Imagine the pain of stubbing your toe. Unbearable at first, the pain eventually fades away, perhaps not even leaving behind a bruise. What if that pain lingered on for the rest of your life?
For Miller Kerr, the captain of the Kilgore College Rangerettes, the feeling of constant pain is a reality in her everyday life due to a rare nerve disorder known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS.
Kerr was only 10 years old when the pain of a basketball injury never faded away.
“The doctors told me nothing was wrong. It’s probably just a deep bruise, and you’ll be fine in a couple of weeks,” Kerr said.
Her family sought answers from a multitude of doctors, until finally she was diagnosed with CRPS. Although it is unknown as to why the basketball injury triggered the nerve disorder, Kerr explained that some researchers suggest that there may be a genetic component that causes “my nervous system to send signals to my legs saying that I’m in pain, when I am not in pain.”
Young Kerr was left unable to walk due the continuous pain she describes as “a bunch of nails being hammered into my legs, or like my legs are on fire.”
Eventually, after months of searching for treatments for this incurable nerve disorder, Kerr went through a 6-week long treatment program at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, where she learned how to walk again.
Although she had to stay in the program longer than most CRPS patients, she eventually became strong enough to manage the pain as she learned to live with CRPS as her new normal.
The Cleveland Clinic became a very special place for Kerr, and although she has her plateful leading the Rangerettes, Kerr has been working on a service project that will make a huge impact on the lives of many children who are being treated at the Cleveland Clinic Pain Program.
The Blanket Project was inspired by Kerr’s own experience during treatment, and how something as simple as a fleece blanket brought her so much comfort knowing that she wasn’t alone in her journey. Kerr speaks from the heart when she says, “It is my mission to give back to the place that helped me take my life back and that continues to make all my dreams possible.”
To give back to the place that taught her to walk again, Kerr’s goal is to collect at least 100 blankets to help support those in need of extra love and comfort during trying times in their lives.
Although raising money is incredibly beneficial for raising awareness, “I hope this project will create a tangible human connection where those making blankets can visualize the impact that their support will have on the lives of many young patients,” Kerr said.
When young Kerr resumed her daily life in the Dallas area, she began taking dance classes as a form of rehab to help her return to her athletic self in transitioning back into playing sports.
However, as Kerr began using dance as a form of therapy, she discovered a new passion that was much stronger than her pain because it allowed her to express emotions that had been bottled up through this whole experience. Despite the debilitating pain, she grew stronger and continued to advance in her dance training.
Most people would never even suspect that Kerr has CRPS because she’s built up a tolerance that has allowed her to go back to a completely normal lifestyle while doing continuous treatments and therapies to stay proactive. As a high school student at the Ursuline Academy in Dallas, Kerr pursued her passion for dance by joining the drill team; she then began developing her leadership skills as she served as Junior Lieutenant and Captain of the Jesuit Rangerettes.
After graduating from high school, Kerr trained and reached the ultimate dream of becoming a World Famous Kilgore College Rangerette. Kerr found it challenging to transition from high school to the extreme level of ultimate athleticism Rangerettes have in their extensive practice schedules, yet she proved herself fully capable and continuously defies all odds. As a freshman Rangerette, Kerr proudly wore the red, white, and blue uniform while also serving as the 82nd line’s class sergeant, leading her class through the challenging year. Then, after an arduous officer tryout process this past summer, Kerr was selected as this year’s captain.
“It’s all worth the pain, and everything that I’ve done, everything that I’ve fought for, it’s all worth it,” she said.
As Kerr’s confidence in her leadership skills grew through the support of her teammates and her family, she began to publicly speak up more intrepidly for all patients affected by CRPS. Through sharing her CRPS journey using a variety of different platforms on social media, Kerr became an advocate of hope for all those who are affected by any debilitating condition.
Additionally, Kerr proactively raised awareness as she hosted a 3K walk called “Walk Strong” in partnership with RSDSA, the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association. Due to the success of this event raising approximately $13,500, Kerr plans on hosting another Walk Strong fundraiser next year with the goal of raising $20,000.
Although life threw a multitude of obstacles in Kerr’s way, her perseverance and grit inspire all who know her with a light of hope.
“In the future, I want to create a website to connect the CRPS community,” she said. “I’d also like to write my own book one day to share my experience.” Kerr plans to earn her master’s degree in dance therapy and create a program that will help patients in hospitals with any debilitating condition to cope with their pain and express their emotions with movement.
Although not very many people experience the pain of CRPS, Kerr’s biggest piece of advice for anybody facing any sort of challenge is to prioritize mental health by surrounding yourself with the right people because “most times a positive attitude can make a world of difference.”
Despite all the challenges, Miller Kerr is the definition of strength, and she is the living proof that nothing is impossible if you don’t give up on yourself.
For more information, you can follow Kerr’s social media platforms to stay updated with upcoming projects and events, including the Blanket Project:
Watch “The Blanket Project” video produced by Brisa Cortez
Also, you can watch Kerr’s Interview with CBS NEWS DFW.
ARTICLE/PHOTO CREDITS: Article by Ivana Kosteski & photos by Morgan Webb.