Compartment Syndrome Journey for Teenage Girl

When I was in the seventh grade I was winning my division in road races and running state ranked times in cross country. However, when eighth grade XC season came around I started experiencing extreme pain in the calf when I would run or walk strenuously. My school trainer said it was growing pains so I continued to try to run although most days would end in a fall to the group and crying from the severe pain. I didn’t think the pain could get any worse- I was wrong. I was to the point where I couldn’t run at all. I kissed goodbye my state ranked times and my training schedule and fell into a stretch where I was so mad with myself that I didn’t want to do anything. My mom took me to an orthopaedic doctor at the end of season and he said the pain was being caused because my bones were growing faster than my muscles. He sent me to physical therapy. I did PT for a few months while I continued on in basketball season. I could only stay in the game for minutes at a time before I couldn’t feel my leg anymore and had to sit out. I decided to take the summer off from running and thought that a break may help. I returned to the XC team my freshman year. The pain was still there and only getting worse. My basketball coach and a few teammates suggested that I was faking just so I didn’t have to do the running. My mom took me to another orthopedic doctor hoping for a new diagnosis. He said that nothing was wrong and I should do more PT and stretching. Crushed once again, I did what he said. Track season rolled around and I only did the short distance races but still in pain. At the last race of the season, during the 800, I felt a pop in my foot and fell to the side of the track. I was in a great deal of pain and could barely walk. As I sat and iced my foot at the meet, my cross country coach came up to me and informed me that he had been researching my symptoms and found something called Compartment Syndrome. That night, my parents and I researched it and the symptoms matched exactly. We went back to the previous orthopedic doctor the next day. He diagnosed my foot as having a fracture and gave me crutches and a boot. When we asked him about compartment syndrome- he completely turned it down. Just when we thought we’d finally have an answer, we were yet again crushed. However,my mom wanted to get a second opinion. So we went to a new doctor but he didn’t have any appointments open for a few months in advance so we saw his assistant. She immediately suggested compartment syndrome. She had just been to a conference on it and my symptoms matched exactly. She said my case was so obvious that she didn’t even have to do the pressure test- god bless. My mom and I left that appointment crying tears of joy because this long journey of doubts and unanswered questions could finally come to an end. But..it was just the beginning. My first step in my recovery process was to heal the fracture. For three months over the summer I was on crutches then a few more in a boot. By the time it was healed we were a few months into my junior year. My surgery date was finally here. This surgery was so painful and the recovery process seemed like it lasted decades. After months and months on crutches and months of learning how to walk again, I was finally able to start doing activities like biking. I moved up to the elliptical and swimming then finally running. When I ran again, the symptoms returned…only in my other leg. We immediately went back to my doctor and he said, sure enough, that compartment syndrome often occurs in both legs. I was scheduled for surgery in the next 3 weeks. This time I knew what to expect. I religiously took my pain pills and wanted to push myself to walk sooner so hopefully I could run at the end of track season. Two weeks post op I learned how to walk and the day after I boarded a plane down to the Caribbean Island of Saint Maarten. I kept my fresh scars covered with bandages- which left some gnarly tan lines- and by the end of the week there I was able to hike and walk normal. I am a senior in high school now and just recently got cleared to run again but have not yet because of the fear. I am scared that the pain will still be there- whether it be the surgery didn’t work-which is fairly common- or a new pain arose from the surgery.

I still have 4 very large and visible scars along with no feeling in my ankles. I am patiently awaiting the day where I am not scared to do what I love again- just run. I think about giving up running but then remember why I’ve held on for so long. This will never be over for me, and it’ll always be a fight, but it is possible and I’m going to prove to everyone, but more importantly myself, that I will run again- stronger than ever.

2 thoughts on “Compartment Syndrome Journey for Teenage Girl”

  1. Hello, my name is Taylor and I have compartment syndrome. I first started having problems my 6th grade year. I had been playing soccer nonstop all year round for about six years by then. I had always had little problems with my legs. I had grown super fast at a young age so my bones grew twisted. Causing my growing pains to be slightly worse then others. I first noticed the pain worsen after I had gotten back from a trip with a friend. I had like a burning, tightening feeling in my calf’s. I had told my best friends that they hurt worse than normal and they said it was probably because I was sore. I went home later that day and could barely stand. I sat on the floor and bawled my eyes out because the pain was so bad. My mom scheduled an appointment with my doctor the next day. When I told her what was happening she told me it was growing pains. But something felt off. It was a different pain. Which I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. By my 7th grade year nothing had changed. I still continued to play soccer and do my everyday activities. I still continued to have severe pain in my calf’s. I switched doctors by then. My mom had looked up what my symptoms matched and compartment syndrome came up. Mine matched perfectly. She asked my new doctor and he said that it was growing pains. He basically told her that she wasn’t a doctor and should leave it to him. Upset and frustrated we left with no answers. By the end of the year the pain got so bad I couldn’t walk. I spent the last few weeks of school laying on my couch crying because I couldn’t walk. My mom and I had finally had enough and decided to see an orthopedic surgeon. He said my mom was most likely right and set up an appointment for me to do the pressure test. Your lucky you didn’t have to because it was horrible! He said that I had compartment syndrome. This all happened over my 8th grade year. After having the test done,I was scheduled to have my surgery within 30 days . I had the surgery on May 28th, 2014. The pain after was horrible and the healing process seemed like it took ages. By the beginning of summer I was able to walk with crutches but had to take a bunch of breaks to make sure I didn’t push my self to hard. I went to the beach for a soccer tournament to watch my best friends brother play. I got the OK, as long as I kept them covered. I know all about the tanlines haha. The tournament was on the weekend of fathers day weekend. And on fathers day o woke up super sick. I stumbled to the bathroom and then couldn’t get of the toilet. I thought I was gonna get sick. My best friend came in and asked if I had taken a shower because i was drenched in sweat. The light got super bright, I felt sick and so weak, and I couldn’t hear right. Everything sounded so distant. She and her mom carried me to the bed and laid me down and took my bandages off. They were super infected. She had me call my parents and I didn’t know what to say. Just that something was wrong. So while I waited for them to drive two hours to the beach to get me my basically second family went to watch their son play. I remember waking up and seeing one or them checking in on me. After my parents showed up they took me to the hospital. They gave me antibiotics and fluids and sent me home. So the next day I went and saw my orthopedic surgeon again and they rushed me up to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. They said they were really infected. I had mersa, strep A, and ecoli. All at once. I was in surgery within the hour. I spent five days in the hospital. I had drain tubes in my legs and these weird boot things. I had to start PT immediately after I was awake. To reduce the chance of getting drop foot. It was the worse thing I have ever had to do. The pain from my second surgery was by far the worst. I would pass out from the pain and sleep for hours on end. They were giving me ten different strong pain meds and none of them were working. It has been the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. After spending almost a week in the hospital I was finally able to go home. I am now a junior in high school and still have problems. The surgery didn’t help, as I thought it would. I know have chronic pain and nerve damage because of it. I’m now not able to play the one sport I love more then anything. I know get to watch the people I had grown up playing with get scholarships to colleges to play and watch my youngest sister start her first year in highschool. One thing I was looking forward to was to be able to play with her. I know the thought of trying to get back put there to be painful. It’s definitely scary. But trust me it will be the best thing you’ve ever done. Take it slow. If your still not ready, that’s okay. Take your time. Try coaching or encouraging your old team mates. I’ve been able to help coach my youngest sister with her team. She’s 11. It’s so great to watch them grow and learn to love a sport that I feel in love with as such a young age. I feel like there’s a reason why things happen the way they do and sometimes it’s hard to understand why. You can either let it consume you or let it be an inspiration to others. I hope you can get back to me soon. I’d love to chat more. Have a good day. ~Taylor Shultz

  2. Hi Grace and Taylor. My name is Fay and I’m from England. I was diagnosed with compartment syndrome in April, this was after being in pain from August. I had a scholarship to play golf in America, I originally started getting a lot of pain as soon as I arrived and was told by my physical trainer I had shin splints. My coach and her told me to keep going and the pain would eventually go. By the time I came home for Christmas I could barely walk and thats when my parents realised something was wrong. I have numerous of tests and my doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong until my pt mentioned compartment syndrome. I was referred to a orthopedic surgeon and had the pressure tests done as soon as possible. After having the pressure test it was obvious that I had compartment syndrome as the pressure in my legs came up as 90. I had surgery in June and the pain after was awful and I couldn’t walk as I had both my legs operated on. After my surgery I could tell something wasn’t right with my left leg and it turns out my nerve was severed during surgery. I had another operation the month following to have a nerve graft put in my leg but as of yet it hasn’t changed anything and I now have a hypersensitive leg. I recently went back to see my surgeon because I’m still in a lot of pain and it’s extremely similar to before. I had pressure tests re-done but all my compartments weren’t anywhere near what they were before with my lowest one being 15. I’ve been referred to see another specialist and I’m hoping he has some answers. I recently read online about Popliteal Artery Entrapment syndrome, this syndrome is very similar to compartment syndrome and has been misdiagnosed. This is something I’m going to be looking into as I’m 19 and this has really taken over my life and I need answers. I hope that you too are doing ok and If you ever need someone to talk to you know where to find me. – Fay Carpenter

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