June 16, 2010

The Times that a Diploma Mill M.D. Degree Would Have Been Handy

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?

I'm open for suggestions.


  1. I'm glad that he suffered no lasting effects. And good for you standing up for your kid.
    I tried to advocate for my mom who also has bipolar. No one would take me seriously either at the time.
    Thankfully she has been doing a lot better in the past few years and doesn't need me to help her out in that way.

  2. I am so proud of you!!! I let doctors run over me during my son's routine Vaccine at a year 1/2. I missed a dose and against my better judgement they poked my happy healthy beginning to talk (hi, bye, mamma) son with 5 needles liquid vaccine by mouth..She shot him up, he screamed, I cried, we left. A couple weeks later. My son was in the corner flapping his hands, completely non-verbal, refusing to eat, and drooling (thank goodness that stopped I was living a very soggy life). I definitely believe Vaccines CAN BE a Trigger for Autism. I saw it myself!! Now I do the same as you, I refuse to let them put anything in my son without researching it.

    I recently got all bad ass mom at an IEP meeting. When I walked out I was like holy cow I am a freakin' Warrior! I took myself out to lunch! I know I looked a lil creepy though.. just smiling and nodding to myself as I replayed the whole meeting in my head. (only 15min of Speech 2x a week for a Non-Verbal Child...pffft! They must be crazy!)

    I would definitely like a Medical Certificate also an Educator one please!

  3. Thank God you are a good, responsible mother!!!! I am at that age too when I just tell it like it is. I would have probably ripped the offending doctor a new one. Butthead.

    My daughter suffers from bi-polar but wasn't diagnosed until last year when she finally took pills and ended up in the hospital. It's a never ending stuggle.

    God bless you.

  4. God bless you for bein such a gladiator for your kid. i work in the public school system and see so many kids whose parents just really don't seem to give a f*&#. i wish all moms (and dads) had your kick-ass attitude!

  5. You are so right. We can't leave it all up to the doctors. I've been told that before, but I certainly don't have anything near your situation. It's good that you questioned and questioned. If you hadn't, what would you have done when he had the tremors? Would you have known to call the doctor?

    Good, compassionate doctors are hard to find!

  6. I never trust that what a doctor says is the end all be all. Doctors make mistakes and they get into a routine of prescribing things that may not be necessary for your child. Some doctors are like robots, just regurgitating what they learned in school without doing any kind of research. They are also programmed to think meds are always appropriate instead of thinking that maybe another approach is best. You are an awesome mom for doing your research and being vigilant about it. Some doctors care and really try, others don't. But a mother ALWAYS cares. Your judgment is definitely best!

  7. Also, my son has had two adverse reactions to vaccines and I no longer let the doctors give him more than one vaccine at a time and I refuse certain ones. My pediatrician I'm sure thinks I am a pain in the ass, but I don't care. He is my son, not the doctor's.

  8. Good for you!

    It's tough. I'm all over the place when it comes to Drs. I think I know it all (I research to the point of being a little obsessive. Ok, a LOT obsessive) and I DO know quite a bit. But at the same time I've got the anxiety/OCD thing going on. (It's a work in progress.) So when I feel strongly about something I tend to back down a little bit when I remember that one person speaking has been to med school, while the other person is on Lexapro. It's easy to just want to go with the flow for a minute.

    My current worries are nothing like yours, but I have food allergies and anyphalactic (erm. SP?) reactions to vaccines. Things like that can be genetic but get kind of brushed over by The Cute's pediatrician. Or at least...the pediatrican TRIES to brush over them. ;D

    Thank GOD The Boy has you for a mother.

  9. OMG. What a freaking nightmare ... and what an a-hole doctor! Your post is a wake-up call to all parents that doctors do not always know what they are talking about.

  10. Thanks for posting this. My son had 'mystery' seizures when he was younger. My pediatrician is amazing but there is something to be said about emergency room doctors and nurses. They wouldn't listen when I would tell them that anything over 99* was a fever in my book since he would seize at 101*. I was told he looked strange because of the medications... He seized about 4 seconds later. I was treated like I was a crazy, over-reacting mom. I can't imagine having to deal with that on a daily basis. More power to ya.

  11. I have awarded you the Versatile Blogger Award... Stop by and pick it up when you get a chance.

  12. Oh June, I haven't been here in awhile. So sorry. So sorry. Life is just....well. You know. You have so much to deal with. You are such an amazing woman! And it looks beautiful over here. Haven't been since the remodel. Very bright and welcoming. Keep up the good momma work, you MD you!

  13. Gosh, June C....I can't even come up with the words i want to say.....except that you are such a strong and determined mom, and that makes you a hero!


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