Amazing Gracie

Posted on October 10, 2019

A Patricia Neal Outpatient Clinic Success Story 

“Everything has a purpose,” Gracie Hyde says as she sits with her parents at the Patricia Neal Outpatient Clinic at Roane Medical Center. “Even if you can’t see it.”

Wise beyond her years and with a fighting spirit, Gracie, 15, has a condition called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). The syndrome can be described as a “disconnect” between the brain and the body that causes chronic, excessive pain.

But with help from the therapists at the outpatient clinic, Gracie has regained quality of life. She’s active again, smiling and at peace.

A minor injury with major pain

Complex regional pain syndrome can occur after a severe or traumatic injury, but it can also follow a minor injury. In severe cases, individuals may not recover and may face long-term disability.  The FDA has not identified a specific medication to treat CRPS, although rehabilitation, relaxation therapy and other approaches can sometimes be helpful.  

When Gracie twisted her knee last year, CRPS convinced her brain it was a major injury, and her body responded accordingly.

“The first time we went to the ER it was because my leg was swollen from my hip to my toes,” Gracie says. “They didn’t know what it was.”

For Gracie, the brutal battle in her body resulted in crippling pain that has at times resulted in tremors, caused her hands to draw up to her chest, and even made her face droop as if she’s having a stroke.

The pain became so bad that her body simply couldn’t cope with it. She began suffering panic attacks during seizure-like episodes.

David and Jessica Hyde describe what they’ve witnessed as heartbreaking. They’ve seen their daughter’s body coiled up in unimaginable pain and listened to her cries and screams of agony as she tried to fight through it.

“All you can do is rub her back and tell her you love her,” Jessica says. “You just pray with her and talk her through it.”

Getting Gracie back

Then the Hyde family found the key that unlocked Gracie’s prison of pain and panic. In late 2018, David and Jessica took her to the Patricia Neal Outpatient Clinic at Roane Medical Center.

When physical therapist Matt Magee touched Gracie’s leg during the initial exam, she screamed. The once vibrant teenager who had played basketball, backpacked countless miles with her dad and had been a rock of strength for her family was helpless – and seemingly hopeless.

But Magee explains that giving up and walking away was not an option.

“One of our core values is putting the patient first,” Magee says. “The biggest way we do that is with focused, one-on-one attention from our therapists on every visit.”

While Gracie’s therapy was a team effort, Todd Hash was the physical therapy assistant assigned to her on an ongoing basis. When he realized the level of commitment Gracie and her parents had, he made a commitment to them in return.

“I knew this was their last hope and they were tired of not getting answers and not seeing results,” Hash says. “I knew I had to do everything possible to get this young lady better.”

Gracie’s therapy began in the clinic’s pool. Hash worked on simple movements, stretches and exercises to strengthen the atrophied muscles in her leg. Next, she graduated to walking on a treadmill in the pool. Then her therapy moved to solid ground.

Following an overall plan created by Magee, Hash and the family worked together to set small goals. Hash says they always managed to meet those goals about two weeks ahead of schedule.

“I can’t speak enough about Gracie and how strong and committed she is,” Hash says. “Any time I asked her to do something, she did it.”

Pain and persistence

The process was slow and painful. Every time Gracie was able to see progress her body would revolt a day or so later, throwing her into seizures of excruciating pain. But she refused to give up. 

“Todd really took her on as a personal mission,” Jessica says. “He just went above and beyond what he was getting paid to do. It was a personal investment.”

By the time Gracie was released from therapy, she could stand, walk and even jog laps in the parking lot. Her basketball coach has encouraged her to think about coming back on the court with the team, something that was completely inconceivable less than a year ago.Gracie is back in action on the basketball court.

“I knew the research I had done was not very hopeful, so when I started seeing progress I was blown away,” David says. “She went from only walking with crutches to running, and that’s an amazing thing to witness and be a part of.”

Gracie continues to experience some pain and sleepless nights. Her leg is still sensitive to the touch and she has to be cautious. But Jessica Hyde says they all know there is much to be grateful for, like the emergency room physician who cared for Gracie and was able to correctly diagnose her CRPS. 

“I have to praise God for putting that doctor in the right place at the right time,” Jessica says. “Some people go for years without a diagnosis.”

Magee, the first physical therapist to see Gracie at Roane Medical Center, was also familiar with CRPS and had experience treating the condition.

Then there are the little blessings of everyday life.

Gracie offers a few words of advice before heading off to enjoy time with her sisters.

“Bad things happen,” she says. “Go around it. Don’t sit there and dwell on it and pity yourself.”