Ketamine Infusions: From Bad Reaction to Successful Pain Relief

Dear Audy,

Thank you so much for all of the kind messages of support that I have received since posting Ketamine Infusion for CRPS: My Single Day Experience! It is so very wonderful to be feeling better and actually have good news to share with you.

I’m still struggling a bit with concentration (you guys, I haven’t even been checking on my Sims regularly). I get a few hours of decent thought in here and there, however I’m mostly still focused on increasing my physical activity without injuring myself or causing a CRPS flare.

I’ve finally gotten my kitchen mojo back and I’m back to enjoying yummy baked things that don’t make me feel sick and pots of healthy Winter stews. Tonight’s dinner is Orange and Fennel Chicken and is already in the slow cooker, so I’m free to use up all remaining brain power on whatever I like!

Thanks to all of the wonderful people who have shared my last post, I’ve been lucky enough to come across social media comments from a variety of different readers. Several have been kind enough to share their own experiences with ketamine infusions for chronic pain. Sadly, many of these have been tales of horror and hallucination, with memories of distress and despair.

The strangest thing about reading these stories is that, even though I am now lucky enough to be responding well to ketamine, I was once the patient who had the terrible infusion and then lost all hope. I think this might be a rare position. Ketamine infusions can be difficult to access and dangerous. A failed infusion can mean the end of the line for this method of pain management, it certainly meant that for me for almost five years.

Nothing about this post should be interpreted as medical advice. I am not a doctor. I have no way of knowing whether ketamine infusions can help you, or your loved ones. I am simply sharing my story because it’s true and it happened to me and I feel like awareness grows bigger with every new and different patient story that’s out there.

In 2009, I went into hospital for a 10 day ketamine infusion. It was my first time trying this medication and things did not go very well. I don’t need to explain this story to you, though, because I’ve brought in 2009 Caf to do it for me…

Yeah…it was awful. It’s not easy to watch that video now, to see myself so disappointed and lost. I remember that feeling of hopelessness with every cell in my body.

Side notes:

1. I never did get that medical history from that particular doctor. I never had the strength to chase it up. Sometimes, I wonder if dodgy doctors who give up on complicated patients rely on this. Sick people just don’t always make the best follow-up-erers, they’re too busy being sick.

2. I still have pain that is specifically from that blood test that I mention right before my mitten becomes a puppet (of course it does, the me in me runs deep). It still flares as though the needle was puncturing the skin yesterday. So weird, body. So, so weird.

And so, you see, I was once this person who had a terrible reaction to ketamine. I heard stories from people who had had positive reactions to their ketamine infusions and were gaining back huge pieces of their lives and, oh, was I jealous! I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t one of the lucky ones and part of me resented anybody who was, despite my efforts to quell these feelings. Understanding that envy is a useless emotion to indulge, those feelings of jealousy eventually just lumped themselves on top of all the other reasons that I found to feel depressed and hopeless.

I was in horrible pain, 24/7. My CRPS kept spreading even though spread was supposed to be a “rare occurrence”. None of the pain medications helped. I finally got to try the holy grail of CRPS treatments and I ended up worse. Everyone with CRPS seemed to be finding something that worked for them except for me (not true, but it wasn’t a rational mind that was generating this thought stream). My future felt destined to be bleak and I couldn’t think of any way to make it better.

Now, I am this person who has been receiving regular ketamine infusions that have been helping me to regain a lot of function in my daily life and have helped me to learn how to feel hope again. It’s weird, I don’t have any explanations for why me, or why now, or how the same drug could have such different effects. I don’t know any of the whys and hows, I’m just enjoying this upward swing in my life’s journey and hoping that it continues.

I don’t know if any other patients with CRPS have experienced this reaction to ketamine, or something like it. Please leave a comment if you have, I’d love to hear from you!

I don’t know if the fact that this drug didn’t help me and then did help me when administered differently can be of use to other people with CRPS. I’d suggest talking to your specialist if your story is similar to mine and you are interested in pursuing a new try at an old treatment. I have to doubt that I am the only person to have reacted this way to multiple infusions, or that would react this way if given multiple infusions.

I might be special, I might not. Nobody can answer that without some extensive and expensive clinical trials. I am just a storyteller, so take from my experience what you will. I’ll keep sharing my story as it happens and maybe together, we can learn some stuff.

This is my story, it’s true and it happened to me.

Love & Reflection,

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  • 4 thoughts on “Ketamine Infusions: From Bad Reaction to Successful Pain Relief

    1. Kelsi

      Hi, I had a very successful ketamine infusion in February, the good effects faded after about a month but because I had a good reaction to I’m hoping it can be repeated soon. My doctors at the Brisbane Hospital started me on a drip infusion at a low dose to see how it went, if there was a bad reaction (there wasn’t) they could stop it. They slowly increased the dosage over a 3 days then infused by sub-cut in my abdomen for the last 2 days. It dropped my pain from 8-9/10 to 3-4/10, I got myself out of bed for the first time in many months, did hydrotherapy & went home from hospital in a car instead of a stretcher in an ambulance! I think the trick is to start slowly & guage reactions, do a shorter infusion to start with (mine was 5 days inpatient) & keep a close eye on patients – they did hourly then 2-3 hourly checks with me. I’m really happy you had a successful infusion & hope that other CRPS or chronic pain sufferers can find a responsible doctor to administer ketamine safely as well as have a good response to it.

      1. Hayley Cafarella Post author

        Thanks so much for your response, Kelsi! Sorry for the delay in my reply, I’ve been struggling to concentrate lately. I think you’re right about starting slowly, my first 5 day infusion was done super slow for the same reason, just to see how I was going and try not to push my body too far. I think the body gets used to the drug though, when I went in for the single day infusion it was a stronger dose, but I seemed to adjust quickly as though my body remembered what ketamine felt like and not to panic. I’ve had such different reactions depending on the dose, rate and length of the infusion, it’s amazing how one drug can cause so many different results. I’m just so glad that for now I’m getting good ones! I’m so glad to hear that you are too :)

        1. Kelsi

          Hi Hayley, no worries! Completely understand concentration probs, have to use the auto spell thingo lots or just do nothing, most of the time I don’t notice people talking to me unless they say my name 😉 The 1 day infusion sounds awesome, I’ll have to ask the pain docs when I get to see them! You’ve got a great attitude & your blog must help a lot of people too, thanks for sharing everything :-)

    2. Ross

      So great to hear that your getting good results with the Ketamine Infusions. It’s been a while since I’ve been to your site. I’ve just been having a hard time with my CRPS as of late. Things are slowly improving though as much as they can with this illness. I hope you continue to improve and that your quality of life continues to improve as well. Cheers!

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