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Military vet overcomes rare disorder
Air Force vet undergoes risky coma to heal legs
SAN ANTONIO –
Retired Air Force Veteran Jonathan Haag has walked down a path of pain for years, all stemming from foot surgery back in 1994.
The surgery was supposed to correct his osteoarthritis, which was caused by the steel-toed boots he wore as an Airman. Instead, the surgery sparked something called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or RSD.
“I knew immediately one morning when I woke up, something’s wrong,” said Haag. “As soon as I woke up, it was severe pain. Burning pain, like my foot was on fire.”
Doctor Julianne Flynn, the Chief of Staff at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, said the disorder can be triggered anytime there’s trauma to the body. In Jonathan’s case, his foot surgery.
“What happens is, the sympathetic nervous system gets out of control and revved up and doesn’t turn itself off the way it would normally,” said Flynn, “It’s kind of a classic pain disorder diagnosis, and the pain is very severe.”
Flynn said each patient exhibits different symptoms, but in Haag’s case, the RSD caused his legs to grow out of control.
“The pain, when it spread, and it was at its worst, it was like both of my legs were on fire at the same time,” Haag said. “The bones were being crushed and pulled out of my body at the same time, so it was pretty severe pain.”
That severe pain meant Haag had to do something drastic. He opted for a radical procedure called a Ketamine Coma, which would place him in a coma for six days while injecting him with the drug Ketamine.
The procedure is considered so risky, it’s not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and rarely performed in the United States. Because Jonathan’s condition was considered so bad, he was not a candidate for travel outside of the U.S.
“They did it here at the VA hospital,” said Haag. “Because there was no way I could go 10,000 feet to Germany or Mexico.”
One year after the treatment, Haag’s legs are improving.
He’s able to walk around, though still uses the help of a wheelchair.
Haag said he’s focusing now a new path of faith, family, and forgetting the pain.
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