Friday, December 7, 2012

Big Pharma

In Snotty Suburb, one's aches, pains and mental brain-drains are taken ever so seriously by one's doctors.

Once, on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend,  my spouse, my child and I went to the Emergency Room because two of the three of us were burning with fever and the rawest of sore throats.
After consenting to having throat swabs for culturing of the nasty-nasties causing that eye-squinting headache and reflexive head-turning from any food or drink, the E.R. doc handed me two big bottles and two small.

"What's this?" I asked, holding up the small one - because, being brilliant I already reckoned the big bottle was antibiotics.

"Why, that's Vicodin, for the pain."

"Really? We shouldn't just take Tylenol or something?"

"You should take it with you. You'll maybe need it to sleep."

Sixty tablets of Vicodin, total, because two people had sore throats.
Isn't life grand?

I am not at all immune to the pleasures of pharmacological treats.
Some, like  any form whatsover of morphine, cause me to toss the contents of my stomach carelessly onto whatever floor to which I'm attached.
Others, like Adderall, are awfully seductive with that lovely zoom-zoom-zoom feeling, and still others, like Ativan, allow the delicious melting-neck-muscles sliiiiiiiide into doped-up control when things get a little too real.
And finally, only a killjoy would argue against a good bong-hit of medical marijuana every now and again.

Then. . . there are the misfires.

One horrible summer life had dumped roughly one hundred and ninety-five pounds of bullshit directly on top of me.
The bullshit had a long, long tail that, when followed, led to unemployment, work-social death, and the near-miss thank God of the spectre of divorce.
Not one of my best summers.

The worst of it was not sleeping.
Not ever.
Like Christian Bale in The Machinist, only without the messy killing someone part.
I'd end my day between eleven-thirty and midnight, only to have it begin again by one-forty-five or two in the morning.
And that was it for sleep.
Incapable of napping, just grinding by for two, then four, then five weeks on a scant hour or two of sleep.
In the middle of Week Six, I had an appointment for a physical.
After looking me over and reviewing samples of two of the body's humors (gross) the doc asked if there were any questions or requests.
(That's Snotty Suburb code-speak for "Do you need anything to make your awfully difficult life of privilege and entitlement any easier?")

"I'm not sleeping well at all lately. I've got a lot going on right now."

Bingo - and just like that I walked out with a fan of cards in my hand, each card double-folded over two or four samples of sleep meds.

Night one: took sleep med.
Dropped like I'd been hit with a sock full of quarters.
For exactly three hours - after which I buzz-buzz-buzzed like I'd injected rocket fuel directly into my heart.

Night two: took second tablet from card.
Slept four hours, woke up asthmatic and unable to stop crying.
The suicidal thoughts were unrecognizable to me as not my own.
That's some scary stuff there.
Finally the sudden-onset asthma made me interupt the flow of how best to do myself in in order to Google if asthma was a side effect of the meds.
Yes, I found out.
It was.
And right next to it was "suicidal thoughts."


As I'm typing this five years later, it's pretty clear I resisted the urge to sail off a bridge or tall building, or to wash down the sleeping pills in one fell swoop with a litre of vodka.
Yet I came way closer to doing just that than I'd like to admit.

Flash-forward to a couple of years ago.
A respected, long-standing and optimistic  member of the community who worked with children went missing.
All signs pointed to a not-happy ending; the cryptic good-bye note left for the children along with a set of keys.
Wallet, mobile phone and other necessities left behind as well.
No sign of the person for over ten days.

One of the best features of Snotty Suburb is proximity to a couple of seriously breath-taking parks.
On a Saturday morning, early, I drove past the road leading to one of these beauties.
A Search and Recovery state-emblemed vehicle, in a sobering shade of dark olive, sat idling while a couple of official park-ranger types talked over the hood.
The "Search and Recovery" logo said it all; I knew they'd found the missing person.

Well, they found them all right, mouldering away in one of the many creeks that snakes away from the main body of water - a pristine lake so perfect that it has, in case of fact, been used in movie scenes to simulate Heaven.
For two weeks, the body must've been well-hidden under brush, but was finally spotted by a hiker.
Poor hiker.
What a find.
I do hope it was a common-sense type hiker and not a likely-to-be-traumatized hiker.

Back to the Big Pharma - I do not know this in any tangible way, but I would bet serious money that the no-longer-missing person, described in newspaper stories as happy, secure, but recently faced several very destabilizing setbacks also recently left a doctor's office somewhere in Snotty Suburb, carrying a fan of cards just like the ones I'd carried.
If they'd had asthma, exacerbated by the sleep meds, the story might, just might, have had a very different ending.


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