Mental Health/Bipolar Disorder/Mortality
by: Sheri de Grom
We’ve lived with Tom’s bipolar disorder for 26 years and it’s propelled us into a world we never envisioned.
Bipolar disorder had come to stay at our home and it was devastating. However, accepting the diagnosis was nowhere as traumatic as the daily trials we now faced.
December 7, 1941 is known as the hinge of history. When it opened, the world was never the same again. December 7, 1987 holds the same world-changing torment for Tom and I. From Tom’s first hospitalization, on that long-ago day, I’ve known the enemy of his illness could strike from any direction at any moment with no warning and our lives would change yet again. This enemy knows no mercy.
I’m convinced Tom’s many complicated physical illnesses have two direct causes: one is the result of years of taking harsh psychiatric medications and the second is the fact that physicians have not provided him with the quality of medical care they would have, had he been free of his bipolar illness.
The more I learn of physician neglect of individuals with mental illnesses, the more disturbed I become. These doctors are in essence playing God when they elect to hold back on life-saving care.
It doesn’t make a difference that our loved ones didn’t ask for these diseases.
I can’t imagine an orchard wherein you go pick the fruit of your choice. Would your loved one pluck a succulent ‘bipolar disorder’ fruit with its many mysterious layers?
Shiny schizophrenia hangs low to the ground waiting for a productive teen, in the prime of their life, for them to catch the fascinating fruit. This teen is never the same again nor is his/her family.
The orchard is full of robust trees beckoning all to enter. What a tragedy it represents [except for those who make money from the chemicals that find their way into the bodies of the individuals we love. Heaven forbid ECT should be the resulting treatments.]
I’ve learned much about the destruction of Tom’s body due to his having suffered from bipolar disorder for the past 26 years. Learning by living through the process is catastrophic. I journal about our daily experiences but have found it impossible to place my words in a blog that would be coherent.
Some of the events Tom and I have endured during this past year in trying to find quality health care for him in the past 12 months has been some of the worst we’ve encountered. I feel the necessity of sharing with you how far mental health care HAS NOT ARRIVED in the 21st century within the medical community itself.
Some of my entries will not be in chronological order and I’ll do my best to keep each entry date stamped for your ease in reading.
I will share with you over the next several months what we’ve had to do to keep Tom alive. The medical community didn’t seem to care rather he lived or died. I wish I didn’t have to make this statement, but I do. It’s been proven to me time and time again. We’ve had one crisis after another for a full year now.
There’s nothing easy about being a 24/7 caregiver. It’s no longer about just providing care, there’s the responsibility for researching every new symptom, test, prescription, etc. You don’t dare miss a single opportunity or allow a single clue to go without research. Doctors have an interesting way of listing diagnoses on a patient chart and never once mentioning those very diagnoses to the patient or their caregiver.
I can’t begin to express how your outpouring of love, prayers, and support lifted me up in the many dark days since my last blog. It’s been an exhausting time and I’ve wanted to bring everyone up to date and continue to check in on everyone as well. [Where do the hours go?]
I continue to hold ‘Doc In The Box’ in the highest regard. I believe with my entire being that they saved Tom’s life.
It doesn’t matter to me that Tom’s heart surgeon said to me while Tom was in the hospital, “Never go to Doc In The Box, they’ll kill you.”
I spoke up immediately and said, “They saved Tom’s life when you were nowhere to be found!” I don’t think he liked my answer and continued on with his rage about all the small walk-in clinics opening and of course he didn’t want to discuss the medical needs they meet.
This same heart surgeon cleared Tom as being medically sound for his new pulmonary doctor to perform a bronchoscope the following day. Tom has complete faith in this new doctor [not me, I’d fire him if Tom didn’t like him so much.]
Tom’s endoscopy had been underway approximately 1 ½ hours when the doctor came to the waiting room to locate me. I knew immediately something was wrong or an assistant would have called for me.
The doctor escorted me to Tom’s area and explained he was unable to complete the procedure. Tom had a heart attack during the procedure and his right lung completely collapsed with the second lung in danger of doing the same. The doctor had wanted to take some biopsies but was unable to do so because of Tom’s critical condition.
The decision was made for Tom to be admitted to the hospital for continuing care. Each time the heart doc came in to see Tom, I wanted to give him a solid punch but refrained.
I have another blog prepared that predates this medical adventure but felt for simplicity’s sake, it was easier to bring you up to date of what was presently happening and how I believe it all ties into Tom’s mental health diagnosis.
It’s easy for us to overlook the most important health statistic of the past century. Life expectancy has increased dramatically in the U.S., from 51 years in 1910 to nearly 79 years (81 years in women, 76 years in men) in 2010. This increase converts to nearly 3 years of additional life every decade or a gain of almost 4 months every year.
Unfortunately, reductions in mortality are not shared equally in this country. The same Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that mortality associated with mental illness should command the attention of anyone who cares about health disparities.
Most of the early mortality with the mentally ill is attributed to what is labeled “natural causes” such as acute and chronic co-morbid conditions (heart diseases, pulmonary diseases, infectious diseases). Only 17.5% of deaths are related to “unnatural causes” such as suicide and unintentional injuries.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates the increased mortality could be averted globally by a minimum of 8 million people. That is, 8 million deaths could be averted each year if people with mental illness received the same level of medical care those without a mental illness receive.
It’s a given that parity does not exist within the mental health arena but why should we have to fight so hard for equality of medical care for our loved ones with a mental health diagnosis who also happen to have bodies that are physically challenged over and over?
Again, I thank each of you for reading with me. Collectively we can make a change but we are going to have to stand to together in our endeavor to bring quality medical care to those with a mental health diagnosis.
Do you have stories to share wherein bad medicine played into the detriment of health care recovery of those you cared about?
Thank you for reading with me. I appreciate your support.