There was a time when Morgan Barfield thought she might never walk again. At the age of 16, she developed CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome) following knee surgery—although it took nearly two years and multiple doctors for her to receive an accurate diagnosis.

The condition spread to both of her legs, leaving her on crutches. The intense pain kept Barfield from school; she was home-schooled instead. But then something changed her life: she received a spinal cord stimulator (SCS).

“At first they put me on regular pain medications, but they didn’t help very much,” says Barfield. “SCS made a huge difference. Almost immediately, I began pushing myself to start walking again and get off the crutches.”

barfield2She began attending school again and was able to walk across the stage on graduation day.

Barfield says rejoining her class was another huge boost in her recovery. “I had become depressed not being around people,” she says. “I used to be very social and active in sports, so it was hard not having that. I would just take to my bed; I wouldn’t spend time with friends or go outside. But once I had my stimulator, I was able to be around people, and that helped me to keep on pushing.”

After high school, Barfield enrolled in college to study architecture, but her experience with CRPS influenced her decision to change her major to exercise science.

“I really got interested in the medical field,” she says. “I realized I want to motivate other people who are in pain and leading sedentary lifestyles. I want to encourage them to push past the pains o they can still live their lives, be part of life.”

Last year, she learned about Fight the Flame, a 5K race that supports RSD/CRPS research and awareness, in PainPathways Magazine and wanted to get involved. After walking the 5K in November, she landed an internship with the organization. Barfield, now 23 and in her final college semester, says the program is giving her the experience she needs to move into her career.

“I was in pain for so long,” says Barfield. “But now, for the most part, I can do what I want to do. I hope I can help others do the same.”