Diagnosis Sparks Knowledge and Gratitude
When she was 14, Karen Spikes, PhD, went into cardiac arrest after receiving anesthesia drugs and standard pain medications for surgery. Doctors revived her, but this was just the beginning of her medical ordeal.
Over the years, Karen experienced life-threatening reactions from over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen. And in her 30s, medications used in a routine surgery caused severe breathing problems, sending her to the Intensive Care Unit.
Seeking the culprit of these reactions, Karen only found dead-ends—until she was referred to Mariana Castells, MD, PhD, director of the Drug Hypersensitivity and Desensitization Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH).
“Dr. Castells figured out I have a Cytochrome P450 2D6 deficiency. It is a rare genetic enzyme deficiency, meaning I can’t metabolize hundreds of drugs,” Karen says. “At first I was frightened, but now I don’t let this diagnosis limit my life.”
With guidance from Castells and anesthesiologist James Phillip, MD, Karen has learned how to manage her condition— enabling her to more fully pursue things she loves, including teaching at a local university, volunteering at BWH, and traveling extensively.
Eager to express gratitude to her caregivers, Karen has named BWH as a beneficiary of both her life insurance policy and her will. She is supporting anesthesia and immunology research related to her condition, as well as the hospital’s Raymond J. Reilly, MD, Innovation Fund, named for a long-time physician that exemplifies patient-centered care.
“I know a gift to the Brigham goes beyond these walls,” Karen says. “My giving may benefit society at large—including research that leads to cures.”
She adds, “I want to make a difference for patients and families and show appreciation for my extraordinary care. Making an estate gift to the Brigham allows me to do that.”