It used to be, when I was young and naive and trusting, that doctors (especially those for my children) intimidated me. I'd be all quiet and agreeable and do what they told me to do.
When I gave birth to The Boy, I was ancient a much older mother. By then, I had lost that feeling of inferiority around doctors and teachers and others in authority. By then, I had already learned that I know my child best. I knew that teachers and doctors had their own agendas, and although they may care about my kids, I was the only one who had their best interests at heart all the time.
When you have a child with a mental illness, you learn pretty quickly that you have to be your child's advocate. And you have to educate yourself, and while you listen to what the doctors say, rest assured that when you leave their office, you're gonna go home and do research to see if what they are saying is true.
When The Boy was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at age 6 (after trying to jump out my bedroom window - he wanted to die), I had lots to learn. I educated myself about bipolar - about the meds and the therapies that worked, and tried to figure out how he and I were going to navigate through life with this diagnosis.
The doctors in the hospital put him on lithium and other meds. Lithium is the most popular medication for bipolar disorder. It is cheap and highly effective. Regular monitoring of lithium levels is necessary, because toxicity can result.
We settled into a life of appointments with the psychiatrist, the therapist, and lived with monthly bloodwork. As he was a growing boy, medication needed constant adjustment to be effective. His moods weren't always stable, other hospitalizations followed.
When he was nine, in an attempt to avoid yet another stay in the hospital, he was sent to a day treatment program. It was a school setting, but there was a psychiatrist on staff, and a nurse in the classroom who gave meds and took vital signs.
The psychiatrist at the day program (a man I never had the "privilege" of meeting), determined that The Boy needed an increase in his dose of lithium. From my reading, I thought that he was pretty much at his maximum dose for someone his size and age.
Over the telephone (he was much too busy to meet with a mere parent), I explained my concerns to the doctor - and got my ass handed to me. He was rude, dismissive and condescending. I think he had some sort of Jesus-syndrome thing going. He told me to give him the amount he prescribed. I wondered if he'd talk to me like that if I was in his office, and how he would talk to me if I, too, was a doctor.
So, being ever the advocate, I called his regular psychiatrist (Good Doc) and got his opinion on the increase. He agreed with me, and told me NOT to give him the meds.
I think Good Doc must have called the Day Treatment Doc, because I got a nasty phone message the next day. Day Treatment Doc (DTD for short) told me that "it was HIS treatment plan, and I was to follow it - give The Boy the increased dose, and to not call unless The Boy started having tremors". Again, I consulted the regular doc, and he told me that he also got scolded, and that maybe I should just listen to DTD for the time being.
So against my better judgment, I gave The Boy the increased dose. He felt sick to his stomach...and he got tremors. As instructed, I phoned DTD - he didn't sound convinced, and said that they'd draw some blood at school that day to verify his levels.
The next morning, I got a more apologetic phone call from DTD. He instructed me to take The Boy immediately to Children's Hospital, because his level of lithium was TWICE the therapeutic level - in other words, he had received a toxic dose of the stuff.
I was a nervous wreck by the time we got to the hospital. I was feeling really guilty, and convinced that it was all my fault.
Several doctors came in and examined The Boy - he was asked lots of questions, was poked and prodded, had blood drawn and had some basic neurological testing done.
When it was over, and the doctors had all talked together, I got to meet with two toxicologists. They told me that The Boy did, in fact, get a toxic dose of lithium - but that he didn't appear to suffer any brain damage from it.
Yeah, brain damage. Holy Hell.
From that little adventure, I kicked my vigilance into high gear. Now no prescriptions get filled until I read about side effects and interactions with other meds.
And if he's in the hospital? No med changes without phoning me and getting my okie dokie. And that's worked pretty well - except for one nurse who gave The Boy a freakin' shot of Thorazine because "it was easier than dealing with him". She turned him into a shuffling, drooling zombie freak for several hours.
I am totally convinced if I had a diploma mill M.D. degree, nobody would be screwin' with my kid like that.
I know this is kinda illegal and all, but The Mister has an awfully fancy printer. What say we make up a name of a high-fallutin' medical school and crank out some diplomas for us all?