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Idamarie Scimeca Duffy recently received the inaugural "Hero of Hope" award from the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association. The story of her intractable illness - which has all of the highs and lows of a roller coaster ride - culminates with her walking after eight years in a wheelchair. Idamarie credits the Endless Pool with being "the thing that has helped turn this whole thing around."
A traumatic injury is often the impetus for the onset of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), although it is also thought to be triggered by any number of physiological circumstances, including infections, heart attack, and certain invasive surgical procedures.
In Idamarie's case, the first indications of RSD followed a severe injury to her right foot in a 1984 accident involving a heavy metal door. After six years of misdiagnosis, Idamarie's condition was determined to be RSD, a neuromuscular and neurovascular affliction, and she underwent a sympathectomy operation to alleviate her symptoms.
This involved severing the network of nerves near the spinal column, which was thought to be the cause of the problem. Unfortunately, the procedure left her with additional complications, affecting her other leg, her right arm and hand, and problems with her esophagus and eyes.
After persuading her insurer that it was both superior therapy and cheaper than the morphine-pump implant one specialist had recommended, her Endless Pool was installed in September 1999. Idamarie uses it virtually every day for a 90-minute routine in water heated to 95 degrees in winter, 85 in summer. Her routine includes simulated bicycle pedaling with a flotation belt, some swimming, and range-of-motion exercises with hand weights.
"They're amazed," she says of the many physiotherapists and other specialists who have helped her, one of whom decided that the elbow surgery he had been contemplating was no longer necessary. "And I know I wouldn't have been able to come along as quickly as I have."