So. You know those warnings on pill bottles? The ones that say things like “swallow whole – do not chew or crush”? The ones that give you instructions on how to take the medication? Well, here’s a novel concept for y’all: they aren’t there for decoration. This is the story about how my home nurse could have fucking killed me all because she didn’t read a label. All because of a choice she made.
I have not gotten along with this nurse for, well, a long time. She had never heard of my particular eating disorder… despite working at one of the best eating disorder clinic in the country, if not world. She kept trying to blame everything on my mental health. She just realized I had had major back surgery a couple weeks prior to when I discovered what was happening. She gave me gross, in depth details about her sinuses and ear infections, complaining to the girl with a weakened immune system that she “didn’t like being sick”. Told me that I HAD (not should, not should look into, not it might be a good idea) to do yoga and mediate. Whatever. Annoying as fuck, but with some things you just gotta put up with it.
I had run out of my 50 mg tablets for the medicine in question, so she took it upon herself to cut them in half. Despite the HUGE warning on the label “swallow whole – do not chew or crush.” Even though most basic rules of medicine is you never cut an XR/ER tablet. This is a HUGE mistake – not a rookie one. Everyone I have talked to knows this is something you don’t do. It can either overdose or underdose a patient. If you suddenly change your dosage of an SNRI, you go through withdrawal. She caused Antidepressant discontinuation syndrome. Which can, in rare cases, be fatal.
She could have killed me. I could not be typing right now. I could be in the hospital. All because she didn’t read a label. The labels aren’t there for decoration. The labels aren’t there just because the pharmacist felt like slapping them on. When people say antidepressant withdrawal is a huge deal? It is a HUGE fucking deal. I plead with you because of this, NEVER split your extended release tablets in half, no matter what. And never EVER stop cold turkey – you get very, very sick very, very, quickly. I nearly went to the ER with my problems because I didn’t know why I was so sick. And now I do. And now I’m pissed.
First, I would like to some questions. Some that I actually got, some that I know people are wondering.
- Why can’t you do your meds yourself?
- In my state, I qualify for what is known as a CADI waiver which means I qualify for nursing home level of care.
- I am low vision, autistic, and have chronic pain. These things combined make it near impossible for me to manage my meds myself when the number tops one dozen.
- How did you not notice?
- First, I did suspect something was amiss just a few days prior. I figured I would find out the next time.
- I am low vision, as I said. My pills come out in a medicine cup from an automated machine like this and being low vision, I have trouble telling the pills apart.
- Why didn’t you confront her when she told you?
- I went into shutdown. I was completely overloaded and basically incapable of talking beyond basic “uh huh” and “huh uh”
- Even if I hadn’t, I wanted to talk with my case workers and doctors – I wanted any confronting on my end to be done with a paper trail. Although, my state is a single party recording state (meaning only one party has to consent) so I would be able to record any further interactions. I did block her cell phone number and told my case manager she is never to set foot on premises again.
- What happens now?
- I don’t know. I am waiting for any legal action until I see my primary doctor next.
Second, I will be getting a new nurse soon. We are completely changing agencies. But… I am scared. I am terrified. Chronically disabled people often don’t trust their providers, with damn good reason. This has shattered my trust even further. We put our lives in the hands of someone else, and we are at their mercy. But if we don’t, then we get sick anyway because we cannot do it ourselves.
There is no fix. There is no way to make it easier. This is what it’s like living when you are chronically ill. You have to trust people who can kill you with one little mistake. And it’s utterly terrifying.