Corunna woman finds relief for “untouchable” pain
With community support, a Corunna mother has found some relief from the relentless pain she has suffered for years.
Angela White returned last week from a clinic in Florida where she received large infusions of ketamine, an anesthetic that is offering hope for the first time.
After three days of treatment, White's mother said she could see her daughter relax a little.
"I could see the difference," Jackie White said. "Even her face looked more relaxed. She's not perfect yet, she's still broken, but we now know she's a good candidate for this kind of treatment."
Angela White, 27, suffers from an uncommon condition called Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, which is believed to be a disorder of the central or peripheral nervous system and produces constant pain and burning.
Apart from a two-year remission, she's felt acute pain since she was 13.
In desperation, the single mom and her mother appealed for financial help in November to get to the CRPS Treatment Centre and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida for treatments not available in Ontario.
The Ministry of Health agreed to pay the $8,000 price tag for the drug but not travel expenses.
After an article appeared in The Observer, many people called the Whites with prayers and money, Jackie White said.
"I went to pick up donations from a number of older ladies and they are absolutely wonderful people," she said.
The Shell station in Corunna where White regularly fills up surprised her with a $500 cheque. Her granddaughter's sledge hockey team contributed $200.
In total, the family received $2,000 toward the trip, which cost them $3,000 plus.
"It's wonderful," said Angela White who is spending a few more hours every day out of her bed thanks to the treatment. "I put the rest on my credit card and will pay it off as soon as I can."
Above all, the treatment in Florida has given her optimism, she said.
"I have more movement in the upper extremities and my pain threshold is a bit better. I know we're going in the right direction."
On the second day of treatment, her daughter Taylor celebrated her eleventh birthday and was able to hug her mom for the first time since she was a toddler.
"It was a really light hug but it made us both really happy," White said. "There aren't a lot of changes yet but there are changes to come. Taylor is ecstatic."
Ketamine is available in Ontario to CRPS sufferers in smaller doses, but patients like White require heavy doses for it to make a difference.
Some with CRPS are participating in experimental treatments in Mexico where patients are put into a coma while they receive massive amounts of ketamine.
That procedure is both risky and expensive - a $50,000 deposit is required - and White doesn't think it's within her reach.
The family is appealing to the Ministry of Health to allow pain clinics in Ontario to provide the same ketamine treatments currently available in Tampa.
Short of that, they hope the ministry will approve another four-day treatment in Florida within a few months when it's expected the first treatment will wear off.
The anesthesiologist at the Florida clinic, Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick, assessed White and called her one of the "untouchables," her mother said.
"But after a few days of ketamine, Taylor could give her a gentle hug. Just knowing that there's an option that works makes a big difference for all of us."
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