Putting an End to the Pain: Nationally-Recognized Program Restores Lives

March 15, 2016

Last January, 10-year-old Haley Abeelen broke two toes while playing with friends. After weeks of pain that only grew worse, Haley was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), an uncommon chronic pain condition in which high levels of nerve impulses are sent to an injured area.

Even wearing a sock became unbearable for the fifth grader, whose fear that someone might accidently touch her foot kept her increasingly isolated. As Haley’s parents unsuccessfully sought solutions from physicians and surgeons, the La Habra couple began to wonder if their daughter would ever walk again.

In March, Haley’s mom Cheri found a description of St. Jude Medical Center’s Chronic Pain Program online and within days, Haley was enrolled in the innovative, nationally recognized program — one of only a handful in the country with the expertise and services the 10-year-old needed.


The comprehensive, interdisciplinary program began addressing the physical, emotional and psychological effects of Haley’s pain. Pain intervention techniques were combined with carefullystructured physical and occupational therapies, biofeedback, medication management and clinical counseling. The first success came when Haley could rest her foot on the floor — next was wearing a shoe. To rebuild atrophied muscles in Haley’s leg and foot, as well as rebuild her confidence and love of being active, there were games of Wii Sport with her occupational therapist and impromptu soccer games against her physical therapist in the parking lot. The day she walked unassisted into her classroom at school, her classmates clapped and cheered.

“The physicians and therapists weren’t just experts at treating her pain, they were experts at helping her heal emotionally. For Haley, it became less like therapy, and more like going to a safe place filled with people who genuinely cared for her,” explains Cheri, who watched Haley move from a fearful, withdrawn child who wouldn’t look at her therapists, to a talkative, outgoing girl who eagerly gave goodbye-hugs at the end of therapy sessions.

By July, Haley was doing all the things that seemed unimaginable a few months earlier: running, climbing trees, biking, and boogie-boarding in the ocean. “They gave us back our daughter — and they gave Haley back her life,” Cheri says. “How can you thank someone for that?”


Within the pain program, transformations like Haley’s are common. From debilitating back pain and fibromyalgia, to headaches and abdominal pain, hundreds of patients — ages 10–90 — have learned firsthand why the highly effective program is one of the nation’s most respected.

“Those who live with chronic pain often feel trapped inside a hopeless and helpless existence,” explains Fred Nowroozi, MD, a board-certified rehabilitation medicine expert and medical director of the St. Jude Chronic Pain Program. “We help patients transform that suffering into living passionately in a world of wellness, productivity and potential.”


By bringing together an interdisciplinary team of pain specialists — rehabilitation medicine, clinical psychology, interventional anesthesiology, physical therapy, biofeedback, occupational therapy, pharmacy, and recreation therapy — the program treats the entire patient, addressing each problem that contributes to their pain and inability to live life fully.

St. Jude’s program is one of only two in the state — along with Stanford Medical Center — to offer a comprehensive approach to pediatric and adult pain. “Before reaching us, patients have often been to many doctors and clinics, and suffered for years,” explains Cynthia Crane, CTRS, point of care coordinator.

“Pain is an extremely complex, often poorly understood medical problem that profoundly affects everything you do,” explains Arthur Zepeda, MD, a board-certified interventional anesthesiologist with the pain program. “Unlike so many programs that focus almost exclusively on pain medications, we bring together the entire spectrum of today’s best evidence-based treatment options.”

The results are evident in the almost constant smile of a 10-year-old girl.

For more information about the St. Jude Chronic Pain Program, please call (714) 578-8716.

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