Few people are aware that Gretta M. Anderson, my wife who died in 2012, developed Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and nearly died from prescription drug interactions a decade before she finally died from a fatal heart attack. When Gretta developed a severe and persistent rash over all of her body, she visited the emergency three times to seek allopathic help, and she saw her family physician twice in one week, but none of the busy doctors or nurses recognized Gretta’s condition as life-threatening. They treated her with multiple tests and additional prescription medications and sent her home, but her condition only worsened.
Today’s Chicago Tribune has a front-page story about Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, part of their week-long Watchdog series entitled “Dangerous Doses”. Everyone should read it and weep.
Gretta’s condition was finally diagnosed by a female dermatologist in private practice. By then, Gretta’s eyes had swollen shut with blisters and she couldn’t eat because her throat was also badly blistered. She was having difficulty breathing, and she could barely walk because of painful blisters on the bottoms of both feet.
We went to that particular dermatologist, a specialist not covered by our insurance, because Gretta refused to return to hospital emergency rooms and no longer trusted her own physician. I was working on my doctorate in Ed Psych at the time and I had access to the university’s online medical journals. We researched Gretta’s symptoms and narrowed the cause to several conditions, one of which was Stevens-Johnson Syndrome. We were fortunate to have a dermatologist in Rockford that had published papers on the Syndrome. She examined Gretta, reviewed all the medications Gretta had been prescribed, and identified the source of the prescription drug interactions as a newly-developed and recently-prescribed arthritis medication combined with a long-term cholesterol-lowering medication. She changed Gretta’s prescriptions, treated her with specially-concocted steroidal syrups and creams, and the symptoms diminished and eventually abated.
Gretta began to study herbology to find natural sources of healing to replace prescription medications. She argued with her doctors every time they handed her a new prescription. One of Gretta’s physicians refused to treat her if she wouldn’t accept his prescriptions without grilling her (yes, Gretta’s doctor was a female family-practitioner) about side-effects. Gretta found another physician that would listen to her and answer her questions.
I refused to renew my membership in the American Psychological Association when the APA began advocating to change laws so Psychologists could prescribe meds like Psychiatrists. It’s far too easy to send a patient home with a piece of paper for meds that mask symptoms rather than to spend the time necessary to diagnose and treat the underlying causes of those symptoms.
Gretta firmly believed that her heart condition was aggravated, if not precipitated by, prescription medications.
Nevertheless, she felt dependent on prescription medicines and allopathic medical treatments (including surgery) to prolong her life. She died two days after visiting the hospital emergency room and starting a new prescription. The night before she died, she didn’t feel well enough to keep an appointment with a medical doctor.I often wonder if Gretta might be alive today had she kept her appointment.
Correlation does not imply causation. Gretta felt that the benefits of medical treatment from licensed physicians often outweigh the risks. I disagree.
Read the Tribune series and let me know what you think.