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Informational Junkie

Story ID:3669
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Lakewood Ohio USA
Year:2008
Person:Lewis Blackman
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Informational Junkie

Informational Junkie

Yes, I must confess -- I am an informational junkie. Are you? Even though the word "junkie" is usually used to label people with an addiction- usually to drugs, I still think it applies to those of us who appreciate each kernel of new information we find and want to share or just remember.

My day started with for the first time in two months taking out my car from the finally snowless driveway to take it to the garage for repair. My renter should never have asked to use my car and I should never have allowed it. Now, my driver's seat window handle is free-wheeling and the window is stuck and partially
opened. After 5 hours of worry on that Saturday when my renter borrowed my car, he pulled in sheepishly and tells me that the motor had died on him and that his friend recharged the battery. What he did not tell me was that he had
forced the window handle and it no longer worked. I cannot say that any of this info is new to most people who are wise enough to never let any one use their car except in an emergency.

I was so glad that the garage people let me pick up my car before the needed part comes in so that my car would not be exposed to the elements in the interim. What a surprise when I went to pick it up. They had duct taped some clear plastic to the window and I was now able to do some shopping. A pizza was their reward!

And my reward after some much needed shopping - a delicious lunch followed by reading a Reader's Digest. This magazine is usually chuck full of new and worthwhile infomation that needs to be remembered. This June 2007 copy contained an article which was heartbreaking and revelatory. It was appropriately titled "Nightshift
Nightmare."

In S. Carolina lay a 15-year old boy whose parents had decided because he had a common birth defect - pectus excavatum (sunken chest) which might later cause him respiratory difficulties that he should have surgery to correct this condition. Three days after the surgery Lewis Blackman was racked with agonizing
pain despite being given doses of a powerful painkiller called Toradol. The pain seemed centered in his abdomen and nurses were certain he was suffering from gas. Even the chief resident on call concurred and prescribed a suppository for what he believed was probably constipation, a common problem after surgery.

Now as the night wore on - her son in agony, Helen Blackman didn't know what to do. His surgeon was not available nor were there any other doctors at this time of night. Finally morning and the advent of bustling nurses. Unable to get a blood pressure reading from Lewis, they spent two hours trying different machines. By noon Lewis' color was draining from his face. Dr. Murray is called --but too little too late. Lewis dies. Can you imagine the pain of this mother and her family?
In a hospital - unable to get the care and attention he needs after a non-threatening
surgery? They believe that he bled to death internally from a perforated ulcer which
was likely caused by the painkiller Toradol.

Too late they realized that a more experienced doctor, especially one familiar with the dangerous side effects of Toradol might have recognized the symptoms early enough during the night to have saved him. (Why aren't all doctors aware of these dangerous side effects?) The family was devastated and I'm sure the doctors and nurses were as well. As part of the human condition, they make mistakes as we
all do. However, hopefully they will realize that it is better to be safe than sorry and fewer and fewer mistakes will be made.

The article's premise was that night time hours in a hospital are the most dangerous. (For me -it was also that we should be aware that drugs can be lethal). In Lewis' case - sadly even the morning hours did not prove helpful. Then of course there was human error and there seemed to be no shortage of it. The Medical University settled for $950,000 without a lawsuit. Helen plowed a portion of the money into Mothers Against Medical Error, an activist group founded by Helen who now works as a patient advocate.
Her efforts led to the passage of the Lewis Blackman Hospital Patient Safety Act which
requires all physicians in S. Carolina to wear identification describing their rank and
hospital staffers must also call an attending physician if one is asked for. Isn't this
shocking that these procedures weren't already in place? Are they in place in Ohio or
wherever you live?

And for me -as always - a fear of drugs which sometimes have very serious side effects which can kill as in Lewis' case. When Consumer Union asked us in an e-mail to share our stories about different medical facets - I easily clicked on to the one labeled supplements/drugs. I think they got more than they bargained for from me. I told them that I think most drugs only address the symptoms and not the cause. They also many times have serious side effects and I am grateful that thus far I am not reliant on any of them. I feel that pharmaceuticals are more interested in profits than healing and I saw a segment on TV where they are sometimes accused of promoting off-label use for often very different ailments. I also told them that I object to the biomedical's dependence on using live animals in experimentation for the last 50 years or more.

While some people will not agree with me, I wish that they had been privy to the materials
I had been receiving and reading about for years re the often cruel, needless, and often
repetitious experiments. A bill sponsored by a lawmaker in the 80's called the Research
Modernization Act would have required the publishing of all grant research so that duplications would be avoided and countless animal lives spared. I imagine some lawmakers and the NIH saw it as too costly and it did not pass. Yet, they did not consider it too costly to give lucrative grants of thousands of dollars to researchers like the one who had 600 cats shot in the head so he and his associates could study brain injuries. Did they all die immediately or did some suffer first? It was later disclosed by the Physicians for Responsible Medicine that there was no new information gleaned from this sad and unnecessary shooting of 600 innocent cats. Would you have surrendered your cat for this experiment?

Re animal experimentation, I recently e-mailed Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, Director of the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) at the request of Michael Budkie who heads Stop Animal Exploitation
Now (SAEN). He asked us to write the director asking him to take away the grant of the
Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research because they violated the Animal Welfare Act.
A necropsy procedure was performed while a baboon was still alive. For us who see all animals as God's creatures, we will do whatever we can to stop cruelty to them wherever we find it including where it is often found --in biomedical research.

I recently heard on the news that Medicare will no longer pay for mistakes made by doctors and hospitals. You would think that they never should have done so in the first place. It was like saying - so you made a mistake - don't worry the American taxpayer will pay for it anyway. Well thankfully, no more.

And so should the biomedical community be made accountable for their mistakes. Grants should be returned and those researchers who are cavalier with animal lives should not be given any more grant money. I hope this makes sense. It does to all of us who care about precious animal lives.