Taking the Plunge to Benefit Pediatric Pain: A Doctor’s New Year’s Ritual Raises Awareness On The Plight Of Young Pain Patients.
Every New Year’s Day, as large and spirited crowds run toward the frigid ocean waters in Newport, Rhode Island, one man’s jump is especially meaningful. Pradeep Chopra, MD, is a Rhode Island pain physician who treats kids living with complex and often incurable conditions such as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS).
“I do the Polar Bear Plunge every year to raise awareness about the need to recognize that children suffer pain, just as adults do,” he says. “To have everybody understand that the pain of jumping into icy cold water is the kind of pain that children live with every day. The body-wide pain from freezing cold water lasts only a few minutes for us, but for most children, that kind of pain is every day, all the time.”
Chopra is the 2013 winner of the Schwartz Center Compassionate Caregiver Award, and a national expert on these not-so-rare conditions. He has earned a reputation for his quality care and dedication to these complicated kids, and he is a tireless advocate for improving awareness and standards of care for this particularly vulnerable patient population. Many of his young patients and their families have experienced years of misdiagnosis, and sometimes mistreatment from a well-meaning but misinformed or fragmented medical system. According to Chopra, the opioid crisis, healthcare cuts, and a lack of awareness is not making things easier for kids who are trying to find effective care and get relief.
“We are not making progress in helping physicians understand pain in children. In fact, we have gone backwards with the new rules and regulations and by allowing insurance companies to deny these children treatment,” he says.
Dr Chopra’s jump is his personal annual fundraiser for The Coalition Against Pediatric Pain (TCAPP), a 501c3 non-profit that supports kids with complex pain conditions and their families. One hundred percent of TCAPP’s donations go into programs such as Send A Smile (which sends care packages to kids who are struggling), family assistance, and pediatric pain summer camp. TCAPP has also been a pioneering charity for EDS, helping to fund research, physician education, and several awareness campaigns.
When asked about his wish for pediatric pain patients in the upcoming year, Dr. Chopra’s answer shines a light on the importance of TCAPP’s work.
“My hope and dream is that hospitals, physicians, and nurses start to develop more compassion toward children with chronic pain, relying less on psychiatry and more on real pain treatments,” he says. “Human beings who treat human beings need to treat people in chronic pain with more respect, compassion, and understanding.”