Fighting through paediatric chronic pain © Courtesy of Heather Talbot
Any parent can relate to the feeling of anguish seeing their child in pain, especially when that pain results in them missing out on opportunities and activities that bring them joy.
For Heather Talbot and her daughter, Lily, this experience was dotted with missed activities, trips to amusement parks cut short, and passing up opportunities because Lily’s pain was too much for her to bear. But instead of chalking it up to growing pains, Heather decided to look closer and find out what was really holding her daughter back.
“Lily’s pain persisted for so long and didn’t seem to come and go,” said Heather. “She was in pain almost constantly, which isn’t in line with what I know about growing pains. Her pain would get so bad with any activity she did; it seemed there must be something more going on.”
Lily suffered from joint pain in her back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet, steadily persisting for years. It was a constant companion, haunting her every move. For Heather, the culminating moment was when Lily came home in tears, sharing that she had made the school’s volleyball team but could not accept the spot—the pain she felt from just the tryouts was unbearable.
When Heather heard about the Paediatric Chronic Pain Program at Children’s Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre—she knew it was just what she and her daughter were looking for.
“It took a few months, but once we had our initial assessment, Lily started medication and physiotherapy, psychotherapy, and got orthotics,” Heather shared. “This all combined to be a huge help to her. Lily continues to be followed by the care team and also continues with regular treatments to maintain being (mostly) pain-free!”
Pain is typically considered chronic if it persists for over three months, stemming from injuries that should have healed, unknown physical reasons, or recurring episodes caused by specific illnesses.
As the causes can be layered, so too are the treatments: treating chronic pain requires a combination of physical, psychological, and pharmacological medications working together.
Established in 2015, the Paediatric Chronic Pain Program at Children’s Hospital provides assessment, treatment, and consultation for children and adolescents experiencing chronic pain that interferes with school, physical activities, family, and social functioning.
“One in five youth in Ontario suffer from chronic pain, however, there are only four programs like this in the province. What makes our program different is the inter-disciplinary approach and the way we focus on care not just for the child, but for their family and environment,” explained pain nurse Susan Carter, co-lead of the Pediatric Pain Program. “It can be challenging for the caregivers and community to support a child through something you might not understand. We have group therapy for the patient as well as caregivers to help children do more of what they love.”
Now 13 years old, Lily’s life is filled with the things she loves to do, like dancing and musical theatre, with nothing holding her back. Having Lily’s pain validated and treated has been transformative for her and her family.
“I am much better,” Lily shared. “I don’t have to constantly think about my pain, I can just enjoy life and do all the things my friends do.”
Looking back on her journey, Lily said that if she could tell her past self one thing, it would be that it gets better.
“Some days I felt so hopeless, like I couldn’t keep up with my friends or enjoy the things other kids were able to do,” she said. “This year, I was cast in almost every dance at the theatre company I perform with, jumping off blocks and completing complicated choreography. I could never have done that without the help of the Chronic Pain Program.”
THEILC TOP IMAGE © Pexels/Danik Prihodko When 36-year-old Rosie started noticing changes to her body that didn’t feel right, she looked to the health care