From ALS Bites

Scopolamine Blues


Scopolamine patchesI am going to reproduce with little or no modification two Facebook posts about my recent bout with a very ugly drug reaction. There are two reasons for my recycling these posts. One, this is a cheap (in terms of effort) way to prove my blog is not quite dead. Two, to let the handful of Facebook-phobic readers of my blog in on the fun. And boy, was this episode fun!

[Some of what is written below doesn't make much sense when taken out of the context Facebook provides. Oh well.]


July 15: I think I will live

Facebook
I’m seeing a light at the end the tunnel. It looks as if the assassination attempt on my life will fail. My primary care physician at the VA prescribed scopolamine patches (anti-nausea) for me to wear as a way to cut down on my excess saliva. I asked her if it would make me drowsy. She said no. After wearing these patches for two drowsy weeks (I’m a slow learner), I googled the side effects: drowsiness and the blurry vision I was experiencing. I should have paid more attention to the (rarely seen) withdrawal symptoms: dizziness, nausea, clamminess, and vomiting. I’ve had them all in spades. I am just now–maybe–getting to the end of this. Have been able to keep down two small servings of yogurt and one granola bar today. Nothing yesterday, so progress …
 

 

July 17: Feeling well enough to really rant

Facebook
Thank you again for your expressions of sympathy and for your kind thoughts in regards to my recent unpleasantness. I’m a bit better today, though I am still far from recovered from this bout with scopolamine. (I’m losing big on all three scorecards and I can’t believe the referee hasn’t stopped the fight.)
 
I can’t believe I’m still feeling this. I hope it is not my “new normal”. I’m not looking for more sympathy–just a chance to vent.
 
First of all, @Rhonda is right: a pharmacist would have known to warn me about the side effects. (The VA sends me medication through the mail and as far as I know, my postman doesn’t know any more than I do about prescription drugs.) But we have to take responsibility for ourselves. I knew enough to ask if it would make me drowsy. But I failed to read the information that came with the patches (a little rolled up piece of paper that could pass for the world’s worst–and most verbose–fortune cookie message). If I had read that I would never have worn these little assassins.
 
(I am having surgery on August 2. Scopolamine is often used pre- and post-surgery. I am going to make sure I’m not so attacked.)
 
I like my physician a lot. She does everything she can for me. But she is maybe too willing to give me drugs. I asked for Vicodin once because some PALS believe it gives them energy. She said “I believe it–pain will really sap your strength.” When I told her that I didn’t really feel any pain, she prescribed it anyway. I can call an automated prescription system and get more any time I want as long as I’m not taking more than two pills every six hours. Once when I expressed concern about the Tylenol in Vicodin, she prescribed codeine of some sort. I didn’t like that, so I have stayed with the Vicodin. I’ve never taken more than three or four pills in a week, but I could be at Rush Limbaugh levels of this dangerous drug if I wanted and I’m not sure the VA would stop me.
 
(Of course, the VA will not prescribe marijuana although it is now legal for ALS patients in Minnesota. This is not my physician’s fault; she is supportive of my use of it. A drug with as its worst side effects an increased appreciation for the genius of Monty Python and a slavish attraction to the charms of Little Debbie’s culinary creations.)
 
Aside #1- I should have not soldiered on in reading the book I had started just as I had gone off the drug: Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. Central to the story is the protagonist’s struggle with alcoholism and, especially, the “DTs”. Withdrawal symptoms sickeningly familiar. It was like a very unpleasant 4D reading experience. Karma? @George had pointed out that my flippant clue for DTS (“Cold turkey shakes?”) was unkind.
 
Aside #2- Most of this overlong post was composed using Click-n-Type on-screen keyboard with word prediction. I am having extreme difficulty getting Dragon NaturallySpeaking (not to mention humans) to understand me. I am encouraged by my success using word prediction and WordPad to compose this even in my more than slightly feverish and nauseous condition.
 
Aside #3- Birders, this is cut-and-pasted from Under the Volcano (published in 1947): “The noise of the approaching falls was now like the awakening voices downwind of five thousand bobolinks in an Ohio savannah.” Wow! Are there 5,000 left in the whole of the Great Plains today?
 

 

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