Tampa, FL (May 7, 2014) – “I have polyneuropathy…The idiopathic kind with no clear cause.” This is how Tampa resident Bruce Dangremond, explains his struggle of living with peripheral neuropathy, a disorder of the nervous system that results in chronic pain, numbness, and disability.
Like Dangremond, there are 20 million other Americans affected by neuropathy. One in 15 Americans suffers from the debilitating disease — making it the leading cause of adult disability in the country, according to The Neuropathy Association. Neuropathy is mainly caused by chemotherapy, diabetes, hereditary disorders and other illnesses. Yet, its cause is undetermined in 30 percent of all cases.
“Neuropathy can be painful, overwhelming and heavily dampen the creative parts of your brain,” Dangremond said. “It saps the joy right out of your life, slaps you silly and leaves you feeling alone in that sea among unseen other patients.”
To help Dangremond and other neuropathy sufferers, Cindy Tofthagen, PhD, ARNP, AOCNP, assistant professor and director of the oncology concentration at the University of South Florida College of Nursing, established a free clinic to provide education and support. The Supportive Care Clinic for People with Peripheral Neuropathy is open once every three months by appointment only.
The clinic is staffed by volunteers who are experts in neuropathy including Dr. Tofthagen and Connie Visovsky, PhD, RN, ACNP-BC, associate professor and associate dean of student affairs and community engagement at USF College of Nursing. In addition to nurse practitioners, each patient sees a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, and a mental health professional. Massage therapists provide free massages to temporarily help relieve pain. The patients are seen in the office of Sylvia Campbell, MD, the president of the board of the Judeo Christian Health Clinic in Tampa.
“We provide individualized education on coping with neuropathy, managing symptoms and physical limitations, maintaining a safe home environment and identifying additional sources of help,” Dr. Tofthagen said. “Our goal is to help patients understand neuropathy and learn how to deal with it, so they can have an excellent quality of life.”
Bruce Clutterbuck, who suffers from radiation fibrosis as a result of treatment for Hodgkin’s disease, volunteers at the clinic to connect with patients on a more personal level. USF nursing undergraduate students also help out.
“I am forever grateful to Dr. Tofthagen, USF nursing faculty and staff volunteers, and others in the community for giving us the help that we desperately need,” Dangremond said. “The clinic helps me cope with the disease and gives me helpful tips to get through the chaos. I have hope again.”
Dr. Tofthagen also leads the Tampa Bay Neuropathy Support Group, a part of Neuropathy Association. The national non-profit organization helps increase public awareness and educates the public and healthcare providers about neuropathy. The local support group meets once a month at the USF Tampa campus.
Neuropathy Awareness Week is May 12 to 16.
For questions about the Supportive Care Clinic and the Tampa Bay Neuropathy Support Group, contact Dr. Cindy Tofthagen at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (813) 368-9862.
USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the USF Physician’s Group. The University of South Florida is a global research university ranked 50th in the nation by the National Science Foundation for both federal and total research expenditures among all U.S. universities. For more information, visit www.health.usf.edu.