles and bones.

“We’ve slowly been working towards her end goal, so our end goal is walking on her own without crutches, normally,” said Sarah Johnson, physical therapist.

Chloe remains on methadone for pain and is expected to be weaned off in the next few months. For now, the spinal cord stimulator is allowing her to make progress.

“I can control the pain in my thigh and that kind of helps my lower leg too. The therapy is helping at the lower leg where the stimulator doesn’t reach,” said Chloe.

Chloe is down to one crutch and a small brace for her ankle. She’s entered college and looks forward to finishing her degree and living independently.

For more information on this disorder, click here.

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