Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Don't assume anything

I experienced a set back. Monday I experienced a pancreatitis attack. It was not as severe as the first attack I experienced in September, but it was painful none the less and very uncomfortable. I left work early after completing some "must get done" tasks, took some Tylenol and dove into bed. I would be home again today, but we had a VIP from corporate arriving for a visit and if I wasn't in the hospital I had to be at work. It always works that way for me. It's never convenient for me to be ill.

This time however, I may have pinned the culprit or at least know I that I am angry and disappointed with my doctors. On my way from daycare to work yesterday morning as I was trying to calm myself from the discomfort I tried to think about all of the events leading to the attacks. I remembered that on the initial attack I just began taking Welchol which is a cholesterol medication that works via the GI track verses being processed through the liver. A couple days later, I'm in the ER.

All of the docs came to the conclusion that it was the alcohol that caused the episode. I was told to not take the Welchol, no alcohol and to follow a drastic change of diet in order to allow the pancreas to heal. My cholesterol went down during this time. However; just recently, my cholesterol went back up again and right back into the danger zone. The doctor's decided it was best I return to the Welchol. I began taking it again Saturday evening. Then on Monday....boom!

I did have my allotted beverages this weekend, but I did not go over what the doctor suggested. Was it the alcohol, the mix or just the Welchol? I'll never know. The doctors, after me calling them Monday morning didn't seem to care and just told me to discontinue use of the Welchol and to return at my next scheduled appointment in eleven weeks to discuss further treatment options. I guess my high cholesterol is no real concern to them either.

While driving to work, I put two and two together and decided I better research this Welchol. Here is what I found (these are just a few):

1. Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); choking; difficulty swallowing; severe constipation or diarrhea; severe or persistent dizziness or headache; symptoms of pancreas inflammation (eg, severe stomach or back pain with or without nausea or vomiting, stomach tenderness or swelling, fast heartbeat, dizziness); throat pain or irritation.

2. The medication may cause an increase in triglyceride levels. It has not been well studied in people with triglyceride levels greater than 300 mg/dL. If you have high triglycerides and are taking WelChol, your healthcare provider may choose to monitor your progress more closely. High triglycerides can be dangerous and may increase the risk of pancreatitis, a serious condition of the pancreas.

3. This medication should not be used if you have certain medical conditions. Before using this medicine, consult your doctor or pharmacist if you have: history of pancreatitis (caused by high triglyceride levels).

4. Discontinue Welchol and seek prompt medical attention if the hallmark symptoms of acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) take place. These symptoms may include severe abdominal pain with or without nausea and vomiting.

5. This is from the Welchol brochure: WELCHOL can increase TG, particularly when used with insulin or sulfonylureas. Marked hypertriglyceridemia can cause acute pancreatitis.

So my issues with acute pancreatitis could have been caused solely from the medication or in conjunction with the alcohol. Either way, none of the doctors seemed be aware of this after my first episode knowing they had prescribed me this medication and more importantly, they decided to put me back on this medication knowing I had history of acute pancreatitis!

What if I didn't do my homework and continued to take this medication? Where would I be? The ER or worse? It's hard not to get completely emotional. I know doctors are only human. But they get paid the big bucks to know this stuff and to follow proper protocol. I make table scraps in their world, yet I can put this simple puzzle together.

Oh, and another thing. My triglycerides have always been a little high, so why would they prescribe a medication to me that would further raise the levels to potentially cause acute pancreatitis? Hello?!

Now I think I am back to square one. Back on the broth for a bit, absolutely no dairy (pancreas can not process lactose when inflamed) and I'm too afraid to touch that Saturday glass of wine or beer. I think I'll have to abstain again for a few months just to be on the safe side. I'm afraid of another attack, afraid to further damage an organ I must have to continue life. It would really be a shame if it was all because of a bad script.

Chris was prescribed the same medication. We are both tossing the bottle. Until the doctors can find a medication that won't kill us verses the potential stroke or heart attack from the high cholesterol, Chris and I decided to try focusing on diet more. Even more than we are already doing. For starters we are going to have an animal product in only one meal a week. The rest of the week we will continue to get our protein from vegetables, grains, nuts, legumes, beans & soy.

This will give me the opportunity to practice my skills at more meatless entrees so that we can move to maybe once a month and so on. There is also the idea of testing out going gluten free to see if that lowers any levels for us. We are willing to try anything as we can't seem to trust any of the medicines that have been offered to us.

What have I learned (should have known already)? Don't assume your doctors know everything about the human body or the drugs they are prescribing. Don't assume anything. Do your homework.


wanda barrett said...

Oh no...so very sorry to hear about your 'relapse' but it is so very true that you have to research everything doctors tell you and prescribe for you. They are just human, and they mean well, but they are not YOU. You can see the big picture and they just get a glimpse.

A few thoughts that may be completely off the wall. There are some folks who think the whole high cholesterol thing is nonsense...so does it really need to be treated? Also, raw dairy might be fine for you (I haven't done any research on it but it's possible - I know some folks use a week long raw dairy fast to cure all sorts of ills). Maybe it's junk or maybe it's stuff worth researching...

Good luck!

Nessa said...

Thanks Wanda! I suppose I am being too hard on the folks. I admit, I would not want their job and in many cases making life or death decisions for people.

My dad had mentioned that perhaps the high cholesterol thing was overkill. His is a bit high, not like mine, but in the past was higher. It seems to run in my family. I don't have anyone that has passed away from stoke or heart attack that I am aware of - being caused by high cholesterol. I wonder if their levels of high just keep getting lower and lower each year. I have not heard of the raw dairy treatment before. I have heard of high doses of vitamin C (like 500,000 miligrams) curing cancer and such. I'll look into it for fun! Hope all is well with you