A brave Chivette needs our help. This is Gina’s story (20 Photos)

It all began in March of 2011, when Gina Mercieri was t-boned by a Chevy Truck that ran a red light going 45 miles per hour. Luckily, 27 year-old Gina walked away with only a hairline fracture to her left arm. After 8 weeks, Gina's bone had healed but the pain in her arm had grown worse. Doctors told her the pain was in her head. Gina knew better, "It was as if somebody was filling my arm with lighter fluid and lighting a match."

After bouncing around from doctor to doctor for a year, Gina finally got a diagnosis. The fracture to her left arm had triggered the onset of a disease so rare and sinister, its nickname is the 'Suicide Disease.' Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is a chronic nervous system disorder that can affect any area of the body. It often occurs with a minor injury to the arms or legs. When left undiagnosed or untreated it can spread to the vascular systems, cutting off circulation to all parts of the body, including major organs. There is no known cure.

On the McGill Pain Index CRPS is ranked 45. The burning pain somebody with CRPS experiences trumps not only childbirth, but also the acute amputation of fingers and toes. Gina experiences this degree of suffering on a daily basis. The episodes are so excruciatingly painful she will often black out.

If CRPS is caught early, it can be contained. The year Gina lost in misdiagnosis cost her dearly; living with CRPS has become increasingly difficult. The disease spread from her left arm to her left leg, then quickly to her right shoulder. It wasn't long until CRPS began its assault on her immune system. Gina's immune system tries to fight CRPS as if it were some sort of infection. The disease has invaded her respiratory system, causing shortness of breath and absent siezeures. Even worse, it prevents her from sleeping. Gina no longer experiences REM sleep. Without sleep, Gina's immune system cannot recover. Her body is fighting a war against an invisible enemy and the gas tank is perpetually empty.

Three months ago CRPS accessed Gina's nervous and circulatory systems, which causes progressive damage to her internal organs. Gina's digestive tract is obliterated. The physical act of eating food is nearly as painful as its digestion. Her short term memory is fading. Gina will randomly lose her sight completely and without warning.

Living with CRPS is a contradiction in terms, it's not really living at all.

For many with this disease, the only release they see is suicide. Last year, Gina joined a support group for patients with CRPS. At the time, the group was 11 people strong. That number has since whittled down to eight. The last incident, a man ended his life by throwing himself in front of a bus.

I was nervous to meet Gina. I worried that her flight from her home in New Hampshire the evening before would have exhausted her. Do I hug her? Would that hurt her? Can she walk ok? Gina arrived at theCHIVE offices walked up and gave me the biggest hug, "I'm a hugger" she said. The only thing I could think to say was to tell her: "Hi, Gina, we're here to get you the help you need."

Her response was quick: "Thank you so much. But I'm here to get the CRPS sufferers and undiagnosed sufferers the help they need. Only 4% of the medical community has ever heard of CRPS, and your story about me will change all that."

Gina showed me her TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit: It's a series of electrical cords she "plugs into" her left arm which send electrical impulses to nerves and help circulation of the limbs. One hour on and one hour off, all day every day.

Blood circulation is everything to Gina. The CRPS causes restricted and erratic blood flow to her extremities. Many sufferers (that's the term she uses, "sufferers") will lose limbs because of the disease. The TENS unit alone doesn't get the job done. Gina must stay constantly mobile. Physical activity to Gina is the most painful thing she can possibly do and yet without it her body would cease to circulate blood properly. She would lose her limbs, and she would die.

So Gina goes jogging. The recent spread of the disease to her lungs has made such a task even worse. She grimaces through the sand on Venice Beach but never stops, pushing herself forward despite the immense pain. We all watch from theCHIVE balcony in disbelief. When it's all over, Gina collapses. Her body is not only physically exhausted, but her lungs are also refusing to absorb oxygen. Gina told me later, "The worst is suddenly not being able to breathe, the respiratory attacks. It's not like gasping for air, you simply cannot take in air. If I'm home alone I can't pick up the phone and call for help. That's the scariest of all. The pain alone won't kill me, but not being able to accept oxygen will."

To treat her illness Gina is on a cocktail of medications, 28 pills in all. Gina hesitates when talking about all the pills. She was never much of a pill popper. I get the feeling she hates the daily pill regimen nearly as much as her disease. "Do you skip certain pills you've been prescribed," I ask? "I'd rather feel the pain than become a zombie if that's what you mean. There's got to be a better way." To that end, Gina has become a great student of CRPS. Ironically, Gina was a neurology major in college, providing a solid foundation for her future self-education. She has become a walking encyclopedia on the disease. "I do everything, I even take my own blood samples. I have my own file. It's a whole lot better than watching a doctor quietly sneak into another room and Google my disease."

In her research Gina has discovered new treatments that give her hope for the future. Treatments we can help provide. Six months ago, Gina discovered Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments (HBOT). The pressurized chamber delivers rich oxygen to every region of Gina's oxygen-starved body. After a half hour in the chamber, " I feel my arms and fingers start to tingle as Oxygen arrives. After an hour I feel like I could do cartwheels. It was like the disease was gone." The HBOT treatments have positive, lasting effects. For days afterwards Gina is able to function like a perfectly normal person. But the FDA has not approved HBOT treatments for CRPS. Insurance doesn't cover the treatment and she is not allowed in hospitals' chambers. "Like having my nose pressed against the glass, looking in on help I can't have." Instead she flies to the Deerfield Beach Center of Hope in Florida. Deerfield is a freestanding clinic with a Hyperbaric Chamber. It's a long trip, but it's worth it.

Finally, there are a number of functional restoration programs that implement a myriad of interdisciplinary therapies over a 6-8 week course. Incorporated in the program are specialists ranging from physical therapy to pain psychologists trained in chronic pain management. The goal is to provide CRPS patients the best opportunity for recovery and to arm them with the training they'll need to overcome their daily anguish. Brooks Rehabilitation Center in Jacksonville has one of the best Neuro Recovery programs in the world. The costs of an FRP Program can exceed $40,000, not including travel and hotels.

Finally I asked: "Is remission possible?"

"I don't know, John. Maybe. But what is possible, I'm certain, is these treatments can improve my quality of life. If I got 30% better out of all this, what a difference it would make."

The goal has been set at $60,000. Gina is here at theCHIVE office watching it all happen. I'll bring you updates as they arrive. As many of you can tell, since the new year began, Chive Charities is surging, Random Acts of Kindness on theCHIVE have become a staple of our community spirit. And, with your support, we're just clearing our throat.

Over the past year, Gina's body has been closing in all around her. Each day, Gina wakes up to unimaginable pain, the sum total of which is the equivalent to having ones fingers amputated. It is a sort of warped 'Groundhog Day' from which there is no escape. Today, the Chive community can rally around a kind and tender soul and, with outstretched hands, open her world back up again.

Donate to Gina RIGHT HERE.

UPDATE: $25,000 in less than 30 minutes. Gina is reading the comments, smiling. We're blown away.

UPDATE #2: $50,000 in less than an hour. The home stretch, let's do this!

UPDATE #3: $60,000!!! Crushed the goal in 1 HOUR. Chivers, I don't know what to say. Gina is, "Speechless." Many tears here at the office.

Before I published this article, Gina handed me a note. It read:

“This illness stripped me of everything and left me dependant, depressed, and hopeless. This is no way to live a life, I know. Y’all have no idea how humbled and blessed I feel to have the Chivers back me up, y’all are heaven sent. Thank you for this second chance at life.”

Donate RIGHT HERE.

Gina’s Twitter Machine.

UPDATE: $25,000 in less than 30 minutes. Gina is reading the comments, smiling. We’re blown away.

UPDATE #2: $50,000 in less than an hour. The home stretch, let’s do this!

UPDATE #3: $60,000!!! Crushed the goal in 1 HOUR. Chivers, I don’t know what to say. Gina is, “Speechless.” Many tears here at the office. Will update w/ pics in the DAR.

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  • Hcsopiggy

    Lets do this!!!!

    • SpotJohnny

      Done!

    • http://twitter.com/LukesThumbs @LukesThumbs

      $60K??? That's weak sauce! I feel 6 digits coming!

      • Lowrent75

        As much as I appreciate your gusto, they cap the donations at the set amount. I do not know if is because of their non-profit status or what not. Keep it up.

        • _DoC_

          You sure about that? The total stands at over 62k and climbing right now. http://chivecharities.org/stories/gina-mercieri

          • Lowrent75

            Yes…They cap it but the program cannot just cut off because of all of the 'in progress' transactions. People are free to donate to the general fund.

    • Azz

      Perhaps we could even purchase her own Hyperbaric chamber. We kinda go big 'round these parts.

      • _DoC_

        The regulations around having a pressure bomb in your basement would probably prevent it even if affordable. But I was thinking the same thing.

        • I don't know

          No, they wouldn't. Type hyperbolic chamber for sale into google and you'll see a few portable hbots for sale.

          • I don't know

            And to add to that many many pro athletes have hyperbolic chambers set up in their homes. I believe micheal Jackson had one too.

          • _DoC_

            Damn, never felt so glad to be wrong! Thats what I get for assuming. Those things are actually affordable – well, as much as a small car is. Most home units are only 4 PSI…I wonder if that is enough for CRPS?

    • Harry

      Yeah!!

    • Kyle

      Mine won't go through, says limit has been met?…

    • Ricardo Cabeza

      Dammit I gotta find a way to bypass the IT block at work so I can donate. Chivers are too fast and too good.

    • http://twitter.com/LosTorre @LosTorre

      TheChive & Gina kicks so much ass!

    • Awesome

      Wish I could donate even though it's capped! I tried to donate and the webpage gave me "Error: Donation threshold for campaign with ID: 374 has been met.". It should prompt me to then give to the general fund instead. I'd be more than willing!

    • Walter sobcheck

      there has got to be loop hole to allow more donations. like when it caps change to something else like, "blue flower" or "red ball foundation". something!

  • https://www.facebook.com/andrewhagood Andrew Hagood

    This made me tear up…what a strong young woman! Keep it up Gina!! KCCO!!

    • MarcusGeorge ma58645

      I'm piggybacking this because I think it's valuable:
      I don't have a lot of cash to give you Gina, but I am a Licensed Massage Therapist in the state of Florida. and I am willing to donate all my 16 years of experience to help alleviate your symptoms.

      Please know that our DaySpa offers you any amount of my Massage services at no cost. Period.

    • Rod Farva

      A incredible woman, tough as nails, and a stone cold hottie… you're a lucky man Captain.

    • bibby

      indeed.

      her boyfriend's a pretty cool dude too.

  • blue_bronco

    Lets go Chive! We can do it again! Good luck Gina!

    • SpotJohnny

      Lets Crush $100K!!

  • michael

    Love ya gina! From ct with love from courtney and mike

  • http://twitter.com/LosSaysSwag @LosSaysSwag

    This is literally the scariest thing I have ever heard of.

    • svp

      her perseverance is so inspiring

    • Parkview

      Fuck monsters I'm checking for this in my closet
      KCCO I hope the chive nation does everything they can do to help

    • James

      Literally one of the most inspiring things I have ever heard too.

  • GeeROiD

    LETS DO THIS

  • Anders

    I get this when donating:

    Notice: Undefined property: AuthorizeNetAIM_Response::$error_message in /home/chivecharities.org/public_html/wp-content/plugins/chive_charities/classes/ChiveOrder.php on line 387 Error:

    • Giblets

      I get the very same message. Trying to donate from Ireland, dunno if that affects anything.

      • Tony

        I got the same message, but then I tried again and it worked. good luck. KCCO!

        • Jim

          I got it as well but just went through the donating process again and it worked fine. Just try again.

        • Giblets

          Yup tried again and got a message saying it worked.

          KCCO Gina I hope we can help you in some way.

        • BJW

          I tried again, but then I got 'A duplicate transaction has been submitted'

  • Tillman61

    Jeez, sweetheart, that's awful. You're a brave little girl. Best wishes for a full recovery.

    I'm in –

    • smith0

      sincere and condescending, well written sir.

  • prankmonkey

    #15

    “When my pain finally subsides in the chamber, the first thing that happens is my body jumps at the opportunity for real sleep. For the first time in a year, I actually had a dream.”

    I can't afford to give much, but I'm in. KCCO, Gina x

    • Horus

      Giving when you don't have much to give is the ultimate symbol of kindness. KCCO!

      Don't worry dude, I'll put an extra bit for you.

      • prankmonkey

        Horus, I don't know what to say. It's people like you that renew my faith in human nature. Hugs and a big KCCO, fella

        • Lowrent75

          Beautiful. Nice work Horus.

    • svp

      not much + not much + not much = a lot
      always remember that!

      • prankmonkey

        "UPDATE: $25,000 in less than 30 minutes. Gina is reading the comments, smiling. We’re blown away.

        UPDATE #2: $50,000 in less than an hour. The home stretch, let’s do this!"

        I'm not often lost for words but this, this is just freaking awesome. Just awesome

        • Lowrent75

          I know right? So very cool.

        • Horus

          $61k in less than an hour.

          Go for another $60k eh?

          • prankmonkey

            "$61k in less than an hour.

            Go for another $60k eh?"

            It would be rude not to!

          • prankmonkey

            "UPDATE #3: $60,000!!! Crushed the goal in 1 HOUR. Chivers, I don’t know what to say. Gina is, “Speechless.” Many tears here at the office."

            Sweet jebus, that's just the best thing I've read or heard in the longest time. Tears are not confined to the Chive office x

  • Lowrent75

    Come on folks!

  • daveh873

    Help's on the way. KCCO.

  • pritter72

    Let's Roll Chive! Good luck Gina, a little help is on the way!
    KCCO!

  • Taco_Depot

    There goes my paycheck to another good cause.

  • MattyDeuce

    OK Chive Nation, we got this…you know what to do!

  • CosmoKramerTheAssMan

    Done. May you feel the love of theChive and its community….RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!

    CKTAM

    • CosmoKramerTheAssMan

      almost 35k as of 3:30CST…hear that?? that's the sound of money screaming across the nation to help a Chivette…

      CKTAM

  • Guest

    A fellow granite stater in need? Sign me up. Good luck and kick ass.

  • GRyde

    God bless you Gina. It's time to say a prayer and send some bucks. Peace!

  • Horus

    Just a shout out to Gina, if you and your boyfriend are in the DMV (DC/MD/VA) area and need ANYTHING at all, let us all now.

    Us east coast chivers will take care of you.

    • Horus

      My goodness.

      $14,000 in 11 minutes.

      YES!!

  • Coralie

    This is so scary! Help is on the way!

  • Thrill

    KCCO from NC. God bless you.

  • Wood

    I can't even imagine. Lets help this girl!

  • ZenTechnocrat

    We got this. KCCO girl!

  • BrewCrew

    Feels, so many feels. I've got my fellow New Englander's back.

  • Ben

    Could have at least gave us a warning we needed tissues

    • asasasa

      Why are you jerking off? She's not that hot

  • Prettyswellguy

    If you needed a reason to think there was no god, it would be suffering like this that proves it.

    • whoknows

      Understood, however, If you needed a reason to believe their was a God – it would be communities like this, trying to help.

    • PMC

      And the generosity of people who are moved by a stranger's plight is reason to question your assumption.

    • Andyrew711

      instead of offering your views on god, how about showing how good mankind can be, and donate for this Chivette.

      • http://www.jimmyknows.com Jimmy

        If you give $1 to every charity that has their hand stuck out, you'd be in debt to your eyeballs by Friday. I feel for her and hope she gets what she needs.

    • Just sayin...

      Agreed.

    • SpecialToast

      This really isn't the time for that. Your user name makes no sense.

    • Horus

      I don't go around asking God "Why did this happen?" but rather "How can I help?". I can only pray that He gives me the strength to reach out and do my part and in turn, when I am in need of help, I pray that others will reach out and do the same for me.

      • Kyle429

        If I could thumbs-up this more than once, I would. Very well put, sir. KCCO and God bless.

      • tonym74

        Amen,
        She was dealt these cards…and is playing them the best way possible.
        Now we deal out some dough!

    • jeff lindsay

      and the reason there is a God is the Chive.

    • HatBomb

      Swell timing, swell guy. That really didn't need to be said right now.

    • geo

      We don't need God. We have the Chive Nation and Gina has Jason and her indomitable will. KCCO

    • _DoC_

      If not for the bad things in life, no one could appreciate the good. Its the bad that makes the good what it is. Otherwise it would just be what is. Also, if not for problems, there would be no human advancement, no achievements, nothing defined as success. Things like this remind us how human we are and to appreciate small things like simply living a pain-free life. It also brings people together and allows the more fortunate ones to realize it. Maybe one day you'll understand.

    • Bluto

      As corny as this sounds… I think it was Mr. Rogers (yes, that Mr. Rogers) who said in an interview one time that when he was a kid and he saw tragedy on the news, his mother told him to look for the helpers. There are always helpers around when something awful happens. And that made him feel better.

      Couldn't agree more with Mr. Rogers.

    • OutdoorFuzzy

      Funny thing…if anything she ever told me was true…then she FULLY believes there's a God…not that I trust her anymore; before you crucify me just know I have reason not to trust her anymore…

    • Goldenage_Geek

      Your name is a bad and you should feel bad.

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