Woman put in coma to relieve pain

Doctors used ketamine to put Elizabeth Weiss in coma

By Ben Candea , Kristi Krueger - Anchor/Health Reporter

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Elizabeth Weiss has come a long way since Local 10 first saw her in September 2008.

"There's not a morning I do not wake up and feel so grateful for where I am today," she said. "The last time I saw you I think I was on something like 30-something different medications. I was on fentanyl patches. I was using a tens unit. I couldn't walk -- I was using a wheelchair ... There was periods where I was bedbound because I just couldn't get out of bed."

Then 29 years old, Weiss spent five years in excruciating pain from a condition known as complex regional pain syndrome.

"What we have is a kind of unhinging of the normal response to pain," said neurologist Dr. Nicholas Suite.

When pain medications and nerve blockers failed to ease her suffering, Weiss took a drastic step: she flew to Germany, where doctors used ketamine to put her in a week-long coma.

"The effect that we believe it has is that it puts the nervous system to sleep and resets it, so that when the patient is awakened, there's a loss of memory of the pain," said Suite.

"I knew how dramatic it was. I knew what I was doing could possibly end my life," said Weiss.

Instead, she got her life back.

"It was pretty dramatic when they first got me out of the bed and started to move," added Weiss. "I didn't feel that burning pain, which was incredible."

The treatment costs about $20,000 and is reserved for only the worst cases. Studies say pain returns in up to 60 percent of cases.

The treatment isn't allowed in the U.S. Programs in Mexico and Germany have been shut down because of patient complications.

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