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Healing hands clinic is finally easing the pain for brave kids; UNIQUE CENTRE ENDS YEARS OF AGONY.

Byline: JAMES TAIT

BRAVE Stephen Mitchell has had to endure almost constant pain since the day he was born.

The 12-year-old suffers from a condition called spondylo epiphyseal dysplasia, which means the ends of his bones are not properly formed. There are only 16 other known sufferers in the world.

Stephen, from Port Glasgow, Renfrewshire, has to bear extreme joint pain which can often leave him confined to a wheelchair.

But a new clinic, the first of its kind in Scotland, was officially opened yesterday in a bid to give kids like Stephen a better quality of life.

The chronic pain management clinic at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children at Yorkhill in Glasgow will run as a pilot project for several months in order to measure its effectiveness.

But Stephen's mother Carole, 35, already knows just how effective the clinic can be.

She said: "He has been in almost permanent pain since birth.

"But through the clinic we have learned about different ways to help ease his pain, including hydrotherapy, aromatherapy and new kinds of exercises which have already helped him immensely.

"We now do aromatherapy at home and have had a jacuzzi installed in our bathroom which makes life a lot easier for Stephen.

"He still can't run around as much as his friends but he can get out and play without having this constant pain hanging over him."

Chronic pain is different from acute pain because it can often be present for many months and no method of traditional pain relief medicine is able to control it.

The patient is also often unaware of sustaining any injury and sometimes there is no physical evidence of anything being wrong.

Until recently chronic pain was only associated with adults.

Usually, children who suffered the condition were not believed and were presumed to be trying to dodge school or to be suffering from a psychological problem.

Susan Aitkenhead, consultant for paediatric pain management, hopes the unit will now help diagnose and treat children quickly.

She said: "The clinic has been set up specifically for kids with chronic pain to ensure they receive the specialist diagnosis and customised treatment packages they need.

"The aim of this service will be to identify children suffering from this type of pain at an early stage, thus avoiding the need for unnecessary hospital admissions, procedures and investigations."

One victim doctors failed to spot was 12-year-old Dawn Lennon, from Perth, who began to suffer from a severe throbbing in her foot three years ago.

Her parents took her to their GP but as there was no obvious sign of injury the doctor said there was nothing wrong and suspected she was trying to skip school.

However, Dawn maintained that she was in pain and she was first sent to a psychologist and even had her foot put into plaster despite there being no fracture.

This went on for several months until she was eventually taken to the hospital at Yorkhill for tests.

Doctors established that she suffers from severe nerve pain in her foot which causes her constant discomfort and often becomes so severe that she can hardly walk.

Medics still don't know whether her condition will ever properly be cured but, through the new clinic, she is better able to control the pain.

Her mum Patricia said: "At first no one believed there was anything wrong, but it was obvious to us that she was in constant pain.

"But through the clinic we have been taught lots of new exercises which help Dawn and have just started a new form of medication which should help ease the pain.

"Hopefully this new clinic will help many other children in Dawn's position who are perhaps suffering from chronic pain yet are not believed or are not being given proper help or treatment."

CAPTION(S):

IN SAFE HANDS: Stephen, inset, relaxes as pain relief specialist Dr Susan Aitkenhead examines him; YOUNG VICTIM: Dawn Lennon
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 11, 2001
Words:656
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