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Fundraiser started for pain-wracked Red Deer man with rare condition

Jacob Higham needs specialized treatment from an Arkansas-based clinic
A GoFundMe fundraiser was started for Jacob Higham, 25, of Red Deer, who has suffered constant, excruciating nerve pain in his foot and needs an Arkansas-based treatment. (Contributed photo).

A 24-year-old Red Deerian who has been living with constant, excruciating nerve pain for the past five years, is desperate to try an expensive U.S. treatment regime to get some relief.

A GoFundMe campaign was started two days ago for Jacob Higham, the son of Red Deer city Coun.,Vesna Higham and her husband, Doug. Already, over $24,000 was raised towards a goal of $96,000.

“For people to so generously donate, there are no words to describe how grateful we are. We are deeply moved by the outpouring of caring from our community and loved ones,” said an emotional Vesna, who started the fundraiser.

She admitted on Wednesday it was a very difficult decision to ask the public for money since she sits on city council. But the mother of five feels she must do everything possible to help her third-oldest son overcome the relentless pain in his foot that registers higher than childbirth, amputation and shingles on the McGill University Pain Index.

Jacob was diagnosed with CRPS (Complex Regional Pain Syndrome), a rare condition triggered in 2017 when the young man stepped into a pothole while doing humanitarian work for his church in France.

The athletic and lanky 2016 Lindsay Thurber grad had only sprained his ankle, which should have healed in days. But soon his entire foot had turned purple, ice cold and immobile.

With this rare and incurable neurological condition, damaged nerve pathways send misfiring messages to the brain, causing Jacob to feel his foot is “on fire.”

Sufferers with CRPS register intense pain out of all proportion to the severity of the initial injury, said Vesna, who noted on Jacob’s GoFund Me page that CRPS is known as the suicide disease because so many people with it lose hope.

Doctors have since discovered Jacob also has some markers for auto-immune disease.

He has not been able to walk or put weight on his right foot for five years, and even considered amputation to get some relief, said Vesna. But there would be a risk that the pain would just move into his stump and he wouldn’t be able to use a prosthetic.

She feels it most worrisome that the same condition is now spreading to his other foot.

The Red Deer native already tried an array of intensive and invasive treatments in Canada — including getting four spinal blocks, the hydro-dissection of a nerve, plasma injections, ganglion stimulation surgery, implanted permanent electrodes in his vertebrae tissue.

So far, nothing has worked to lessen the agony. It requires him to take 3,600 mg of pain meds each day to achieve a numbing effect. (Vesna said a neighbour who has had knee replacement surgery was prescribed with 600 to 800 mg a day, by comparison).

Jacob, who’s now studying neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge, was recently referred by a friend to the Spero Clinic in Arkansas, which has an 85 per cent success rate in treating others with CRPS.

Vesna said she did much research and talked to past clients, including a 57-year-old man who had spent 13 years in a wheelchair and was able to walk again after five weeks of the exhaustive regime. She feels the results are encouraging.

Jacob is booked for May through August at the chiropractic-based clinic that uses various neuro-muscular therapies, including nerve stimulation, ionization and other treatments. The program takes 17 weeks and costs $70,000.

Vesna intends to travel and stay with Jacob in the U.S. so she can cook and support him emotionally through the gruelling regime. During this time, the councillor said she will attend Red Deer city council meetings digitally.

Though this is a journey “I wouldn’t wish on anyone,” Vesna marvels that her son, who’s aiming to become a doctor, has stayed remarkably upbeat.

“He has inspired me not to get so depressed, so defeated, when I see all that Jacob has been through and yet he stays so positive and cheerful most of the time.”

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