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Woman Living With Crippling Pain Diagnosed With Nutcracker Syndrome

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — A Methodist Dallas Medical Center doctor diagnosed a 25-year-old woman suffering from crippling pain with a rare renal condition.

Michelle Griffith was diagnosed with Nutcracker Syndrome, where pressure on the renal vein, which drains the kidneys, is similar to the pressure a nutcracker puts on a walnut.

Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith (Credit: Family photo)

Symptoms include blood in the urine and abdominal or flank pain that may be worsened by sitting or walking.

Griffith's symptoms started when she went away to college at Texas A&M. But her abdominal pain grew to be so severe, it started to interfere with her daily tasks and caused her to lose 40 pounds.

"That was probably the hardest, darkest time of this whole experience," she said. "It basically felt like what I imagine a heart attack would feel like, but in my abdomen, every single day."

And after visiting dozens of doctors and taking several diagnostic tests, Griffith still had no answer.

Her mother Selva said doctors, "just kind of threw their hands up in the air and said, 'You know, maybe she needs to just go on vacation and eat fruit.'"

But that all changed when Griffith was seen by her 50th doctor, Methodist Dallas's Surgical Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplants, Richard Dickerman.

Selva said Dickerman recognized and acknowledged Griffith's Nutcracker Syndrome and officially diagnosed her April 9.

"Physicians have to be aware of it before they make the diagnosis," Dickerman said. "The pain is caused by the blockage of blood coming out of the kidneys."

Alleviating the blockage involves "unhooking" the kidney and moving it to the other side of the body.
Surgeons at Methodist Dallas used a robot — da Vinci — to perform the autotransplant with smaller incisions and a faster recovery time. They are the only team in Texas to perform this procedure.
"Because you have smaller incisions you decrease the risk of hernias, complications and infections," Methodist Dallas's Director of the Organ Transplant Program, Alejandro Mejia.
Griffith is six weeks out from surgery and now has two kidneys on the same side. She said she is no longer relying on a walker or wheelchair to get around.
"I feel like finally, I'm able to think of the future again," Griffith said. "There will always be someone who can help, and they deserve to find that person. I found my person."
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