Monday, August 08, 2011

From Wisdom to Madness Via Woe

"Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness."
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Trying to educate myself about my new irregular heartbeat and deadening drug side-effects has been like giving myself up to fire. I’ve had irregular heartbeats intermittently (no, that’s not redundant) for a few weeks. When I finally got to the doctor last week, he blew off my list of side effects from the rat poison and the antiarrhythmic saying I’d had a life-changing experience, so some disruption in mood was to be expected. Which did nothing to make me wiser and a lot to make me madder.

My side effects include menopausal hot flashes that leave me drenched in sweat, itching skin that seems to move around my arms and legs like ants when I try to sleep, mood swings that make menopause look like a slightly cloudy afternoon (no that’s not redundant either), unprovoked crying, feeling totally overwhelmed at the least little problem, and headaches. He increased one of my prescriptions because my blood pressure is also elevated. All doctors do these days is practice medicine with prescription pads - meaning he paid attention to the one symptom a prescription pad purports to cure (without consideration of what new side-effects it might cause). When I drop something on the floor, instead of cleaning it up, I just say fuck this and walk away. I’ve pretty much lost interest in everything except my favorite kitty. So I suppose that’s a good sign – the kitty part, not the other stuff.

The backyard has defeated me. I now consider myself a lapsed gardener. The neglected table-top miniature pots with moss in them have now succumbed to high heat and a shut-off sprinkler. They were to give me something cool and calm to meditate on. I plan to go outside to see what stage of slow and gruesome death by lack of hydration they are in as soon as I finish my caffeine-free coffee that tastes like worn-out socks. I’ve also vitrually stopped drinking alcohol too, which hasn’t exactly contributed positively to my outlook.

Despite its failure to operate as a quilting machine, my new sewing machine works quite well as a sewing machine, so that’s a ray of frickin’ sunshine in my currently dismal life. To restore the balance to the universe, I made pillow cases for TCG’s two tiny pillows and embroidered the following rhyme on one: Goodnight my dear,/ And sweet repose./ Lie on your back/ So you don’t squish your nose.

I did a lot of medical research on line, being careful to distinguish between batshit crazy wacko sites and, say, Mayo Clinic and, a process which involves a minimum of a third grade education and the application of judgment which, surprisingly, doctors seem to think those without a postgraduate degree in some biological science are incapable of exercising. Turns out the cute ER doc who mentioned that cannabis use is linked to tachycardia might have been right. I say might, because he fact that the relevant research was conducted on healthy 20-something men and involved only smoking (rather than oral ingestion of) marijuana may not be significant, and wasn't terribly specific about dosing. Now because I lack a medical-related degree I might just be blowing smoke here, metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m refraining from my go-to herbal cure for depression at least until I finish adapting to the rat poison and apparently non-functioning shit that’s supposed to regulate my heart. I may or may not bother to see the cardiologist. At this point in my research, I’m leaning to getting some blood tests for cardiac blood markers like C-reactive protein and other inflammatory cytokines like Tumor Necrosis Factors that are better indications of stroke risk, but what do I know.

WRT the non-functioning antiarrhythmia med, called Amioderone, I found a study (could only access the abstract) that said: “The management of AF (atrial fibrillation – what I had) can vary among individuals depending on factors such as underlying heart condition, age, stroke risk, and the severity of symptoms associated with AF. The Atrial Fibrillation Follow-up Investigation of Rhythm Management (AFFIRM) trial randomized AF patients into 2 treatment strategies: heart rate control without attempting to maintain normal rhythm versus heart-rhythm control that attempted to maintain normal rhythm through the use of medications. Both groups received warfarin (aka, rat poison). The study showed that there was no advantage of one approach over the other in terms of survival. Patients treated with heart rhythm medications were hospitalized more often for their treatment and were exposed to possible side effects of antiarrhythmic medications. Therefore, the selection of treatment strategy is often guided by symptoms. Anticoagulation should be considered for all patients at increased risk for stroke” (Chung MK. Vitamins, supplements, herbal medicines, and arrhythmias. Cardiol Rev. 2004 Mar;12(2):73–8).

Now, as an uneducated drug-addled old broad, I read that as saying the Amioderone was more trouble than it was worth. My doc read that part of the 9-page research paper I compiled in doing my research, and shook his head patronizingly and said “You should ask your cardiologist about that”. So, should I survive the questionable care of these distracted mechanics, I might do that. Funny story about the side effects of Amioderone: “Though this medication often gives great benefits to people with irregular heartbeat, it may infrequently worsen an irregular heartbeat or cause serious (sometimes fatal) side effects.” I’m pretty sure death is a “fatal side effect” but I’ll have to ask my cardiologist to be sure.


Katie said...

I hear you. I've had doctors try to throw medicines at me, but I do my research and get to the bottom of my issue. Am I still on some meds? Yes. Do doctors know everything? Hell no. We must be our own advocates, and it sounds like you are already there my friend. Sorry to hear about all the crap. Hugs.

Cicero Sings said...

Sorry to learn of your medical woes. Bummer! As for the medical profession/pharmaceutical advocates - don't get me on the topic.

After much ordeal which included long visits in the ER over Christmas holidays, they put my Mither on rat poison too -- initially by needle (hence trips to ER). Then, when she went into the nursing home, the lazy doctor/nursing staff couldn't seem to monitor her consumption of pills/blood rat poison level in a safe manner (it fluctuated dangerously), so the doctor just took her off rat poison. She hasn't had any rat poison for about 5 years and guess what? She is 97 and still alive! The only med she takes is a small aspirin and the occasional sleeping pill.