One Person and Her Dog Take on “The Suicide Disease” with Hope, Ketamine, and Raw Determination.
It was an awkward hard landing and teenage athlete Mary Kate couldn’t get up from the mat. As the seriousness and shock of her injury sank in “I went into freeze mode”. As it turned out this was just the start of years of freeze mode.
At age 14 Mary Kate was a straight-A student-athlete with promises of full-ride scholarships and dreams of Olympic competition. Hers was a bad injury but with reconstructive surgery and rehab, she was expected to be back on track. What she and no one else expected was Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS.
CRPS is rare, especially in adolescents. Its cause is not fully understood but it can occur after trauma or, as in Mary Kate’s case after several reconstructive surgeries. As one of the most painful disorders known it is debilitating. Imagine the slightest touch of your skin setting off almost unbearable continuous, burning, or throbbing pain. CRPS occasionally may spread from its source to other parts of your body and that’s exactly what happened to Mary Kate – she basically lost the use of both her legs.
What followed next were seven years of pain treatments, medications, and multiple long-term stays in pediatric rehab programs.
“Over time I was losing hope in physical therapy and the medications were increasingly numbing me,” explains Mary Kate. “By my 21st birthday, the best way I can describe my life is it felt like I had lost my identity, my identity as a sister, daughter, friend. I no longer recognized the 14-year-old Mary Kate who had been so full of life and neither did anyone else around me.”
The risk of suicide is significantly higher in patients with CRPS with one study demonstrating that 75% of patients had a high risk for suicide. As hopelessness deepened Mary Kate tried multiple pain specialists but so often the recommendation was to prescribe more of the same medications. Finally, and in desperation “I wrote an essay to one of my doctors,” said Mary Kate. As luck would have it the doctor she wrote was familiar with the studies showing that low doses of intravenous ketamine may substantially alleviate CRPS pain.
After all those years of struggle, pain, disability, and despair let’s go meet Mary Kate at age 24.
“I remember that first visit to Ketamine Wellness Centers. The care team was there for me throughout the treatment, and everyone was so supportive, the trust between us was immediate. Once the treatment was over, all I could do was cry but finally, these were tears of joy. I was pain-free. I had forgotten what that felt like. I could hardly believe this was how a 24-year-old body was supposed to feel. Years of disability had taught me to hate the body I had loved as an athlete. It was a body that had let me down. Pain and negative body image had led to eating disorders and ever-deepening depressive disorders. With the help of ketamine’s pain and depression relief I am active again, I love myself again, I can love others.”
Just a few years ago nobody except Mary Kate would have expected she would now be reiki master-level certified, have started yoga teacher training, and is studying to become a registered dietician. With those qualifications and her own unique understanding, she plans to use trauma-informed yoga training to help children and adults with mental and physical illness. Throughout all this remarkable achievement Evvie the service dog never leaves her side. As her new life-long, inseparable partner and companion, Evvie is expertly trained to keep an eye on Mary Kate’s health and accompanies her everywhere including on her routine appointments with Ketamine Wellness Centers (KWC). Evvie too has become a favorite visitor to the Chicago KWC clinic.
“There is no magical pill to fix this disease,” says Mary Kate. “Work on my physical and mental wellness continues along with a team of doctors, therapists, alternative practitioners. But now I can tackle that work. Ketamine’s effects on my pain and mental wellness restored my hope and determination to find my way out of the woods. It’s like these amazing treatments reset in mind, body, spirit, and soul. It’s like at long last I am back in touch with my strengths and my goals”.
We would like to sincerely thank Mary Kate and Evvie her service dog for allowing us to interview her and for sharing her remarkable story with others.