Friday, 3 August 2012

Quality of Life and Medication

Enjoying family time in our back garden

Over the past few years medications that haven't suited Chrissy have caused her untold suffering. From general anaesthetics and pre-meds for ops in early childhood to antipsychotics, reactions have ranged from screaming & thrashing about as if acid is burning her insides to status epilepticus and a life-threatening blood disorder. I've no idea why Chrissy is so sensitive & has such strange reactions but trying her on new medications scares me witless. It's unbearable to see the torment she goes through but a relief that while she's in hospital they can respond quickly to remove medications that have caused bad reactions. Out in community-based settings, this did not happen.

When a supplementary antiepileptic caused mayhem in Chrissy's brain earlier this year, I wondered if she would ever be stable again. It was supposed to do the opposite - it's prescribed for anxiety as well as seizure control. So when her doctors started suggesting other adjunctive antiepileptics my hackles went up. Chrissy has been on Epilim alone since the end of April, and has got her sparkle back. She has been interested in her surroundings, engaging in meaningful conversations, able to focus on activities, and a delight to be around. Introducing a new drug would jeopardise her newfound eqilibrium. Was it absolutely necessary?

Chrissy's seizure freqency has increased slightly, and they're mainly complex partials that become generalised while she's in bed at night. They're all self-limiting and last for only a minute or two.

My questions were: Are they likely to damage her brain? What's their impact on her overall quality of life?

We saw the neurologist on Thursday, No, the type of seizures that Chrissy has do not cause brain damage. Hospital staff and I felt that Chrissy's life is briefly interrupted by seizures but not ruled by them. She will sleep for a couple of hours after more major seizures, then will wake up as if nothing has happened. One of Chrissy's nurses asked about the risk of SUDEP (sudden unexplained death in epilepsy) ttp:// Her neurologist said that no one knows exactly why SUDEP happens but it's more common among people with poorly controlled epilepsy, who have seizures at night during sleep and whose seizures start from a focus then become generalised. So Chrissy does have several risk factors but close monitoring is key. She is in the next bedroom to ours at home and we're attuned to the slightest change in the sound of her breathing, and hospital staff check her every 15 minutes. She also has a baby monitor. I try not to think about SUDEP - everything that can be done is being done and what's more important for Chrissy - optimising seizure control with all it entails or quality of life?

Chrissy came along to the appointment and it was clear to us all that she was on top form. The highlight of the day came as we went to leave the hospital. She did a body-swerve towards WH Smiths, made a bee-line for the sweets then homed in on the Maltesers. There she spent ages bent double over the shelves with her bum in the air trying to work out the difference between two packs - one was slightly bigger than the other & she wasn't going anywhere until she'd made the right choice! The rapture on her face as she tucked the larger of the two packs inside her lunchbox was a joy to see. I felt elated all day as I reflected on how far she'd come.

'Don't count your chickens' Ian warned me later....

I know there are likely to be more blips but for now I'm enjoying the feeling that we've got Chrissy back. If the risks posed by her seizures increase I will, of course, be open-minded about the need for adjunctive treatment but we've all agreed for now that watchful waiting is the best approach.

I am a SWAN UK (Syndromes without a Name) blogger

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