Zara was working in a bar one summer when someone accidentally stepped on her foot, causing her left knee to twist in a strange way. She experienced a surge of pain and immediately knew something was wrong. At the hospital, the emergency room doctor said she had likely sprained a ligament in her left knee, gave her a brace and advised her to follow up with the Calgary Knee and Shoulder Clinic.
She visited the clinic two weeks later, where the doctor confirmed the diagnosis and recommended physiotherapy. After seeing the physiotherapist and being put in a rehab program, her strength and flexibility improved and “on paper, everything was perfect,” she said, but she was still in a lot of pain. When Zara started the third year of her university program in September, her situation quickly deteriorated. “I normally walk to school and the first day I barely made it there,” she said.
She was prescribed medication to deal with the increasing pain and given a cane and then crutches because she steadily lost mobility and strength.
“The pain was ridiculous and I thought it was more than it should have been, but I had never had a knee injury,” she said. “[The doctors] all said ‘It’s normal. Maybe it’s your meniscus causing the ongoing pain,’” she explained.
After seeing almost a dozen different doctors, Zara was frustrated by her increasing pain levels, lack of mobility and the absence of any clear answers regarding her condition, so she contacted Best Doctors, a benefit she had access to through the extended health insurance plan from her father’s employer.
“If I hadn’t gone to Best Doctors, I could still be waiting for a diagnosis right now,” Zara said. “I am so grateful that somebody who didn’t even look at me physically was expert enough to identify my disease. Now I know what’s going on and I have a name for it. Best Doctors really saved me.”
While Best Doctors’ staff was collecting Zara’s medical files, her pain became so intolerable that she had to be rushed to the hospital’s emergency room. “I was screaming and crying,” she recalled. Her treating physician performed an ultrasound on her left leg during a subsequent visit to the emergency room, and found the source of the pain flare: a blood clot in a vein behind her knee. Bedridden from the pain, Zara was forced to withdraw from school.
Meanwhile, Best Doctors had Zara’s medical case reviewed by a leading orthopedic surgeon, and he diagnosed her with a neurological pain condition called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, which was triggered by the knee injury that occurred over the summer. Though CRPS can be treated, there’s no cure for the disease and finding an effective treatment can be challenging.
As the Best Doctors expert suggested, Zara applied and is awaiting acceptance to a multi-disciplinary pain clinic that would give her access to a team of health care practitioners who can give her the long-term support she needs and help her find an effective treatment plan.