|Happier Days: Brett, David, Carla & Natalie|
Carla Valentino knows all too well the toll pain can take on a person and their loved ones. The Land O’Lakes, Florida 45-year-old was an active small business owner, wife and mother when she slipped and broke her ankle triggering a progressive chronic nerve disorder that has robbed most of her mobility and left her dependent on others. She has had to surrender her “mom” duties carpooling her children to school and their activities, along with running her business. On the worst days keeps her bedridden, and on the best, writhing in pain, but able to maneuver with crutches and carpool her children to school using her left foot.
What prisons Carla is called “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy,” and it’s a chronic nerve disorder characterized by chronic severe burning pain, pathological changes in bone and skin, excessive sweating, tissue swelling and extreme sensitivity to touch. It’s considered the most painful form of chronic pain that exists.
She was just 40 when the accident and diagnosis happened. Her most brutal moment: “When my kids asked why I couldn’t play with them as actively as I used to,” she said.
Her husband, then her fiancé, immediately jumped into the role of round-the-clock caregiver, cooking, taking care of the children and driving Carla to doctor and PT appointments. Her 81-year-old mom also comes to Florida periodically to help with the kids when she’s had a surgical or outpatient treatment, and one of her best friends helps carpool her kids to and from school and their after school activities.
What’s most frustrating is the fiercely independent Carla hates to ask for help. It’s important for her trio of caregivers – husband, mom and best friend – to be in-sync with what needs to be done so they can quickly jump in. That ranges from what doctor appointments on tap for the day to the kid’s soccer schedules.