NEW MILFORD, N.J. — What felt like a pulled muscle in her lower back last winter worsened overnight to a debilitating full-body pain that sent former borough resident Karen Kwiecinski to the emergency room.
Doctors sent her home with what they diagnosed as a virus.
Since then, Kwiecinski, 41, had one of her fingertips removed, her lungs surgically collapsed and several veins grafted.
She's also endured a trial chemotherapy treatment and been given dozens of other medications.
As Kwiecinski prepares for another surgery today, friends and strangers are rallying around her.
Using a name that doctors coined in jest, a GoFundMe account has been set up to help pay the costs associated with her fight against "Kwiecinksi’s Syndrome."
“I never thought in a million years this would happen,” said Kwiecinski, of Wayne, who filed for long-term disability in May.
“The turn of events was so bizarre. I’ve had aches in every area of my body from head to toe in the last year," she said. "The scary thing is that I don’t know what’s coming.”
Doctors at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood administered intravenous treatments to prevent Kwiecinski's pain from progressing last December after she noticed small bruises in the beds of her cuticles.
Her fingertips then began shriveling, developing into full-blown necroses in just two weeks.
“It was a living nightmare watching this stuff creep around my fingers,” said Kwiecinski, who still experiences numbness and pain in three of her fingertips.
Doctors believe a blood clot they found during a March vein graft on her wrists may have accelerated a circulatory problem that Kwiecinski has had since childhood and caused her arteries to close.
Insurance covers her medications and procedures but she's been paying out of pocket for the rest, with help from the GoFundMe account established by Tara Diamond-Kule.
“I always wanted to be famous, but I never thought it would be for this,” Kwiecinski said of the condition that informally carries her name. “If telling my story can maybe help one person that might get something similar, then this is all worth it.”
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