I shot an assignment this past June for People magazine on a very rare neuromuscular disorder called Reflex Sympathetic Disorder. It was a situation where I followed the subject John Roach from the time before, during, and after an "experimental" treatment that he underwent in a hospital in Monterrey, Mexico. John and his wife Rosemary are lovely people and I felt very invested in the outcome of John's treatment and struggle with RSD. John developed the syndrome (which took nearly five years to actually diagnose) after a work related shoulder tear injury. Instead of the pain associated with the tear subsiding, his got progressively worse to where his entire left side was debilitated. RSD affects the skin, muscles, joints, and bones. Just the sensation of air passing over John's hand was extremely painful and he was unable to hold his wife or hug his grandchildren. Having exhausted his treatment options John, with Rosemary's tenacity and persistence enrolled in a treatment program in which other patients with his affliction had found relief. The treatment involves large prolonged doses of the anesthetic ketamine to be administered over the course of several days - a voluntary coma if you will. Because this treatment is not FDA approved John had to seek the ketamine therapy in Mexico where they had just begun the program at a hospital in Monterrey. I also went to Monterrey and was with John and his family prior to his going in the coma and witnessed the hope and fear that this courageous couple had experienced. In what was and could have been an awkward situation as an outsider with a camera - I was made to feel welcome and appreciated. John's treatment lasted for five days and he experienced very intense hallucinations during that time. Only a couple days after John came out of the coma he started to feel better. He returned to the states and when I saw him about three weeks later he was like a new man. The treatment had worked. Though John and Rosemary are taking it one day at a time they have a new future together that at one point seemed so unlikely. It is a hopeful story and I am proud to have had the chance through my editorial assignment work to be a part of it. Unfortunately, I recently heard from Rosemary that John's RSD pain has flared up again-though not as bad as before the treatment. They are very much in my thoughts.
See the story from People here.
John at home May 5, 2009
John and Rosemary May 5, 2009
John at hospital in Mexico May 24, 2009
John and Rosemary at home June 17, 2009