August 19, 2009

Rewarded for Our Troubles

Since The Boy was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder I in 2002, he and I have participated in the Course and Outcome of Bipolar Illness in Youth (COBY) study through The University of Pittsburgh (at one time, The Boy was the youngest local participant in the study). You can read about the largest government-funded study of pediatric bipolar disorder here, or here.

A couple of times each year, we are interviewed by study personnel. Since we no longer live in Pittsburgh, our interviews are now conducted via phone. Then, about a week later, we each receive a large packet of questions to answer. All in all, it takes somewhere between four and six hours total to accomplish these tasks. I am happy to report that in the last year, The Boy has finished his paperwork on his own, without any prodding or nagging from me.

If we are obedient little study participants (and hand in the paperwork), we are paid for our efforts, and we get a cash card in the mail (much more convenient than the paper checks we used to get).

(I'm wondering how many people will get their panties in a wad about being paid for participating in a study). Don't fret, the IRS knows about it too...and I pay income taxes on that money.

This time through the process, the Project Coordinator asked if we had come into their office - she was sure she saw The Boy and me. Now, we left Pittsburgh in 2004; surely, she must realize that we've both aged a lot bit in the five years we've been gone.

Scary to think there's ANOTHER frazzled mom accompanied by a manic redhead in Pittsburgh!

My motivation for our continuing participation in this study is to give some hope and comfort (albeit many times removed) to other parents whose child is struggling with this life-altering illness. Much has been learned about pediatric bipolar disorder over the past seven years, but much is left to learn about diagnosis, treatment and effective, safe medications.

The Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation is a great resource for information and referrals. Their Web site,, is a great place to start if you want additional information about bipolar disorder.

We have no plans yet for the $140 in "fun money"...but I'm sure we'll come up with something. Just to put a point on some of the financial costs of bipolar disorder, that $140 would cover:
  • about 25% of the cost of his monthly medication (when he didn't have insurance)
  • or, approximately 90% of the cost of a 15-minute "medication check" appointment with the psychiatrist
Fun money, indeed!


  1. What a great study! Yeah for Pittsburgh! Where in Pittsburgh were you from?

    ~ Jennifer

  2. if someone gets their panties in a wad over this, i hope it is a BIG one. I am pretty tired of worthwhile projects (like yours) being underfunded and money "throwed away" on some dumb a--'d frog or lizard. Now I will take the heat.. lolol let 'em come.

  3. I think your reasons for doing this are so generous and kind. And I'm guessing the Boy gets something out of it too if he completes all this without complaining or "nagging." But those medical numbers are SCARY.

  4. So many don't understand how expensive it is for meds and visits!

    You go girl do as many as you can!


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