Sarah Walker’s friends and family organized a fundraiser to help her pay for surgery to treat a painful face condition. Pictured, from left to right, are: Tammie Hanel, Stella Bruner, Sarah Walker, Pat Padilla, Kay Cruz and Crystal Walker.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Sarah Walker’s friends and family organized a fundraiser to help her pay for surgery to treat a painful face condition. Pictured, from left to right, are: Tammie Hanel, Stella Bruner, Sarah Walker, Pat Padilla, Kay Cruz and Crystal Walker.

Fundraiser helps Craig resident work toward freedom from pain

‘A whole community’ behind her

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Sarah Walker smiles Wednesday from a chair at her business, All About You Salon, on Breeze Street. Walker’s friends and family are raising money to fund a surgery to alleviate excruciating pain in her face caused by trigeminal neuralgia, a neurological condition.

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Irene Losolla, right, takes a seat next to Sarah Walker, middle, and Leah Bruner, 3, during a taco dinner fundraiser and silent auction Wednesday at American Legion Post 62. The event raised funds to help Walker pay to treat her trigeminal neuralgia.

Sarah Walker, 51, had set up her chair two weeks ago in Craig City Park, ready to enjoy a sunny afternoon at the annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.

Seeing live music with her daughter, Crystal, is one of her favorite pastimes, but when the first drum beat rattled from the speakers, Sarah felt the familiar, searing pain in the side of her face.

The vibrations had triggered a debilitating pain in her face and jaw called trigeminal neuralgia, a condition she has dealt with for four years.

The condition has no known cause, and affects about one in 15,000 people, according to The Face Pain Association, which provides support for those who experience the stabbing and shock-like pain stemming from the trigeminal nerve on the side of the face.

“Even when the wind blows, you can see the fear in my face,” Walker said. “And it just shouldn’t be like that.”

Sarah’s family and friends helped organize a fundraiser Wednesday to help pay for surgery, which could alleviate the pain.

She will travel July 8 to Denver for the procedure.

Sarah, who owns All About You Salon with Crystal, said she is optimistic about the $8,000 surgery.

Anything, she said, to stop hurting.

“It’s so intense,” Sarah said. “Because it’s in your head, they called it the ‘suicide disease,’ because people just kill themselves.”

Sarah is a petite woman with a bubbly laugh and eyes that give away her emotions, but when the pain is bad, she is unable to smile or talk.

Early Wednesday afternoon, she was feeling better than usual, and was given an extra reason to smile.

Her sister and brother-in-law, Stella and Moe Bruner, had traveled 1,300 miles from Indiana to surprise her on the day of her fundraiser.

Sarah wiped tears of joy from her eyes at the sight of her family, smiling with relief, even if it was just momentary.

The pain first began about four years ago after Sarah returned from a camping trip. She thought she had a tick in her ear, or perhaps a toothache.

“I went to dentists, I went to general practitioners, I went to emergency rooms, the chiropractor,” she said. “I had all these tests. All they do is knock you out and give you a big bill.”

After her first few doctor’s visits, Sarah was unable to secure health insurance because she had a preexisting condition.

“The first two years, I could barely eat, sleep, drink,” she said. “I found myself feeling weak, and I’m a strong person usually.”

But Sarah pushes through, and has adjusted almost every aspect of her life to avoid the pain.

She sleeps on the couch every night so she can lean on her left side.

Her hair and nail clients have been understanding, she said, when she steps back from the chair to grab her head in pain.

Tammie Hanel, Sarah’s friend of seven years, said Sarah’s strength, along with her family and friends, helped her persevere.

“She’s got a good heart, and she’s always upbeat, as much as she can be,” Hanel said.

Hanel helped organize Wednesday’s taco dinner fundraiser, which will help Sarah make a down payment on her upcoming procedure.

The fundraiser brought in $2,365.

“It was way past any any expectation we ever had,” said Hanel.  “We really thank the community and everybody who helped and bought, and who came to eat. It was just amazing.”

The treatment, called Cyberknife, is a 45-minute procedure that will expose the area around the nerve to radiation. The resulting scar tissue can prevent the trigeminal nerve and nearby blood vessel from rubbing together.

“Then I can joke and laugh with people and go to concerts with my kids,” she said.

Moe, who has known Sarah for almost 40 years, called his sister-in-law an “angel,” and was happy to be able to see her before surgery.

“We love her and we had a lot of love to bring her,” he said.

That comment made Sarah tear up once again.

“I’ve got a whole community,” she said. “When it comes to needing people, they were there for me.

“Twenty dollars here, twenty dollars there, a prayer here, a prayer there. It all matters to me.”

Comments

GanjaGuru 3 years, 9 months ago

Wow..Fined huh? You should be fined for Lack of Compassion and stupidity. Sarah, have you tried Cannabis for your pain? It might help and I am just suggesting that. Itr truly helps my pain but you seem worse than I. So please give Cannabis, in any form , a try. Hope you feel better.

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JAHM 3 years, 9 months ago

Okay I have a question and some info here it goes........ do most people know that with this condition, the operation may not be possible?? so did anyone stop to think or ask if they checked to see what was pressing on the nerve how bad the nerve is wrapped up? and what its wrapped up in?? and if they are able to work on or move what its wrapped up in to releave the pressure on the nerve?? I watched a show on this condition, and a lot of people spend their whole life living with this condition because whats wrapped around the nerve or putting pressure on the nerve can not be worked on because of the potential damage it could do to the person. So they spend the rest of their lives living with it and taking medication to help the pain. All I am saying from personal experiance before I would go fork out money to someone i know or don't know to help them I would do some research on what they have and what has already been done..........making sense?????? all im asking is has this woman had a doctor give her the go ahead that they CAN fix this???? or has she not even gotten that far? I do know that they can tell you before they open the person up if its operable or not so all im asking is does this woman know if she CAN 100% for sure have it done??? just a question.........and some food for thought..............

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compassionbeforeignorance 3 years, 9 months ago

I know Sarah well and yes she has went to neuralogists and they Can do the surgery. I don't believe watching one show makes anyone an expert on the condition. She has been living with pain you could not even imagine for 4 years. It is a blood vessel that is touching her nerve. Cannabis will not touch the pain because it is nerve pain, thank you for the suggestion. She has of course exhausted all options. Furthermore, if you knew Sarah you would be a little more understanding. I trully hope she doesn't read this because it would really upset her to see that people think is she was too ignorant to understand her condition.

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GanjaGuru 3 years, 9 months ago

I must comment again.. Earlier I was commenting on the person before me who said Sarah should be fined for no insurance. I am on Sarah's side and was talking to the person who's comment no longer seems to be able to be seen. They must have removed it...

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compassionbeforeignorance 3 years, 9 months ago

I was wondering what the fined comment was about... they said she should be fined for not having insurance?? too bad they don't fine people for being cruel. Anybody who knows sarah is on her side. thanks for being awesome:)

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GanjaGuru 3 years, 9 months ago

Yes that is exactly why the newspaper here online does not need to remove comments...it made mine look bad when actually I was left holding the bag..

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JAHM 3 years, 9 months ago

I was just asking questions thats all. I never said that I was an expert on the whole issue, and I DO KNOW SARAH VERY WELL more than i would have liked to.............and I have my opinions about her. but here is not the place or time for that. all I was asking is if she got in to see who she needed to see to see if she could even have it done, only reason i asked was because the last time I actually spoke with her about this they were unable to get in to have that done due to insurance and other reasons.............thats all I was asking........just some questions. NOTHING MORE NOTHING LESS....................

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annrita 3 years, 9 months ago

Its good to see that people are willing to help others even in these tough economic times!

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