Outpatient Physical Therapy Helps
Local Artist Megan Fight Rare Disease

by David Modica | Nov 11, 2015

Megan Photo 1.

Megan H. of Chicago’s North Side has been creating art for most of her life. And for almost as long, she has suffered from Behcet’s disease, a rare blood-vessel disorder that causes pain and inflammation throughout the body. Megan, who is 30, was diagnosed in her teens, but was able to attend college and earn a master’s degree in art therapy with the help of medication. 

Behcet’s disease manifests through multiple conditions that make everyday activities an ongoing challenge. Megan has suffered from eye inflammations, mouth and skin ulcers, severe joint pain and digestive ulcers, among other problems. At one point, she spent more than two months in the hospital and in a nursing home to receive skin grafts. 

In spite of all these challenges, Megan still has an optimistic attitude, as well as her art, which helps her look beyond her chronic condition for personal joy and satisfaction. And she keeps working to feel better. Among the many doctors and physical therapists she has seen over the years, she is very happy with the support and treatment she currently receives at Swedish Covenant Hospital with Physical Therapist Varunee “Nicky” Rungsriwong in particular. Together, Nicky and Megan work to help Megan shift away from chronic pain and impairment to an improved quality of life and function with a brighter hope of future health.
outside rehab w border“Nicky works with me to release tension in my muscles, with the goal of helping my body get back to a more centered and balanced place that might position the body to help heal itself,” Megan explains. “It’s amazing the way Nicky has been able to feel the top of my head and know that the right side of my back is tight. I’ve had lots of physical therapy, and the treatments she and the staff here offer have all been superior.”
While not expecting a cure, Megan is grateful that the therapy sessions reduce her pain and make daily tasks less difficult. Regardless of how she feels day to day, however, she has never wavered in her dedication to her art. “I try to do some art each day,” Megan says, “Some days when I don’t have the strength to do my 3D jewelry art, I will still do 2D drawings, even if just for a short time.”

Now Megan has a chance to share her work—and the rare condition she battles—with a larger audience. This summer, she entered one of her drawings in the 7th Annual Rare Artist Contest, sponsored by the EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases. The online art competition highlights the works of artists suffering from rare diseases, with the goal of helping promote awareness and increase research to support treatment and cures. 

Megan Painting w borderContestants are required to fill out an artist’s statement,describing their piece, how it was inspired or what it means to them, and include the name of their rare disease. Megan wrote the following: “Screaming in Pain” is an 11” x  17” Prismacolor marker drawing which I created to visually express the pain and release the emotions  related to living with chronic illnesses … I live with multiple  conditions, including: Behcet’s disease, Neuro-Behcet’s, fibromyalgia, autonomic neuropathy, multiple neuralgias, etc. I have suffered a   great deal of pain and hardship, yet have developed an  appreciation and gratitude for life.”

Megan’s entry can be viewed on the Rare Artist Facebook page (with or without a Facebook account), in the ADULT 18+ category. To vote for her drawing, click on the vote tally under her name. Votes are allowed every 10 days through December 22, and the awards to be announced by February 5, 2016.   

Cash awards will go to the top two pieces in each age group and pieces selected as award recipients or for special artistic merit awards will be displayed at the Rare Artist Reception in Washington, D.C., held in conjunction with Rare Disease Legislative Advocates’ Rare Disease Week. Artists whose work is chosen for the reception will also be eligible for travel stipends to attend the event through the EveryLife Foundation’s Rare Diseases Rare Giving program. 

Megan was recently featured in a RedEye cover story. You can read it on their site.

rung pt photo w borderVarunee "Nicky" Rungsriwong, PT, IMTC, is a certified integrative manual therapist, whose areas of clinical interest cover both Western and Eastern therapeutic treatments, including craniosacral therapy, visceral and neural manipulation and postural restoration. Other lesser known techniques which Nicky incorporates into her treatment include Zero Balancing, Tellington TTouch, Matrix Repatterning, Total Motion Release, and the Myokinesthetic System. 

For more information on Swedish Covenant Hospital’s Physical Therapy Department, please call 773-989-1682

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