Atlanta, GA,
09:53 AM

Hope for the Future

After finally getting her pain under control at Shepherd Center, Caroline McClure looks forward to a bright future.

In 2018, Caroline McClure climbed over a seven-foot wall during a Junior ROTC summer camp and landed poorly, injuring her back and hip. Doctors found what’s called a spinous process fracture in her L-5 vertebra.

“Things were never the same after that,” she says of her accident.

For more than a year, Caroline, who was 17 at the time, endured worsening burning pain, hypersensitivity, and fatigue in her right leg, hip, and back.

“I didn’t really have a diagnosis, and the doctors didn’t know how to help me,” she says. “Nobody understood what I was going through.”

In December 2019, Caroline’s doctor referred her to the Dean Stroud Spine and Pain Institute at Shepherd Center. In her first visit with the Pain Institute’s Medical Director, Erik Shaw, D.O., Dr. Shaw determined she had complex regional pain syndrome. He told her there were things he could do to help relieve her symptoms.

She started with pain blockers and immediately experienced some relief. Dr. Shaw also prescribed medication to make her flare-ups less frequent and intense. The hypersensitivity improved, and through physical therapy, she gained mobility using crutches.

In Fall 2022, doctors implanted a spinal cord stimulator that further mitigated the pain. The device has enabled her to reduce her medication and has lessened her dependence on mobility aids such as crutches and a cane.

“The changes were gradual but steady,” Caroline says of her improvements over the past four years. “Any relief I felt gave me great joy. I could wear leggings and shoes. I felt like putting on makeup. The person I had been was slowly coming back. My experience at Shepherd has been absolutely incredible,” she continues, “from the doctors to the therapists to the nurses – everyone has been incredibly supportive and kind. It’s obvious that they care and put everything they can into getting you better.”

Caroline is now in her fourth year at Kennesaw State University, studying chemistry. After she earns her degree, she hopes to become a scientist specializing in neuroscience research and chronic pain conditions. It’s a future she had trouble seeing after her injury.

“At first, everything was so daunting and depressing,” Caroline says, “but now I realize that even with this condition, I can do so much more. Shepherd Center gave me hope.”      

Written by Sara Baxter

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.