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Bria Block, 29, of Lynden, shown with her service dog, Rowan, lives with an ongoing extremely high level of pain due to a combination of ailments, but she is hopeful of relief treatment. (Courtesy photo)

Bria Block deals with CRPS, but a treatment option for her has arisen

LYNDEN — “It feels like I am always on fire while someone is also pouring acid over me and stabbing me with a searing hot knife.”

That is how 29-year-old Bria Block of Lynden describes the pain afflicting her since she was 11 years old.

“From a very young age, her life has been controlled by pain,” said her mother, KayAnn Eide, a former Nooksack Valley elementary teacher who now lives in Cle Elum with her husband John. “Dreams, goals and simply life have had to be placed on the back burner as she has tried to survive.”

Block suffers from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system. It is characterized by chronic, severe pain that is out of proportion to the severity of the original injury. The exact cause of CRPS is not fully understood, although it may be associated with injury to the nerves, trauma, surgery, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, infection or radiation therapy. CRPS is often known within the chronic community as the “suicide disease” because some people, unable to find relief, have taken their own lives.

CRPS has a rating of 46 out of 50 on the McGill pain scale (rating higher than amputation and cancer), Eide said. Unlike most illnesses, this pain is constant, 24/7, making it one of the most severe diseases known. CRPS usually starts in one of the four limbs but can spread to any part of the body, including internal organs. There is no known cure for CRPS. Within a population of 300 million, the United States may have between 150,000 and 250,000 people suffering with CRPS.

“Bria’s CRPS started in her leg, but now, due to other injuries, it resides in her upper abdomen, both sides of her head, upper neck and forehead,” Eide said. “All of the locations of Bria’s CRPS are debilitating, but the pain in her abdomen is especially excruciating. Since all movement originates from her core, Bria can’t move any part of her body without it amplifying her pain. 

“Even breathing and talking is agonizing. On a scale of 1-10, her pain levels never dip below a six and her daily pain stays at a 7-9 level. When Bria’s pain reaches 8 or more, she is completely incapacitated. She is not able to move or talk, and is completely frozen in pain.”

Block also was diagnosed with Complex-PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) in 2012 in addition to the CRPS. The overall stress to her adrenals caused by CPTSD brings many complications. Additionally, she recently was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which also causes pain and severe fatigue in all her limbs. Block’s legs randomly give out, causing her to fall. The combination of the three diagnoses intensifies all her symptoms.

Block attended Lynden Academy and earned a Visual Communications degree from Whatcom Community College. However, CRPS has forced her to curtail the branding business that she launched with her design and painting skills.

Block and her family recently received some hope. They learned about the Spero Clinic, a medical treatment center in Fayetteville, Arkansas, that uses a unique holistic approach to treat CRPS and fibromyalgia. The Spero Clinic has designed a targeted therapy to reset the central nervous system; it reduces pain and increases movement in many CRPS patients.

“Over 12-14 weeks a specialized team dedicated to Bria’s unique case will guide her through multiple therapies designed to reset the central nervous system,” Eide said. “This will reduce her pain, while improving her physical mobility and stamina. It is the only clinic worldwide offering these specific treatment methods. Many CRPS patients are reporting remarkable improvement through these treatments.”

The Spero Clinic program is not covered by insurance and David Block — Bria’s husband, primary caretaker and sole financial provider for the family — will need to stop working for three months to accompany her. The family has started a GoFundMe page at https://painfreebria.ucraft.site/ to raise $70,000 for expenses from treatment, the couple’s housing and airline tickets. Donation checks may be mailed to The Bria Block Donation Fund, c/o WECU, P.O. Box 9750, Bellingham, WA 98227.

Bria Block is hopeful the fundraising drive will succeed.

“I mainly dream of normalcy,” she said. “Being able to breathe, laugh or hold a conversation without having to combat pain. Being able to sleep for more than a few hours and perform small tasks without assistance. Being able to play fetch with my service dog Rowan, bake in the kitchen and go on nature hikes with my wonderful husband David.”

UPDATE: The GoFundMe campaign for 29-year-old Bria Block of Lynden is off to a good start, raising more than $10,000 with approximately 100 donations in less than a week.