Ketamine is an anesthetic given to children who break their bones in the ER. In other countries, it has been used to treat depression, chronic pain, and recently migraines. It's been used here in the U.S. to treat chronic pain. The use of it for migraines is still experimental, but I found a doctor in Glendale through Kaiser Permanente that uses ketamine to treat chronic pain. After doing my research for a few weeks in December and calling many different Kaiser locations, I finally got an appointment to meet with this doctor to discuss these infusions.
I'd read blogs of other migraineurs experience after getting infused with this drug, only finding that it made them not chronic anymore! So, I thought, "Why not? If all the doctors I've seen have told me that there's nothing else to treat me, let's see if I can do this." And guess what? He said yes! "Picture an old television with static. Back in the day, we would hit it and sometimes that would make the static go away. That's what we're going to do to your brain" he told me when I met with him. He told me that it would be a way to re-wire the pain receptors in my brain and I was eager to see if it could work on me like it did for the many others I've read about.
My first infusion was scheduled to be at 12 PM on January 20th. The week prior to the infusion I was asked to only take my migraine medication, Treximet, and nothing else. Taking only that gave me MOH, medication overuse headache, so I was stuck in rebound by the end of the week. I usually take pain medication to break the MOH, but I was unable to do so. Eight hours before the infusion, I wasn't allowed to eat or drink, so when Friday came, I had a dreadful bad migraine. I couldn't catch it, so it spread all across my head and into the back of my neck. Thankfully, they called me at 8 AM and asked if I wanted to do it early. "Yes, please!" I said excitedly, throwing on pajama pants and a t-shirt and hauled out the door with my boyfriend.
I went in nervous, worried it wasn't going to work and scared about what I would feel. My boyfriend calmed me down, telling me it would go just fine and that he was eager to see how this all turned out. My doctor told me I would be taken care of by his team of four doctors and himself, along with all the side effects that I would feel afterward. Since this was an anesthetic, he told me I would hallucinate, but, "Don't worry; if you see 10 of us, there's really only five". I was very nervous about this, laughed it off, but went into it thinking it would help.
He gave me valium before the treatment started to help me calm down and relax during the duration of the infusion. Initially, I felt warm as it started, but soon was swallowed up into a "trip"; I can't really remember much, but I know that the room changed about five or six times. The clock on the wall moved all over the room and I felt like I wasn't in my body. I kept looking down at my hands and it seemed like I was 20 feet away from them. It really was scary; I wanted it to end, as I felt like I was going to be stuck in this for an eternity.
I was lucid, my eyes being open the entire time, but I didn't feel like I was really there. My tongue and throat felt numb. I couldn't feel myself talking, but apparently, I was responding to their questions. They asked how I was feeling from time to time and I can remember saying, "Weird" or "I don't know". My doctor kept talking about music, to which I responded, "I know the Thriller." At one point, I remember him saying, "Your brain is a tough one." I guess I was complaining about the migraine I had and how I could still feel the pain, so he made the infusion go a bit faster. He said that one shouldn't be able to feel pain at all during the treatment. Before it ended, he told me how he was going to up the dosage of the next treatment, which I'll get on Friday the 27th.
As I was wheeled on the gurney into the recovery room, all I felt was intense nausea and the pain returning to my head. I started to puke a lot. The nurse rubbed my back as my boyfriend returned to my side and comforted me. I didn't think I was going to throw up so much, but apparently, it's a normal side effect. I was so sick to my stomach. I just wanted to go home and sleep. I went home dizzy and intoxicated. The car ride home was even worse; it was pouring rain that day and the sound of the raindrops hitting the windshield was one thousand times louder than it really was. Luckily I was able to close my eyes for the car ride after I puked some more. The rest of the day went by slow; I was tired and my heart was pounding, which is another normal side effect.
I've learned over the years of dealing with doctors to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten. For the past four years, I've woken up with a pain level of five or six, which would either stay at that level or turn into a bad one where I'd stay in bed after going to school.
Saturday morning, I woke up with a pain level of two! I can't begin to explain how weird it was to feel like this. After being so accustomed to pain every day, you forget what it's like to feel normal.
On Sunday, once again I woke up with a pain level of two. Later in the evening, I didn't feel any pain. It disappeared! It's like waking up from a haze that I've been trapped in for years. I cried, feeling so happy that I didn't feel anything for the first time in what seemed to be a lifetime.
Despite the weird experience I went through with the infusion and the terrible puking spell, this has definitely made the severity of the pain go down. Hopefully, with my next infusion, the frequency will drop as well. I want to have my life back again. I want to be able to go out whenever my friends call me, to be able to not miss any school, to get a job. I just want to be a normal 21-year-old and enjoy life instead of being stuck in bed all the time. These past four years have been depressing, but I'm finally seeing the light that has always called to me but has never been in my grasp. I finally think that I'll get better, and it's all thanks to this amazing doctor who allowed me to do this.
If your doctors have told you that there isn't any hope for you, try and see if you can try this. It's been my last resort. If I wasn't able to try this, I'd have to endure another two years of being chronic until a new preventative comes out that works on a gene called CGRP. The hallucination and puking are worth it! It's scary at first, but if I can do it then others can as well. I'm a result of it, and I can't wait to see what happens after my next infusion. I could be migraine-free for the first time in four years and I want you all to know that it could work for you, too. So push onwards, fellow migraineurs. There is always hope when it comes to this illness, and as time goes on there will be more medications that will be available to us.