In A Medical Crisis, Knowing the Right Questions to Ask Is Key

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“Thank God for the nurse and for Dr. Athena Lewis,” Sharyn told me. It was the charge nurse who looked at Robyn’s case and saw no family history of mental illness, a loving household and no drugs. She told Dr. Athena (as she likes everyone to call her), that this didn’t make any sense.” Dr. Athena promised to find an answer. For two days, Sheryn and Dar’rell visited their only child in a psychiatric facility. On the third day, Dr. Athena, the doctor who cared for Robyn like her own and vowed to find a treatment, called with that promised answer and told them “I know what it is.”

Dr. Athena discovered a case very similar to Robyn’s on the Internet that involved oral surgery. In both cases, patients were given the drug Dexamethasone, also known as “Decadron.” The article Dr. Athena discovered, “Postoperative Psychosis in an Adolescent Subsequent to Oral Surgical Outpatient Procedure” (published in The Oral Surgery Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology and Endodonogy, Vol. 107, No. 4 April, 2009) proved that side effects from the drug mimicked the symptoms Robyn was experiencing.

The antidote was administered and by Thursday, Robyn was coming back. Sheryn and Dar’rell took their daughter home the next day. When Robyn went in to have her wisdom teeth removed, her parents were informed Propofol was used to put her under. But they weren’t told that Robyn was also given Decadron, often used in dental surgeries to prevent swelling. But the drug has known side effects, like the psychosis experienced by Robyn and other adolescents. How were her parents to know what side effects to look for, if they were not told all the drugs their daughter was administered? When we don’t know, we have to ask. Ask, is X the only drug she was given? Will you go over her case notes with us to make sure there was nothing else like drug Y or drug Z?

I asked Crystal, what should be the take-away from Robyn’s experience. She said, “Be vigilant. Ask any questions you may have, no matter how inconsequential. WHAT are you giving my child/parent? WHAT are the side effects? WHY? HOW MUCH? HOW LONG should we be watching for any side effects? And REPEAT as needed.”

Today, Robyn is not only home, but back in school, working overtime to catch up. To add insult to injury, she was sidelined last week with a stomach flu, but thankfully, everyday she’s closer to a complete return to her wonderful self.

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