Spinal-cord stimulator makes world of difference for girl in chronic pain
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Hope Mitchell, 20, walks down the stairs of the Moody Student Center at Hollins University in Roanoke. Mitchell suffered from a rare condition that forced her to use an electric scooter to get around. A spinal-cord stimulator allowed her to walk again.
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Brooke Point High School graduate Hope Mitchell spent years using a scooter
to get around. Now, a spinal-cord stimulator allows her to walk with little pain.
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Before Hope Mitchell had a spinal-cord stimulator implanted, she was in too much pain to walk, and had to use a scooter to get around. Now she can walk again, and is graduating from college.
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There are stairs everywhere at Hollins University. Hope Mitchell's spinal-cord stimulator has made it easier for her to get around.
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Stafford County student Hope Mitchell is on her feet again, five years after a rare medical condition changed her life.


Date published: 4/4/2005

ROANOKE--Hope Mitchell's got news for those who knew her a few years ago.

She's not the same person she was in high school, and it's not just because she's matured in college, the way people are supposed to do when they go off on their own.

She's on her feet again, more than five years after an injury, which seemed simple at the time, changed her life.

Mitchell is walking, up grassy hills and down steep steps of historic buildings at Hollins University, a private liberal arts school for women.

She's working part time at a local Pizza Hut, carrying trays of pies and pitchers of Pepsi.

She's getting ready to graduate in three years instead of four, because she's worked her "butt off" to finish early.

Between extra courses and writing assignments, Mitchell has had two operations to improve the condition that made her miserable.

The one that left her in so much pain, she couldn't walk down hallways. The same one that turned the former dancer into "the girl in the scooter" at Brooke Point High School.

"I'm doing great," Mitchell, now 20, said last week, as she walked around the campus that's surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. "The past two years have been the best."

Her high school years would have to rate among the worst.

Mitchell was a sophomore in December 1999, when she and her dance team performed at a Christmas parade in downtown Fredericksburg. She landed wrong on her ankle and thought she had sprained it.

The pain continued for weeks, then her whole right foot turned blue. Then both legs.

She eventually was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome.