Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hypertension 4: A Cavalcade of Pills

Pill #1 left me dizzy and weak. Pill #2 worked as effectively as Pill #1 in reducing my blood pressure…but after a month or so my gums puffed up and bled when I brushed my teeth (more details to follow: please see, “spitting up blood”.) Plus I was really tired, all the time. Generally tired. I was proactive--I spoke to General Tiredness. He said “Son, you’re an Officer, speak to your privates.” I thought that to be odd advice, of corps, or at least that was what the loo tenant said.

By now I was leaving work in the afternoon at least once a week, too tired to work. Although I previously stayed up late writing, until 11 or 12, now I was going to bed at 9 pm or earlier. No matter how much sleep I got, though, I woke up tired.

When I reported these side effects, my family doctor moved on to Pill 3. Pill 3: the real loser. Arguably the worst (why are you arguing with me? Surely we’ve never even met! And what does Shirley have to do with it?), I took Pill 3 on a Friday evening, and on Saturday morning I could barely get out of bed. Sunday? I’m not sure I did get out of bed. It was as close to comatose as you can get with your eyes open. By Monday, I pulled the plug on Pill 3 without even asking my doctor.

You may find this strange, but I was beginning to feel I was losing control over what was happening to me. Stopping the medication on my own was a statement.

Pills 1 and 2 had been relatively subtle. It took weeks to realize what they were doing to me (apart from lowering my blood pressure). Actually, some of the emotional effects—anger, not dealing with issues properly--did not occur to me until a year later. But Pill 3 was a hammer to the head.

Later I was told by another doctor that Pill Three was "contraindicated". That is, a right wing enemy of Daniel Ortega wanted me to take it, which should have been a tip off right there. It was not recommended because of my weight (around 215 pounds). Guess the family doctor missed that, eh? What’s up with that, doc?

Given this great history, my doctor of course proceeded to prescribe Pill 4.

I had begun the pills in May, 2005. I began swallowing Pill 4 in November, 2005. Four was not the charm. All the pills caused weakness, tiredness that sleep did not help, a lack of energy and rive. And by now, because I knew what to look for, it all felt worse. Yes, it was lowering my blood pressure, but at what cost?

By January, 2006, I knew I’d had enough of prescription medications. Later, I learned some of the weakness was a potassium problem, which could be overcome by eating bananas. Typically, my doctor did not tell me that—my then 16 year old daughter told me (she’d learned a lot as an Air Force cadet).

I was taking these meds because if I did not, there was a 14% chance I would have a ‘major incident’ within five or so years. But did that not mean there was an 86% chance I would not? Where was the dividing line between helping and hurting? The whole treatment plan was worse than going to a casino.

Pills were not even the best way to go. They were just the convenient way to go. Diet and exercise was what everyone recommended.

But that was not true, either.

Diet and exercise were also a gamble. No one knew where my Hypertension came from. The odds were better (but no one could tell me what they were!) that if I lost weight and exercised, my blood pressure would improve. But I could have lost weight and my numbers would have stayed exactly the same. And exercising? Martin Sheen, bless his heart, had a heart attack while exercising.

I needed an alternative to prescription medications. I could try exercising and dieting, but those required work, and might not work anyway. My quality of life was suffering, my ability to work was suffering, it was time to take my life back!

And the best way to do that was to find someone who would stick pins in me.

No comments: