Laurel’s unrelenting, searing pain began when she was 16 as an episode of acute sphenoid sinusitis, an infection in a sinus cavity deep inside her brain.
But even after the infection was gone, the pain remained. Her headaches were debilitating. Her neck pain was so bad she couldn’t lift her head off the pillow. And the physical pain was only part of the problem.
“I thought no one understood me or understood what I was going through,” says Laurel of her worst days in 2010 and 2011. “We went from doctor to doctor to doctor, and I felt hopeless.
"I couldn’t help myself, and no one could help me.”
Accurate diagnosis and rigorous therapy
In the fall of 2011, Laurel was diagnosed with amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome (AMPS) by CHOP’s David Sherry, MD, a nationally recognized expert in treating children with AMPS, and whom Laurel calls “the most amazing person I’ve ever met.”
Following her diagnosis, Laurel underwent four weeks of outpatient treatment at CHOP, with rigorous therapy for her body and her mind. “Both were hard,” Laurel says. “Nothing can prepare you for the intensity of it.”
Strenuous physical therapy is necessary to break the amplified pain cycle that is at the center of AMPS.
Since stress is often a trigger for AMPS, counseling explores those issues and teaches coping skills. Laurel persevered, even when she got angry at her physical therapists.
“I knew this was my one great chance, my one true hope to get better,” she says. “In the second week, I started to feel stronger. Then, eventually, the pain lessened.”
Support from staff and peers
At CHOP’s Center for Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome, Laurel found relief on all fronts.
“Before we found out about AMPS, I tried everything — neurologists, rheumatologists, Eastern medicine, acupuncture,” Laurel says.
Laurel also bonded with the other patients in the program during her time at CHOP, even though many were younger, because they truly understood what she was going through.
“They showed me it wasn’t just me," she says. "I wasn’t crazy.”
Getting her life back
Now at 19, a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania, Laurel practices the techniques she learned at CHOP.
“You have to put your health above everything else, before homework, before friends,” Laurel says. “The AMPS Program is amazing.
"More people — kids who suffer with pain like I did — need to know about it so they can get their life back like I did.”