Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Tratamiento en Mexico"-- Mexican TV Interview! :)

My life-savers :)

Hi everyone! I just got the link for my Mexican TV interview and wanted to post it an share it with you all, along with an english translation :)

This is the short version of the report that aired in the middle of the afternoon. However, during the nightly news, a nearly 6 minute segment was aired, with additional commentary from newscaster Gregorio Martinez. What he said, and the way he explained my case, really touched my heart and I wish I had a copy of the transcript to share with you.

Basically, what he said that this was a very special report because it was a "feel good" story-- one of happiness, inspiration and hope... and that it was nice to report good news for a change, in the middle of a lot of bad and horrible things that are currently being reported on the news in Monterrey everyday.

He said that this report shows the recovery of a young girl, who thanks to the love, support and prayers of so many in Monterrey and around the world, survived the unimaginable and now has new hope and a new life.

This is the first report on RSD to ever air on Mexican TV and I know from the feedback we have been getting that it has already helped a lot of people to learn about this poorly understood and often misdiagnosed disease.

Well, here is the report... Enjoy!

 “TREATMENT IN MEXICO”- A young woman gets her life back after her nervous system is affected by a rare disease after a tick bite.

It’s an incredible story—a young woman’s life was completely changed for years after a tick bite caused her to have serious health problems. She left the United States after doctors there said there was nothing more they could do. But here in Monterrey, she found a new hope for life thanks to treatment from local doctors.

Main report:

The bite of a tick completely changed Jessica’s life.

Only five years ago she was a healthy young girl, completely different than what she became.

She became extremely ill and was expected to die. 

She was confined to a bed, she couldn’t even tolerate the touch of her clothing on her skin, any lights, sounds and all contact caused her to have intolerable pain.

The pain provoked painful skin lesions all over her body.

All of this is the consequence of a disease called “Distrofia Simpatica Refleja” or R-S-D, as it is called in the United States.

Doctors believe that the tick bite caused her nervous system to malfunction, causing her brain to interpret all stimulus as extremely painful.

Dr. Fernando Cantu: “Therefore, the pain signal enters into the nervous system in a normal way… However, in these patients, there is an amplification in the way their nervous systems interprets pain.…sensations that a typical person experiences as completely normal—provokes extreme pain in these patients. It’s very painful.”

In the United States, Jessica and her mother visited hundreds of doctors. Some recommended amputating her arm, others said that she was going to die.

Sarah Stevens/Mom: Doctors told me, “We don’t know what your daughter has…So, I took her to see another doctor.. and then many others. Finally, we found out that she had an illness called Lyme. Lyme disease is an infection you get from the bite of a tick.”

“But at that time, she was doing very badly. Her immune system was very low and she couldn’t fight the infection. Because of that, she developed another illness, called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.”

As a last hope for this young girl, doctors in the United States said that Jessica would need to travel to Monterrey Mexico to see Dr. Fernando Cantu, an anesthesiologist at Hospital San Jose.

There she would become part of a protocol, studying the use of Ketamine, a very powerful and potent anesthetic drug, using very high doses to induce the patient into a coma.

Dr. Fernando Cantu: “It functions similarly to shutting down, and re-starting a computer. You shut down the pain receptors, with the hope that when the treatment is finished, there will be a normal communication restored between the receptors, and no longer a painful stimulus.”

Now, Jessica’s life is completely different!

Her pain is gone and she can do so many different things. The hope is that she will one day soon be able to walk again.

Jessica “The Ketamine has been a miracle for me. My lesions are gone, I can move my legs and I can eat everything!”

Jessica: “I have a new life.”

Vicente Valdez (reporter): “Here at Hospital San Jose, her doctors are practicing this type of treatment and it is practically the only place in the world offering the ketamine protocol. This treatment can really offer a new quality of life to patients who are suffering with this rare disease.

When Jessica is completely recovered she wants to return to Monterrey to work with the doctors who saved her life and help other patients who have this disease recover.

--Vicente Valdez, Televisa Monterrey.

At the end of the segment, news reporter Gregorio Martinez came back on and said that for anyone interested in learning more about RSD and helping us with our mission of raising awareness of this disease should go and visit:

Serte Fiel is a new RSD Foundation in Mexico started by my dear friend Estefy and her incredible parents Jaime and Alma, with the intention to raise awareness and funding for research. Estefy is an amazing 19 year old who has been battling a severe case of RSD for a while now.

Estefy has become a "hermanita", little sister, to me and I thank God that we met and became so close, even though I wish the circumstances were different....

Me visiting Estefy in my old hospital room

Estefy is currently (ironically) in my old hospital room (aka the"miracle room") She is very strong, but if you could all please keep her in your prayers too, I would appreciate it! 

I am also very thankful to my amazing friends, the Marroquin Family- Luis, Susana, Susy, Paulina and Marifer, for sharing my story with Gregorio Martinez and making this interview with Televisa a reality!

The amazing Marroquin "kids"

They are very special people that we came to know and bond with in Monterrey and I consider them a part of my own family... They even recently came to visit me here in Naples! :)

With the Marroquin girls down on "The Pier" in Naples!

There are a lot of things I would change about the past rough years, but probably the one and ONLY thing that I would never change are the amazing people who came into my life through these circumstances... They're such a blessing!!!

Dios te bendiga!


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Sunday, May 13, 2012


Today is a really exciting day!! It's Mother's Day, and obviously, because I have the most incredibly amazing mom ever, I had to mention that today will be the FIRST mother's day that my mom is celebrating at home-- with all three of her daughters-- healthy-- in SIX years!!! Amazing! God is so good!

We are going to spend the day with all of our family, having brunch poolside, in beautiful sunny Florida. It's a miracle!!

My family and I have been blessed with SO many miracles... but the greatest of them all, for me, has been having my mom by my side. Nobody else could have endured what she did, done what she has, been as fierce of an advocate for me and still kept their sanity (ok, I know... the jury is still out on that one ;) ...

Even through the hardest, darkest and most painful times of the past few years, my mom always made me feel that my potential to make it through was as limitless as her love for me... and I knew, if that was true, than I could-- and would-- overcome anything.

Mom, your God-given strength and persistence is what kept me fighting. In the process, you've taught me to be selfless, to love those around me, to trust fully in God, to believe in only the best possible outcomes and in miracles. But quite honestly, just so you know...--YOU are my miracle.

I love you so much!

....WE love you so much!!

Todo nuestro amor para siempre! Te adoro!

Sus hijas,
Jessica, Katherine y Michelle

Also, a very Happy Mother's Day to my very special Nanny Yum-Yum and my Godmother, Aunt Carol! They are my two other 'motherly' influences in my life and their guidance and love has helped me so much, especially in these past few months with my transition back into "home life". I know it would be much more difficult (and less entertaining!) without their presence and support and I am truly blessed and very thankful we get to spend today all together, as a family! Love you!


God bless!

Love, Jessica

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Going on Mexican TV (Televisa) Monday !!!

Hi everyone! I wanted to share some exciting news with you all! On Monday, my story is going to be on Mexican TV!

Earlier this week, Vicente Valdez, a reporter from Mexican TV station “Televisa” came and did an interview with me, mom, Dr. Cantu (aka green-shirt) and Dr. Barrientos (aka Luigi) about RSD, the ketamine coma and my “Miracle in Monterrey”!

Interestingly, we are told that this will be the FIRST segment to ever air about RSD on Mexican TV (or distrofia simpatica refleja, as it is called here)!!!

I am very excited and know that this will bring about much greater awareness of RSD, here in Monterrey, where so many lives have been restored from it thanks to the dedication and wisdom of the amazing Dr. Fernando Cantu (who, by the way, I got to see wearing a white "doctors coat" for the first time ever, for this interview!)

...This interview is very important to me personally.

I have been talking so much about my story and doing interviews back home in the US, but the one thing missing from them all has been the faces, voices, smiles and comments of my two heroes who saved my life!

It has been God’s work through their hands that brought me out of the torturous pain and suffering that I lived with for so many years and they deserve all of the glory, honor and recognition for everything that they have done!

It was very special for me to be able to honor them in this way, here in their country, so that everyone in Monterrey will know of the miracle and life-saving treatment that took place here and also as a way to thank all of the staff at Hospital San Jose and the many friends and family that we now have in Monterrey, for all of their love, support and prayers. 

I have to say though, that filming a segment for Mexican TV is MUCH easier and a lot less “work” than filming in the US!

The only thing that made this a little more challenging was that I had to speak totally in Spanish!!!

I felt SO proud of both doctors as we sat there, re-living the journey we have all taken together over the past 2.5 years. They did a fantastic job!

Here are some ‘behind the scenes’ pictures my mom took of me and the doctors being filmed, walking around the Safi Hotel, where we have been staying this past week.

Jorge Safi, the owner of the hotel, has been so kind, supportive and accommodating of me and my special situation and we are so thankful to him for making our stay here so comfortable. He even let us use one of the really nice conference rooms upstairs to film the interview in!

Vicente Valdez sat down with the 4 of us and questioned us individually.

First, Dr. Cantu was asked to explain what RSD is, how it occurs, treatment options and his involvement with the Ketamine Coma Study.

Next, he had my mom describe what my life was like before coming to Monterrey and what led to our decision to undergo this radical and risky treatment with the hopes of saving my life.

Then he than asked me to describe what the pain of RSD feels like, what I endured these past 6 years and what it feels like now to have a new life! He also asked me to talk a bit about my meeting “La Primera Dama”—First Lady Michelle Obama!

Last, he interviewed Dr. Luigi. Luigi was the first doctor to see and evaluate me when I landed by private air ambulance to Hospital San Jose 2.5 years ago. Vicente asked him to describe what my condition was like, and what his first thoughts were upon seeing me back then.

Wow. That was rough and very emotional to hear, but necessary to show everyone just how devastating and horrible this condition can progress.

...What can I even say about these two guys?! How do you even begin to ever thank someone for saving your life (multiple times?!)

....I don’t know the answer to that, but what I do know is that they are forever in my heart and will always be a part of my family—my Mexican father and my Mexican brother. :)

The interview will be airing on Televisa Monterrey this Monday (5/7) ! I am told they are going to show the story 3 times throughout the day- Between 6am-10am, 12pm-2pm and 7pm-9pm

Televisa Monterrey is channel “3” on cable, ch. 34 regular TV, and ch. 142 on “sky”.

I will post a link to it on here once it is online, as well as a translation of the script for everyone too!

Thanks for checking in!

Dios te bendiga!

Love, Jessica

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Official pictures with the First Lady!

Here are two of the official pictures I just received of mom and I with First Lady Michelle Obama!!!

Jessica's Journey to Getting Her Life Back

By Sarah Gina (Jessica's Mom)

As we begin this journey toward renewed health we would like to express our sincere heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick and all the work he has done and continues to do in order to bring patients like my daughter Jessica back to a more meaningful life and restored from this devastating illness. Also, special thanks to Dr. Fernando Cantu and his team of doctors in Mexico for taking on a difficult case like my daughters, Words cannot express the renewed sense of hope that we have that one day, our Jessica, can regain her life that has been taken away from her – God Bless you all!

Jessica’s Story

Once an A+ student who loved school, was involved in many extracurricular activities, played varsity tennis, lacrosse and gymnastics and enjoyed spending time with her family and friends, our daughter Jessica has spent the last 3 years incapacitated, paralyzed, unable to sit or walk and eat. She spends her days confined to a hospital bed, wearing sunglasses and noise-canceling headphones, due to severe light and sound sensitivity.

Jessica and her sisters, 2 mos. before becoming ill

The pain she feels is indescribable and all attempted treatments have not even come close to relieving her suffering.

She has seen many doctors, undergone numerous painful tests and procedures, has been prescribed various medications, and has been hospitalized frequently including being intubated and on a ventilator. She is severely debilitated and currently is only 92 pounds. This is certainly no life for a 21 year old young woman!

Jessica is suffering from neurologic Lyme disease and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a severely debilitating and painful neuromuscular disorder. She suffers daily with constant sharp, stabbing, tingling and burning pain; throughout her body; severe headaches; paralysis; intense muscle spasms; gastroparesis; seizures; twisting of her limbs (dystonia); sensitivity to any touch (allodynia); extreme sensitivity to lights and sounds; excessive sweating; swelling; fevers; softening of bones; decreased hair growth; redness and discoloration of the limbs; and painful skin ulcers. The pain is constant and unrelenting, but despite her suffering, her faith in God remains and she still has hope for her future.

Jessica's painful skin lesions

Jessica's journey began in 1999, when she was only 11 years old. She became very ill with Mono and was bed bound for 3 months. She subsequently developed RSD (stage 1) of the lower right leg. She received early intervention and returned to playing sports and enjoying her life.

Jessica, age 15, at summer camp

Four years later, in 2003, while away at a sleep-away camp, she developed a rash behind her right knee, coincidentally in the same leg that previously had RSD!

At the time, the camps nurse & doctor told her that it was “duck rash” – a rash from swimming in the lake with duck feces. However, Jessica was able to obtain photos from camp from another camper which shows the classic “bulls-eye” rash from Lyme disease! It wasn’t until much later and only after developing symptoms and becoming very ill, was the diagnosis of Lyme disease and Babesiosis (another tick-borne infection) made.

Most people (and doctors!) have no idea how serious Lyme disease can become and no clue how to properly diagnose it. Unfortunately, if she would have been promptly diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease, the RSD would not have been triggered and she would not be suffering.

July 2003, Jessica's Lyme disease rash

If it wasn’t for her doctor, Dr. Liegner, and his expertise with complex cases of Lyme, and his determination to try any means in getting her well, by getting a “team” of doctors on her case, we wouldn’t be here today, still fighting. We owe him a deep sense of gratitude for all he does for Jessica!

During these past three years and with the pain becoming more intense and unbearable she has been seeing Dr. Finkelstein for pain management. He has even made house calls to spare her the pain of coming by ambulance to his office. Jessica has been treated with multiple pain medications, at the highest possible doses, as well as an implanted dilaudid pain pump, which delivers potent medication straight into her spine. Many doctors have told us that with the amount of medications Jessica was taking would be enough to “kill a horse”—yet they had little to no effect on her. If it wasn’t for Dr. Finkelstein trying to alleviate her constant, severe, unrelenting pain, I don’t know how she would have managed. He is very special to us as well.

Recently Jessica was transported by air ambulance to Tampa, Florida to see Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick, a world renowned RSD expert. Dr. Kirkpatrick told us that Jessica is one of the most debilitated patients he has ever seen.

Jessica getting into the air-ambulance to go see Dr. Kirkpatrick

Upon his testing and because Jessica's condition is so severe, Dr. Kirkpatrick is recommending the only treatment available that can possibly help relieve her suffering, and afford her some semblance of a “normal” life - the Ketamine Coma Procedure - a clinical trial that is being conducted in Monterrey, Mexico.

During this procedure Jessica will be put into a coma , with the hope that her nerves, brain and spinal cord will “reset” -so that her nervous system sends the correct signals to her brain.

Yes, this is a radical, scary treatment, however, for Jessica, "scary" is thinking that she could spend the rest of her life in this condition, unable to walk, eat, or take care of herself. Since all reasonable treatments have failed to help her, we feel we must try everything possible to help Jessica regain her life.

We understand that due to Jessica’s fragile condition, there is a high risk associated with this procedure. We are also aware that other patients with severe RSD like Jessica's have had success.

Jessica’s goal is to one day become a doctor. Our hope is that with this study she can have that chance. As her Mom, I know that she will be a great doctor because when a patient presents in her office and says “Doctor, I am in pain and words cannot express how bad it is” – my daughter –Dr. Jessica– will be able to say - :I know how you feel, I’ve been there too. So, take a seat and let me tell you a story”….

We are so thankful and feel so blessed to have been led to Dr. Kirkpatrick.

God is good and with his help guiding Dr. Cantu and Dr. Kirkpatrick, our hope is for Jessica to be able to return to us whole again and pain-free!