The Skydiving Accident and the Aftermath
Hi, my name is Kaatje. At age 24, my parachute didn’t open during a night time skydive, and I landed at 70 mph on my sacrum (tailbone). My career as a stunt woman was over, I was flown by trauma chopper to Riverside General and was diagnosed with Cauda Equina syndrome. I lost 2 inches of my spine. My lower leg and foot muscles are atrophied; bladder, bowel and sexuality are forever altered. I was hospitalized for almost a year. After discharge I went to a community college near Detroit, then transferred to New Mexico Tech and graduated with high honors. I earned a Master as a Physician Assistant (PA-C). Unfortunately during my studies, my trunk, leg and back pain intensified so much that I was recommended epidural steroidal injections. Also, a few years prior I had an unexplained 105 fever and muscle spams and needed a lumbar puncture. This hurt as much as my skydiving accident, despite asking the doctor to be careful.
How Arachnoiditis Affects Me
I will never be sure what caused my disability to worsen, but everyday it feels like I’m dunked in ice, while deep inside it’s as if someone's pouring molten lead from my chest to my toes. In 2015 I was diagnosed with lumbosacral adhesive arachnoiditis, a progressive neuro-inflammatory disorder that is incurable and untreatable. I was also diagnosed with a benign spinal cord tumor, a hemangioma at T4, presumably from the skydiving accident. This causes central neuropathic pain syndrome (also fairly common after a subthalamic stroke). Having two severe, rare pain syndromes meant I had to stop working after only eight years as a PA-C, which broke my heart. I am now bed bound 22/24 hours.
Comedy and Ketamine
Ketamine infusions (first outpatient, now weeklong at an academic hospital) help decrease the severe nerve pain and spinal cord inflammation. Comedy however, saved my life. Three weeks after the adhesive arachnoiditis diagnosis in 2015, I did my first set. I use the little time I have outside my hospital bed to do an open mic, or a show. I swim three times a week in a heated pool and keep busy as a writer. My Kindle Single, a mini memoir called “The Queen of Ketamine” will soon be available at Amazon. Being bedbound is an unusual life, and often lonesome as my family lives abroad, and very few friends still visit. Good news too, my take on comedy and ketamine was chosen for TEDxABQ on September 29. Through comedy, writing and storytelling, I finally connect with community, and that means the world to me.