Kara's Story (Chronic Fibromyalgia Pain)
A journey of relief after 30 years of pain.
“After 30 years of chasing a cure, all I wanted to do was maintain the ability to function,” Kara Newman recalls. “Dr. Ofer Wellisch has been a godsend.”
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Kara, a recent resident of Stamford, CT, had been afflicted for decades with both fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Fibromyalgia is a condition in which the nervous system becomes extremely sensitive. Research shows various molecular processes (cell function) that occur in the central nervous system, and more specifically in the spinal cord, result in a state of heightened sensitivity or pain. This causes joint and body aches often associated with other symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and lack of mental focus. This set of symptoms can become physically debilitating and emotionally challenging.
As Senior Vice President of Marketing for a division of iHeartRadio, Kara affirms, “I work so hard- I created my team and built up my department and didn’t want to have to leave all that behind [because of my condition].”
Kara’s pain became progressively worse over the years. “I went to every doctor in Manhattan. I tried everything from all the crazy diets and supplements to even getting IVs 2-3 times a week with vitamins and antibiotics. I was also very heavily medicated—I’d take medicine in the morning to help me function and at night to help me sleep. Nothing was really working.”
Earlier in 2019, Kara moved to Stamford and was interested in exploring doctors who specialized in chronic pain. Her Family Medicine physician, Dr. Ann Williams, expressed concern that Kara was on a dangerous combination of medications and recommended she see Dr. Wellisch of Stamford Health’s Pain Management Center for an initial consultation.
Dr. Ofer Wellisch introduces Kara to a new treatment.
Dr. Wellisch and Kara spoke at length about her 30-year struggle with chronic pain, including her past treatments and remedies. It was during their first visit that Dr. Wellisch suggested Kara begin on a trial of low-dose Naltrexone. “I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of this treatment option before. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but decided to give it a try,” Kara admits.
“Naltrexone is a medication commonly used to assist in the treatment of patients with addiction to opioids and alcohol,” explains Dr. Wellisch. More recently, researchers have found that in much lower doses, the drug may reduce aches and pains. It works by targeting a state of hypersensitivity associated with inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia. Naltrexone augments pain signals in the central nervous system. “I liken it to lowering the volume on an amplifier of an electric guitar,” Dr. Wellisch says. In cases like Kara’s, capsules containing the medication are generally prepared by a compounding pharmacy.
About 6 weeks after starting her Naltrexone treatment, Kara came to a realization: she was functioning instead of being on the verge of collapse. She recalls picking up her dog, Stormy, and visiting her sister who asked with genuine curiosity what got into her. “I can’t remember the last time I had a good day like that. I literally stopped hoping that I would even start feeling better.”
Kara shared this realization with Dr. Wellisch at their next visit where they were both nearly in tears from excitement that the treatment was working. “Dr. Wellisch’s team and approach to treatment have made a difference in my life at a time when I had given up.”
When she’s not working, Kara, a self-proclaimed animal lover, devotes much of her time to pet rescue, especially senior pets. As far as what’s next, Kara’s goal is to enjoy life with her cats, Sylvee Scissorpaws and Houdini the Polydactal Wondercat and dogs, Stormy and Breeze, of which she shares custody with her sister and a friend. “Maybe I’ll even get a dog of my own soon,” Kara says.
To others going through a similar experience, Kara advises, “Don’t close your mind to anything—I almost did. Listen to what people recommend. And at the same time, never take no for an answer. Fight and stand up for yourself. Always.”