Friday the thirteenth in 2015, a girl and I both went for the ball, but only I went down. I laid on the ground in agonizing pain ─ not knowing that my life was never going to be the same. This was the day that my monster embedded itself in my left foot, turning my world upside down, and making every second of everyday a nightmare.
My monster lights fires in my toes that burn until it feels like my flesh has turned to ash. It hammers my bones until my foot feels like it’s a massive bruise, and even the slightest breeze causes extreme pain. It pokes me with pins and needles that keep me awake at night. It paints my foot crazy colors and turns the temperature down until my foot looks and feels dead. Every time I try to take a step, my monster stabs me, causing pain to radiate up my leg.
No doctors could figure out what was wrong with me. I had three surgeries, and each one intensified the pain my monster gave me. The first one was to remove a chipped bone and reattach a ligament. The second was to remove a bone spur and cyst from the top of my foot. The third was to untangle entrapped nerves. In between each one, I endured MRIs, x-rays, and an EMG.
After three casts, many walking boots, and 16 months on crutches, I found out my monster’s name: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) ─ a chronic pain disease of the nervous system that can develop after an injury.
I tried to make the best of my life and smiled through the pain. I used crutches that made my armpits raw. I went to physical therapy, tried hydrotherapy, did mirror therapy, and practiced desensitization. I endured lidocaine shots, lumbar spinal injections, and took gabapentin until I couldn’t see out of my right eye. I even traveled to Florida for Calmar Pain Relief Therapy. Nothing helped my pain and I began to lose faith ─ Faith in myself and faith that things would get better.
Then one night, February of my freshman year of high school, I woke up in the middle of the night with a horrible pain in my right foot. The next morning, I couldn’t walk on it. In the emergency room, I was told I had a fracture due to overuse of my right foot. Two orthopedic visits later, I was told that my CRPS had spread from my left foot to my right foot. With pain in both feet, I could not walk. I relied on a wheelchair and used it for almost four years with the CRPS up to my knees in both legs.
I continued to try anything and everything to help my pain. I took Lyrica until I began having suicidal thoughts. I took Topamax until the side effects became unbearable. I traveled to Italy to try Neridronate. I took tramadol and cyclobenzaprine to try to manage the pain, which “on a scale from 1 to 10,” on average, was an 8, and ibuprofen to control the swelling.
Then, during my senior year of high school, my mom read about ketamine and suggested I try it. In February 2020, I received my first round of ketamine infusions. After my second infusion, I took my first steps (using crutches). Now, August 2020, I have gone through four rounds of infusions. My pain has been cut in half. I can travel short distances with one crutch, I can wear both shoes for longer periods of time, and I can tolerate walking through grass. Thanks to ketamine, I was able to accomplish my goal of walking for my high school graduation.
Though my pain is not 100 percent gone, I am incredibly grateful to have found something to help me calm my monster.
Josie M. is a patient at KWC Chicago
Learn how KWC treats Neuropathic & Chronic Pain with Ketamine Infusion Therapy.