Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Doctors and Medications

 Ya'all just bear with me. A blogger friend is going through some trying times and have been posting about her current issues with her health and her doctor. In fact, several people I know have either been going through medical issues themselves or with their loved ones. It's a scary, heart-stopping time.

Back when I got so very sick in March 2008, the first thing the doctors did was OD me to get my blood pressure down. At the time it was necessary since by medical rights--I should have had a major blow-out stroke. I remember getting ready to go home and being terrified because I was so weak. It took all my strength to navigate from the hospital bed to the bathroom and back again. That little bit of exercise forced me to take a cat nap...only to get up and have to visit the bathroom again. I was so very glad that they wheelchaired patients to the outside--I would have never made the walk. 

I don't remember all the medications I was sent home with--I couldn't read and that really, really frightened me more than the weakness. I could handle the weakness. I couldn't handle not being able to read. I've been reading since I was four years old--I don't remember ever NOT reading. It's one of my skills that's a pleasure to have. Not being able to make sense of anything in front of me scared me. The nurses were always having papers for me to sign and I couldn't read any of them. I don't know what I scribbled what I hoped passed for my signature on--I just signed where they told me to sign. 

I also could barely comprehend what people said to me. I grew up with hearing problems but have learned to compensate for those problems throughout my life. Back in March 2008, I had a hard time focusing on what people said to me and misunderstood a lot. That was just as scary as not being able to read. I felt like I lost very vital pieces of myself.

Meanwhile, I experienced all kinds of side effects: blurry vision, constant headaches, extreme dizziness, heart palpatations (that felt like I had the god Thor pounding his way out of my chest), hypothermic chills that would last anywhere from one to four hours several times a day, constant nausea, extreme chest pains, weight fluctuations, continued high blood pressure, and suicide ideation. Yes, that's right. I constantly thought of suicide. Funny thing was--I was no where near suicidal before I got sick and came home with a bucket full of medication.

 I ended up back in the hospital again. My husband fought for me. Normally I'm the fighter--the scrapper--the one who goes to battle. Between all the side effects and the weakness, I couldn't speak for myself clearly. Doctors steamrolled over me--a new and very depressing feeling and issue. I hated feeling like I was not in charge of my life or that I was "too stupid to comprehend" the simplest of instructions. Yes--one doctor told me I was "too stupid to comprehend the instructions" when I asked him to repeat what he told me. I was trying to take notes--not that I could read, but I knew my memory--which saw me through elementery and high school and college--was not working properly. 

Because my husband fought for me, I received new medication with no change in the effects. I was told I had to get used to the medications and it would take a week to ten days. Other doctors told me I had to just learn "to deal with the effects--these medications are saving your life!" D became an expert at reading contraindications of various drugs. Some of the side effects were serious adverse effects, which meant I needed to stop taking them. And others were allergic reactions which meant "these medications" were killing me. I got told the same thing over and over again--because I've had one heart attack (or not any at all--depending which doctor was temporarily in charge) I could expect to have more. If I had serious chest pains, I needed to go to the emergency room right away. I was experiencing another heart attack.

Finally, in one of those emergency room visits for the supposed heart attack, I found a doctor who would listen to me. I could see it on his face how alarmed he was at my rising and uncontrolled blood pressure, how hard my heart was pounding, and how suicidal I was. He immediately pulled me off all the medications and ordered a bunch of tests. That's when we found out that some of the medications I had been taking did some damage to my already-damaged kidneys. That yes, I did have a small attack, but the current chest pains weren't heart attacks. That I was ALLERGIC to all kinds of medications, including nitroglycerin, morphine, and most high blood pressure medications.  Oh by the way--suicide ideation is a clear indicator that the patient is allergic to the medication!

I also liked what this doctor had to say--that we work together as a team to help me make the best medical decisions for me. After experiencing other doctors who belittled my questions, blew me off, or ignored my feelings--especially about being over-medicated--it was refreshing to hear someone say that we were working together.  

It's coming up on my second year anniversary and I'm still battling medication issues. I'm not taking the bucket full of drugs I did two years ago, but I'm still having the dizziness, heart palpatations, weight fluctuations, and chest pains---just not as frequent. And most of these symptoms are related to medications I still am taking.

I quit my cholesterol drug because my cholesterol levels were never the issue. One of my issues with the cholesterol medications is that most doctors told me I would have to be on this medication for life. That did not appeal whatsoever. I also read several studies that linked cholesterol-lowering medications to dementia. Having already experienced losing my mental accuity and facilities, I decided it wasn't what I wanted to do ever again. My doctor may not have LIKED my decision, but he respected me enough to work with me. 

I also quit taking the thyroid drug because I didn't need it. My thryoid is working properly. I still don't understand why I was on that medication for a year.  The adrenal gland tumor hasn't grown and the thyroid medication wasn't keeping it from growing. Turns out these adrenal gland tumors are fairly common and most don't require medical intervention. 

I cut some of the dosages down on other medications that are linked to heart palpatations and chest pains. It's helped to lower the frequency of the attacks, especially at night. Instead of taking six to nine different high blood pressure drugs, I'm down to three, and I'm on low dosages at that. I recognize that I do have a problem with high blood pressure, despite the changes in diet and exercise. I know that my high blood pressure most likely came from my smoking for 20+ years. I did that to myself. Trust me--no one held a gun to my head and made me smoke, ok? Quitting that habit has helped me a lot with my health issues. Despite the good I've managed, I know I'll probably be on hypertension medication for a while longer. 

I FEEL better than I did two years ago. I like being able to work with doctors who listen to me and what I have to say. I'm grateful that my husband fought for me two years ago. I'm grateful I'm alive and as healthy as I am today. Two years ago, it was a question of how long do I have. Today, it's about working with what I have. 


  1. This is really a good post. My mom was on many different medications for high blood pressure. They would just keep adding different ones instead of taking her off some as well. I wonder if this caused her problems all these years. Who knows, she might have been allergic to some of them. At the nursing home, she's not nearly on the amount of medication she was on when she was at home and she seems a lot healthier now. This is a good post to remember.

  2. That's a great and inspiring story. We trust medical professionals to be concerned and care for us. It's a shame that finding a physician who will "work with us" is the exception and not the rule. Take good care of yourself!

  3. What a frightening experience that must have been. We try to be our own medical advocate but that's impossible to do if one is out of their mind on a prescribed drug.
    So many doctors today are just too busy to listen, let alone care. They think the answer to everything can be found in a little pill. Glad to hear that with your hubby's help you were able to persevere and got a doctor that took you seriously.

  4. Your story is a scary one. So glad you found a dr that is willing to work with you.

  5. Oh the stories I could tell working in a pharmacy would scare you. So happy that you had enough common sense to find the right doctor and the right medications! Too many people take meds just because their doctor tell them too and because too many people want a answer in a pill.

  6. Wow Cathryn....that is one scary story. I am also glad that your husband was there to stand up for you...and how wonderful that you found a doctor that understands that patients are people first!

    Just keep doing what you are doing because it seems to be working!

    I'm hoping to find a new doctor soon. Everyone has to remember that no one cares about our own health more than we do....so it is necessary to take charge.