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,” recalled Kara Newman, a patient of Dr. Ofer Wellisch. "He has been a godsend,” she added.
Earlier in 2019, Kara moved to Stamford, CT 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 for her fibromyalgia and recommended she see Dr. Wellisch of Stamford Health’s Pain Management Center for an initial consultation.
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Kara, Senior Vice President of Marketing for a division of iHeart Radio, 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 that occur in the spinal cord cause a state of heightened sensitivity or pain. This results in joint and body aches often related to other symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and lack of mental focus. For people with fibromyalgia, this set of symptoms can become physically debilitating and emotionally challenging.
With regard to the effect of her condition on her career, Kara said, “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. She explained, “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.”
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 admitted.
“Naltrexone is a medication commonly used to assist in the treatment of patients with addiction to opioids and alcohol,” explained 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."
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 recalled picking up her dog, Stormy, and visiting her sister who asked with genuine curiosity what had gotten 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 the 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. Kara’s goal is to enjoy life with her cats, Sylvee Scissorpaws and Houdini the Polydactal Wondercat. She currently shares custody of two dogs, Stormy and Breeze, with her sister and a friend. “Maybe I’ll even get a dog of my own soon,” Kara said.
To others going through a similar experience, Kara advised, “Don’t close your mind to anything—I almost did. Listen to what people recommend. At the same time, never take no for an answer. Fight and stand up for yourself. Always.”