NETBALL, basketball, even ironman events – competitive sport was an all-consuming passion for Penny Westman.
But on August 25 this year, during a netball finals game at Armidale, it all changed in an instant. The 38-year-old suffered a broken thumb after mistiming an intercept – but much worse was to come.
When the plaster was removed from her hand weeks later, she was diagnosed with Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a nerve disorder where the brain wrongly sends trauma messages to the body.
The result – a constant burning pain in her right hand which has forced her off the sporting field and onto medication.
Invoking the same determination she used on the representative sporting field, Ms Westman has vowed to raise awareness about the little-known condition, which most often strikes women about 40 years of age after an injury.
“I love sport and not to be able to play it has been a big thing for me,” she said. “It’s been difficult. I’m a single mum with two girls and they’ve had to step up at home and help me with everything from getting dressed and doing up my shoelaces to cooking dinner.
“I just really want to raise awareness. If you can get the condition diagnosed in the first three months, people have a better chance of going into remission.”
November is CRPS awareness month and Ms Westman encouraged her colleagues at Peel High School to don orange – the official colour of CRPS because of the burning pain sufferers feel – on Friday to raise money and awareness for the condition.
“I think I’m one of the lucky ones,” Ms Westman said.
“... I have a great support network and I have faith that I will be well enough to get back on the footy field with the Cowgirls next season.”