Newspaper footage from Valley Breeze Paper- July 2, 2009
Hoping for cure, Hinton reaches out to community for help --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
-By PATRICIA A. RUSSELL, Valley Breeze Staff Writer
7/02/2009 CUMBERLAND - Thrirteen years ago, Robert Hinton was the picture of health. These days, he's in constant pain. In February 2005, the 32-year-old father of two young daughters was involved in a car accident. His neck injuries caused him to develop a medical condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. RSD, caused by trauma or minor injuries, is a malfunction of part of the nervous system. Nerves misfire, sending constant pain signals to the brain. Symptoms include persistent, moderate-to-severe pain, swelling, abnormal skin color changes, changes in skin temperature, sweating, limited range of movement and movement disorders. Recently, Hinton's doctor told him that RSD is starting to affect his internal organs. The Cumberland resident has tried all standard treatments for RSD, including physical therapy, nerve blocks, epidurals and all kinds of medications. Nothing has helped. There is no cure. There is one last treatment option to relieve Hinton's pain: ketamine infusion. The drug is used during anesthesia. Unfortunately, the procedure is not covered by his family's primary insurance provider or his secondary insurance. Hinton's physician, Dr. Robert Schwartzman, chairman of neurology at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia and a leading RSD expert, said he is an ideal candidate for the 14-day procedure that is considered risky but Hinton's only chance to put the illness in remission. The cost for the procedure and travel expenses is $50,000. Hinton, whose face is contorted with pain as he speaks, is meeting his condition with hope and humor, though he acknowledged there are days that he is angry and depressed. He does the best he can, trying to maintain some kind of normalcy at home. "It's scary for them," he said referring to his kids, Alyssa, 8, and Kayla, 5. Last spring he'd hoped to accompany Alyssa to the father-daughter dance at Garvin Memorial School. He'd been feeling well and had pressed his pants the night before. The next morning, though, he couldn't move his legs and was unable to attend the dance. Still, he feels fortunate in many ways. "I've been blessed to be married to my high school sweetheart, Lee," said Hinton, sitting in an oversized chair in his living room where pictures of the couple's children hang on the walls. A walker is next to the chair. Hinton has been using it more often in recent months. He also has noticeable tremors in his right hand. "It's pretty scary sometimes," acknowledged Lee, 31, who used to do daycare at home but went back to work after her husband got sick. At work, she worries constantly about him. Some days her mom comes over and helps care for the girls when her husband is having a particularly bad day, she said. A 1992 Cumberland High School graduate, Hinton trained with the Cumberland Rescue and is a licensed EMT. He was a firefighter with the Primrose Fire Department in North Smithfield for many years. "I liked helping others," he said. Before his illness, he also worked for Invacare selling medical supplies. In his spare time, Hinton enjoyed oil painting, home improvement projects, cooking, making jigsaw puzzles and collecting Disney memorabilia, he said. While he can't do those things anymore, he spends a lot of time with his daughters "just being a dad," he said."I have accomplished my dreams." Hinton said he often remembers what his barber used to say: "If you have your health, you have everything." Hinton's treatment and testing will start in November. He is reaching out to the community for support.