Veterans and Epilepsy: Basic Training: Medications

Veterans and Epilepsy: Basic Training: Medications


MAN: MY NAME IS JAMES ALTHOUSE. I OWN A CORPORATION
THAT I CREATED. IT’S ALTHOUSE CONSTRUCTION
GROUP, INC., AND I’M THE PRESIDENT. I’VE HAD SEIZURE DISORDER
FOR 28 YEARS. I WAS IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY AS A POLARIS ELECTRONICS
MISSILE TECH. I WAS IN FOR A 6-YEAR PROGRAM, BUT AFTER A YEAR
STARTED HAVING SEIZURES. I HAD, UH, A SEIZURE DISORDER
THAT WAS CREATED APPARENTLY FROM
A CALCIFICATION– THIS PIECE OF CALCIUM ABOUT
THE SIZE OF A PING-PONG BALL IN THE BACK SIDE OF MY BRAIN. WOMAN: SO, MR. ALTHOUSE
HAS HAD A REALLY LONG HISTORY WITH EPILEPSY, WITH A LOT
OF DIFFERENT THINGS GOING ON. AT FIRST, WE WERE ABLE TO
REALLY CONTROL HIS SEIZURES WELL WITH MEDICATION. THE GOAL OF TREATING SEIZURES
WITH MEDICATIONS IS IDEALLY TO STOP ALL SEIZURES
FROM HAPPENING. NGUYEN: ANTI-EPILEPTIC
MEDICATIONS WORK BY KIND OF QUIETING DOWN
THE BRAIN. IN EPILEPSY, THE BRAIN BECOMES
OVER-EXCITED VERY EASILY. SO THE MEDICATIONS WORK TO KEEP THE BRAIN
FROM BEING OVER-EXCITED. SEN-GUPTA: MEDICATIONS
ARE QUITE EFFECTIVE IN THE TREATMENT OF EPILEPSY. MOST PATIENTS, ABOUT 2/3, WILL BE QUITE WELL-CONTROLLED
WITH JUST ONE, SOMETIMES TWO MEDICATIONS WITHOUT SIGNIFICANT
SIDE EFFECTS AND REALLY GOOD CONTROL
OF THEIR SEIZURES. JAMES: THERE WERE
SO MANY MEDICATIONS THAT THEY WERE TRYING ME ON. BECAUSE, YOU KNOW,
WITH THESE SEIZURES, I WASN’T ABLE TO DRIVE. UM, I WAS HAVING
A HARD TIME WITH MY– WITH MY SCHOOLING. BEFORE JAMES HAD GOOD
CONTROL OF SEIZURES, UM… THINGS WERE–
THINGS WERE CHAOTIC TO SAY THE LEAST. UM, HE–HE NEVER WANTED
TO STOP DOING ANYTHING OR BEING AT SOCIAL GET-TOGETHERS
OR GATHERINGS OR– HE DIDN’T WANT TO
MISS A BEAT. SO…SO WHAT THAT THEN MEANT
WAS HE WAS GOING TO SEIZE,
YOU KNOW, AT CHURCH. HE WAS GOING TO SEIZE
AT RESTAURANTS. HE WAS GOING TO SEIZE
ON BUSES. HE WAS GOING TO… SEIZE WALKING
DOWN THE STREET, RIDING HIS BIKE,
ON ELEVATORS. UM, IT–IT
HAPPENED EVERYWHERE. THE PREVIOUS DRUGS
THAT WE’VE USED BEFORE WERE MORE FOR GENERALIZED
SEIZURE DISORDERS, UM…AND THEY DID HAVE
SIDE EFFECTS, AND THEIR DOSING WAS
A LOT MORE COMPLICATED. HE WAS ALWAYS FRUSTRATED,
BUT HE WOULD– HE WOULD NEVER, UM… VERBALIZE THAT TO ME. HE WOULD NEVER
SAY THOSE WORDS TO ME. HE WOULD NEVER– HE WOULD NEVER SHOW IT
TO OTHER PEOPLE. SEN-GUPTA: THE MEDICATION
DOESN’T JUST TARGET MAGICALLY THE ONE AREA OR AREAS
THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CAUSING
A PERSON’S SEIZURES. SO, ESSENTIALLY, ONCE THE
MEDICINE’S IN THE BLOODSTREAM, IT’S GOING TO HAVE EFFECTS
THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE BRAIN
AND NERVOUS SYSTEM. AND SO, COMMON SIDE EFFECTS
ARE PEOPLE FEELING
SOMETIMES LIKE THEIR THOUGHT PROCESS
IS NOT AS CLEAR
OR AS LUCID, AS FAST. SOME OF ‘EM ARE GETTING
YOU REALLY DOPEY, UH, SLURRY, AND, UH, HAVING A HARD TIME
REMEMBERING THINGS. ONE OF THE SIDE EFFECTS THAT
WE SEE IS SEDATION, FATIGUE. UM, SO BASICALLY PATIENTS
WILL GET VERY TIRED EASILY. THEY WILL BE DROWSY. THERE WAS A TIME WHEN HE WAS VERY, VERY
WACKED OUT ON MEDICINE AND, UM, HARD TO DEAL WITH,
HARD TO TALK TO, HARD TO COMMUNICATE WITH. SOME MEDICATIONS CAN HAVE
THE POSSIBILITY OF
WORSENING DEPRESSION IN PATIENTS THAT HAVE IT, WHICH IS WHY THAT’S SOMETHING
WE ALWAYS TRY TO ASSESS BEFORE STARTING CERTAIN
CLASSES OF MEDICATIONS. YOU KNOW, I THOUGHT MAYBE–
MAYBE I WOULDN’T BE AROUND
FOR THE FUTURE, YOU KNOW, BUT, UM… HE–THAT–A LOT OF THAT
WAS NOT HIS FAULT. YOU KNOW, HIS MEDICATION
WAS WREAKING HAVOC WITH… WITH HIM. HE–HE JUST WAS
KIND OF OUT THERE. I DON’T KNOW
HOW ELSE TO SAY IT. THE SERIOUS SIDE EFFECTS
THAT WE WATCH OUT FOR WITH SOME OF THE ANTI-EPILEPTIC
DRUGS ARE RASH, LIVER FAILURE, AND BONE MARROW DEPRESSION,
WHERE THE ANTI-EPILEPTIC DRUGS IMPACT THE BLOOD CELL LINES
IN OUR BODY. OVER THE YEARS, UH,
WE HAVE, UH, INCREASED THE NUMBER
OF MEDICATIONS THAT WE
HAVE AVAILABLE TO TREAT EPILEPTIC DISORDERS. UM, MANY, MANY YEARS AGO,
WE HAD A CHOICE OF A FEW. SIDE EFFECTS WERE,
UM, VERY CHALLENGING. BUT THE NEWER AGENTS
THAT WE HAVE, THE NEWER ONES THAT HAVE COME
OUT OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS, HAVE OFFERED EASIER DOSING
FOR OUR PATIENTS WITH LESS COMPLICATIONS
AND SIDE EFFECTS. SAYERS: SEIZURE MEDICATION
IS NOT TO BE TAKEN AS NEEDED. IT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN
AS PRESCRIBED. SO, IF IT’S ONCE A DAY,
IT NEEDS TO BE TAKEN ONCE A DAY. UH, IF THEY SKIP A DOSE
OR THEY FORGET A DAY, OFTEN THAT’S FINE. THEY CAN
LINK UP THE NEXT DAY. UM, BUT IF THEY SKIP
A FEW DOSES, THAT COULD BE PROBLEMATIC. IN THAT THEIR SEIZURE
DISORDERS COULD COME BACK. THEY MIGHT NOT HAVE THAT MUCH
OF A SAFETY MARGIN, BASICALLY, AS FAR AS GOING INTO
RECURRENT SEIZURES. AND SO, THIS CAN BE
VERY DANGEROUS BECAUSE WHEN YOU HAVE
REPEATED SEIZURES, UH, THAT’S ACTUALLY
POTENTIALLY A
LIFE-THREATENING CONDITION. AND THIS IS WHEN
A MEDICATION TRAY
WOULD COME IN HANDY. UM, LIKE A 7-DAY TRAY
WHERE WE CAN– THE PATIENT COULD ACTUALLY
LOAD IN THEIR MEDICATIONS
FOR THE WEEK. JAMES: AND AS I
SET THAT UP, I KNOW THAT I’VE GOT
EVERYTHING IN THERE THAT THE DOCTORS HAVE
MANDATED THAT I DO. I PUT THAT IN THERE,
AND, UM… AND THEN THERE’S NOT A PROBLEM. JUST OPENING THAT
IN THE MORNING, TAKING WHAT I NEED TO USE, AND LEAVING IN WHAT I NEED
FOR THE NEXT, UH, POINT IN YOUR DAY, TO OPEN IT UP AND TAKE
THAT OTHER MEDICATION. IT MAKES IT REAL SIMPLE. THERE WAS A TIME
IN OUR MARRIED LIFE WHEN I WAS WAY MORE INVOLVED
WITH ALL OF THAT. I WAS HELPING HIM
ALL THE TIME
WITH EVERYTHING, BUT, UM, HE’S–
HE’S DOING SO WELL NOW THAT, UM, YOU KNOW,
IT’S JUST KIND OF A NICE FRIENDLY, “HEY,
DID YOU TAKE YOUR MEDICINE?” YOU KNOW, REMINDER. AND NOW, IT’S JUST PART
OF HIS DAILY ROUTINE. HE KNOWS HE HAS TO HAVE IT. HE CAN’T–IT’S JUST LIKE
BRUSHING YOUR TEETH OR, YOU KNOW,
BRUSHING YOUR HAIR. SO, WHAT WE ALWAYS RECOMMEND
TO ALL PATIENTS IS IF IT’S A DRUG
YOU USE ALL THE TIME, WHEN YOU GET YOUR FIRST FILL,
YOU COULD THEN ACTUALLY
PROCESS YOUR REFILL. THE PATIENTS COULD
DO THAT BY PHONE, THEY CAN ACTUALLY DO IT
ON THE COMPUTER IF THEY’RE
REGISTERED IN MY HEALTHY VET, OR THEY COULD MAIL IN
A REFILL SLIP. JAMES: YOU HAVE TO CALL IN, WHICH IS A SIMPLE DEAL
WITH THE VA. JUST LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS
THERE, YOU CAN CALL IN AND ASK FOR THE MEDS,
AND BINGO-BANGO– YOU’LL–YOU’LL GET IT
COMING BY THE MAIL. LISA: THE MEDICINE THAT HE TAKES
HAS DEFINITELY HELPED HIM TO BE SUCCESSFUL, YOU KNOW,
IN HIS WORK AND IN SCHOOL AND AS A HUSBAND
AND AS A FATHER. I’M LIVING MY LIFE
TO DO WHATEVER I CAN
IN SERVING OTHER PEOPLE. AND TRYING–TRYING
TO BE A HUSBAND WITH–WITH MY WONDERFUL WIFE
AND A FATHER TO MY CHILDREN. [WOMAN SPEAKING INDISTINCTLY] AND I JUST DON’T KNOW HOW
ANYBODY WOULD DO IT IF THEY WEREN’T A VETERAN
AND DIDN’T HAVE THEM PERFORMING AT–WITH
THE ABILITY THAT WE HAVE. I WOULD SAY I LOVE THE VA.
I’M GRATEFUL FOR THE VA. AND I–I KNOW SOMETIMES
THE VA GETS A BAD RAP,
ESPECIALLY LATELY, UM, BUT THE VA HAS, UM,
DONE GOOD BY US. YOU WANT MY OPINION? I HAVE THE BEST DOCTORS
IN THE WORLD. [SNIFFS]

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