Medical miracle turns into nightmare

January 30, 2009 1:57:29 PM PST
Laura Beckett is a working mother of three. Her husband Karl says the past six years for her have been difficult. "The pain was constant," Karl said of his wife's condition.

Laura has Reflex Sympathic Dystrophy Syndrome, or RSD. It's a progressive neurological condition that affects the bones, muscles and skin.

"The only thing that gave her any relief was pain medication and even that after a while wasn't doing anything for her," Karl said.

Karl said Dr. Robert Schwartzman is Laura's local doctor at Drexel University College of Medicine. Dr. Schwartzman could not talk specifically about any patients, but told us treatments offered in the U.S. for RSD rarely help patients with severe cases. What he has seen work is an experimental procedure done in Germany and Mexico. It's known as a ketamine coma. Patients are put into a coma for 5 days and given large doses of a drug that blocks pain receptors.

"So about 76 people have been done- everybody comes back with great improvement- and 50-percent seemed to be cured," Dr. Schwartzman.

But like most procedures banned in the U.S., the therapy is not covered by insurance nor is the travel. The money was donated for Laura to go for the procedure. The Beckett say they knew there were risks but Laura was desperate.

"She insisted that she had to, she would never know if she didn't go and things were getting worse," Karl said.

She was supposed to be home by Thanksgiving, but she is still in the hospital in Germany. She can't breathe on her own and she can barely move. We spoke to her daughter Jillian via webcam. She said her mother got a MRSA infection in her lung--- a complication they didn't expect. Jillian wants to warn other families considering procedures overseas, this could happen. "The experience altogether has been a nightmare and it's never ending," she said.

"There is no question this is a very dangerous procedure," Dr. Schwartzman said, adding, patients who go for this procedure are warned of the risks such as infection, stroke, heart attack and even death. Still he said only 10-percent of patients have had complications with milder problems such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections.

The family now wants to bring Laura to a hospital here in the U.S. where Karl says her health insurance will cover her care. But getting her home is a problem.

"The cost of having her flown by air ambulance, the lowest quote we have is $70,000, actually $71,400 which we do not have," Karl said.

If you'd like to help the Becketts, some supporters have set up a non-profit fund to help the family. It's at the TD Bank at 129 S Black Horse Pike in Runnemede, New Jersey, 08078. The name of the fund is 'the friends of Laura Beckett Medical Fund."

UPDATE: Mr. Beckett said an anonymous donor has fronted the $71,400 for the air ambulance. However, funds collected will go back to the donor. The family thanks everyone for their continued support.

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