The American Recall Center/Personal Experience
by – Sheri de Grom
Each day begins with my swallowing a handful of pills and injecting a shot. Each medication has more side effects than I care to think about. Four of the pills I swallow in the a.m. are for panic attacks resulting from a nasty case of PTSD. I’ve worked hard in therapy and thought I had managed to put everything in a pretty box and handed it to God. The move to DC I’ve talked about a lot brought on other events leading to more severe panic attacks. After my second brain injury, I was diagnosed with Narcolepsy and here came another pill and more panic. I suddenly found myself in one dangerous situation after another and I had no idea when my body would betray me and fall asleep, unannounced. And I shouldn’t forget to mention the medication to treat my on-going nerve pain (although I cut it in half). I can’t stand the way it makes me feel if I take the prescribed dosage. I’ll be talking about my medications in another blog as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) have been the culprit behind most of my serious medical conditions.
Before I have my first meal of the day, some four or five hours after that first handful of pills and the injection, I swallow another handful of drugs and so on and so on. Without my medication cocktail my body rebels and reminds me why the prescriptions are necessary.
Today’s blog will focus on the medications my husband Tom has taken and the resulting damage to his body.
Medication is almost always a part of the recommended treatment course for bipolar disorder. People with undiagnosed bipolar disorder will sometimes self-medicate with alcohol or drugs to try to relieve some of their symptoms. It’s with thanksgiving I’ve never had to worry about those extremes with Tom.
A catastrophic problem for the bipolar-disordered patient is that a psychiatrist will add medications to daily pharmaceutical regimes without taking other medications away. This continuous addition of pharmaceuticals is a widespread practice by psychiatrists.
My career moved Tom and I many times and this meant Tom had several psychiatrists in a twelve-to-fourteen-year period.
My husband was gone. He’d become a shell of the man I’d married. Over the years the medications damaged his internal organs.
Our spontaneous conversations were gone along with lingering over dinner at our favorite restaurants, walks along the Carmel, CA beach, trips to our favorite bookstores, discovering antiques and other activities. When Tom was taking the psychiatric medications he used a dull and monotone voice, rarely expressed an opinion and became a man with little energy who slept all day. Perhaps worst of all — the husband I knew was slipping away and he knew that I could see it. Tom had become defenseless.
A study conducted in Sweden involved 10,000 patients with two chronic diseases and 10,000 patients diagnosed bipolar-disordered. The results are alarming. Of the bipolar- disordered group, 6,618 of the 10,000 bipolar-disordered patients died over a decade sooner than the general population. Multiple causes lead to an increased mortality: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, COPD, influenza or pneumonia, unintentional injuries and suicide. There’s also a higher rate of cancer.
At issue here, even with the best health care available, medical doctors have many reasons why they don’t want to add bipolar patients to their practice. At least fourteen studies have shown that a patient with serious mental illness receives worse medical care than ‘normal’ people. Last year the World Health Organization called the stigma and discrimination endured by people with mental health conditions a world-wide human rights emergency.
The mentally ill that die early due to negligent physical medical care comprise sixty percent of recordable deaths in the United States annually. These patients die of preventable or treatable conditions.
A medical advocate must be aware of the mentally ill’s needs with vigilance. This is an exhausting role but one where the slightest withdrawal of attention to the total medical care and observation of the patient can turn to tragedy in a nano-second.
The diseases caused by Tom’s anti-psychotic drugs include:
Cardiovascular disease and Diabetes Type II. Sadly, diabetes is often the result of an anti-psychotic drug that only a few years ago received a black box warning that it could cause Type II diabetes. By the time the warning came out, it was too late for Tom. He was already coping with being a diabetic.
Tom was prescribed Lithium and while it did keep him out of the hospital, it also destroyed one-third of his liver. The doctor prescribing the lithium did not order the necessary blood panels Tom should have had during the time he was taking lithium.
Some medications used to treat bipolar disorder have been linked to an increased risk of death, but those with no medications to treat their disorder have an even higher risk of mortality.
A miracle occurred in late 2004 when we met Tom’s current psychiatrist. Tom was admitted to the hospital and detoxed from the twenty-seven psychiatric medications he’d been taking daily. At the time of this admission, Tom’s diagnoses included: Parkinson’s disease, Type II Diabetes, Tardive Dyskinesia, bleeding at the cortex of the brain and of course bipolar disorder. All of the diagnoses, with the exception of bipolar disorder, were a direct result of being over-medicated with psychiatric medications.
Once the twenty-seven psychiatric medications were out of Tom’s system, we knew he did not have Parkinson’s disease, Tardive Dyskinesia or bleeding at the cortex of the brain. Of course the diagnoses of bipolar disorder and diabetes II will stay with him throughout his lifetime.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) reported on October, 8, 2014 that, “Results strongly suggest that clinicians need to pay much more attention to promoting physical health in people with severe mental illness.” This statement has been needed for years. Unfortunately, doctors in family practice, internists and specialists haven’t embraced adding the mentally ill to their patient roster.
The results of the NIH study revealed treatment with anti-psychotic medication, even after brief exposure was associated with an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, which is a major risk for future cardiovascular illness. [Were the anti-psychotic medications Tom took for so many years responsible for his needing a pacemaker in 2007 and an emergency heart surgery a few months ago]? I believe they were. After all, the anti-psychotic medication is one his current psychiatrist tells us he does not need and there’s strong evidence to support that theory.
Tom had been hospitalized twenty-seven times in a behavioral health unit until we met his current psychiatrist. Since our fortunate meeting, Tom has not needed hospitalization. We are a team, the psychiatrist, Tom and I.
In addition to the psychiatric medications Tom took every day, he also took medications for high cholesterol, diabetes, low thyroid, sinus infection control, low Vitamin D and reflux.
Today Tom’s psychiatric medications are limited to three and his psychiatrist approves or disapproves any and all medications added to his care. We’re aware how a slight chemical imbalance can send Tom to a place where his medicine is no longer safe for him.
Thank you for reading with me. I always appreciate your support. The month of October marks the calendar as “Talk About Your Medicines” month. I’m honored that Judy Cohen, Outreach Coordinator with the American Recall Center asked me to be an extension of their campaign. Please visit their site at: www.recallcenter.com/community You’ll find the medical information there written in a straight-forward manner and easy to understand.