Vagus Nerve Girl
Hello there, I’m Kelly Owens.
I struggled with Crohn’s disease for 15 years before I found the clinical trial that changed my life. I’m living proof of what happens when collaborations occur in this incredible new field of bioelectronic medicine.
My life has since been separated into two distinct eras: pre-VNS and post-VNS. Allow me to explain…
In 2017, my husband and I moved to Amsterdam for six months so that I could be implanted with a vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) that changed my life. I went from being a woman that sometimes needed a cane, and on really bad days a wheelchair, to a woman that now goes to the gym, runs, and strength trains.
My VNS device modulates inflammation in my body by sending an electrical signal from my vagus nerve to my spleen, and there, through a series of chemical reactions, essentially ‘turns off’ excess inflammation. Within months of my device being turned on, I was in clinical remission for the first time since diagnosis.
It’s now been TWO years of being in remission. I am medication free, relying solely on my device. As you can imagine, it wasn’t always this peachy, though…
Prior to my device, I was on every biologic and immunosuppressant under the sun: Remicade, Humira, Cimzia, Entyvio, Enbrel, Methotrexate, Stelara, Simponi, Imuran, 6mp, Pentasa, Entocort, Uceris, Sulfasalazine, Asacol, Plaquenil, Celebrex, and Lialda. None of them worked. My body always built up antibodies against everything. On top of dealing with my disease symptoms, the side effects of these drugs made me feel like a nuclear power plant.
The only thing that ever held me over was Prednisone. For more than a decade, I relied on 40 to 60 mg during really bad points, and then 10 mg for maintenance. Because of it, I ended up with osteoporosis by the time I was 26.
It has been estimated that the cost of my care over that 15-year period was three million dollars.
This year, however, my only healthcare costs was a $19 bottle of Zyrtec for spring allergies.
Today and every day, I am abundantly grateful for Dr. Kevin J. Tracey of the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research and his incredible team that he worked alongside for more than twenty years, as well as SetPoint Medical for executing the clinical trials that are saving lives, and the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam for taking such wonderful care of me while we lived in Amsterdam for six months to participate in the trial.
My experience with bioelectronic medicine isn’t without criticism, however. I’ve been called ‘The Placebo Effect’ more times than I can count on two hands by people in the pharmaceutical industry, doctors, and scientists who refuse to analyze the data.
I understand how this new field is dismantling the paradigm of medicine as we know it, and I know that change is hard. While these professionals are entitled to their own opinions, they are not entitled to their own facts.
Nowadays, I work as the Director of Education and Outreach at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Resarch. My goal is to work every day to advance access to bioelectronic medicine so millions more can benefit while also continuing to advocate for further research. I want to use this website as a platform for patients to become informed on the research happening today that will shape their tomorrow, as well as brighten the outlook on what it means to be a patient and how we can better navigate the journey.
In the 'Blog' tab, you'll find some of my essays and previously published articles, and maybe from time to time, a chapter from the book I'm (slowly) working on. In the 'Patient Tools' tab, I hope that I've curated a collection of great minds that collectively come together to help all of us become the best version of ourselves; after all, we are each a collection of not only our experiences, but the people and ideas we surround ourselves with. In the 'Research & Media' tab, you'll see a collection of research on bioelectronic medicine and media articles related to the work happening at the Feinstein Institutes. If you're in a rush, 'FAQ & Disclaimer' will be your BFF.
By the time vagus nerve stimulation reaches FDA approval, I want to ensure that patients have every resource available to them to make the best choices for their own care. It's an exciting era that we are watching unfold; this new revolutionary field of bioelectronic medicine is in the process of transforming healthcare as we know it.
Buckle up, buttercups, it's going to be quite a ride.
To be added to the Feinstein Institutes' patient database to be notified when clinical trials for bioelectronic medicine become available, email me at
To read about more about exactly how my device works and Dr. Tracey’s own journey in creating this new field of medicine, please click here.
For more information about my experiences prior to vagus nerve stimulation and our journey to get to Amsterdam, please click here.
To read about some of the criticism I’ve experienced (i.e., 'the placebo effect'), please click here.