By: Katherine Leon
If you’re of a certain age, a “teaspoon” in dosing parlance meant exactly that: the spoon your mom used to give you your medicine was the same stainless steel spoon with which you ate your cereal. A teaspoon was a teaspoon.
I was recently reminded of those days. I can still taste a ground up penicillin tablet, eaten in a blob of honey off a cereal spoon. Disgusting! Yet a ground up pill was probably fairly accurate as far as the dosage delivered. Using my cereal spoon for a liquid medication wouldn’t even come close to the prescribed amount of five milliliters. As a mom, accuracy is important to me. After one scare with my son involving a skin infection and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, I take the job very seriously.
Today, with marked dosing cups and liquid syringes, accuracy is assured – if we take the time to do it right. I always wonder how many people just stick the syringe in the amoxicillin bottle rather than pour out the proper dose and dispense. Do they wash the cup and syringe and air dry? Is the medicine stored properly?
I’ve realized that I take for granted these simple tools — the dosing cup and syringe — that accurately deliver medication. And maybe that’s what happens when our life is made easier by advances. What once seemed novel, soon becomes ordinary. The technology developed in my lifetime has created a sophisticated world that must seem like science fiction to previous generations.
Just consider, for example, the exponential development in communication that began with the wall hung party line telephone of my mother’s youth. Now even kids are walking around with mobile phones. Remember the first car phones? They were about as mobile as Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone! I, for one, am sure I don’t appreciate enough the convenience of my smartphone and how easy it is to operate.
In fact, social media offers a full range of tools we may take for granted that connect, inform, and educate us. It seems like only yesterday I “went online” in attempt to find fellow survivors of Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD). Being alone in my diagnosis, I searched for information but found nothing scientific or reliable to guide me in recovery, let alone predict my prognosis. With that kind of initiation as a “patient,” I felt that connecting with others who had SCAD was my only option. In finding others, I could prove that SCAD was not as rare as perceived … and someday convince a researcher to study our pool of survivors.
Back in 2003, Google became my personal database. Always a fan of research and information, I loved the ease of typing in a search term and having “invisible elves” find and return results. I was immediately hooked on my search to find leads. One round of results might create a new idea or direction and a new search soon follows. More recently, as information on SCAD has become more prevalent, I’ve learned the importance of vetting the sources. Just because the Internet returns a result, doesn’t mean it’s reliable. As obvious as it seems, this self-policing can make the difference between false hope and finding a valid answer. Many newly diagnosed SCAD patients still stumble on the earliest dire statistics and embrace them as “reality” rather than check the date of the article and find a more current one. Or they read a study based on two patients 50-years ago, and interpret it as relevant to their own situation. As my grandfather always advised, “Consider the source, babe, consider the source!”
A healthy dose of skepticism is important when using the Internet for other purposes as well. Shopping online, whether for lawn furniture or clopidogrel, leads down a seemingly unending road of options. But are they all legitimate? And, even if they are legitimate, is there effective recourse if something goes awry after the purchase? At one point, I ordered clopidogrel from an online pharmacy. Its ratings, credentials, customer reviews, and my initial experience were positive. Then, for a reorder, I decided to get the generic rather than the brand. It arrived and I immediately had a problem. I’m deathly allergic to aspirin and this, for all the money in the world, appeared to be pink aspirin. As soon as I opened the bottle, my lungs reacted. I called the online pharmacy and was put in touch with the head pharmacist. He was helpful and not defensive, as I’d anticipated. He thought maybe the clopidogrel was manufactured on equipment that also made aspirin, and this contamination had caused the problem. I didn’t think so, and mailed him the pills. He sent a replacement order of brand clopidogrel. In our next call, he agreed with my impression! Whether intentional or not, the manufacturer had distributed pink aspirin.
I’ll never know for sure if the problem was corrected at the drug manufacturer’s plant, halfway around the world. But I was encouraged that people in three different countries came together and attempted to solve a serious problem.
The Internet’s ability to bring together kindred spirits and like minds is a communication tool I’ll never take for granted. With all of our voices “out there,” it seems almost a miracle when a true connection happens that results in an answer for someone who has gone decades without one.
Recently, I spoke with a woman on the other side of America who had lived as a SCAD survivor for 23 years without knowing that anyone else with this diagnosis existed. Thankfully, her new internist wanted to give her hope and found me on the Internet. Our long, warm phone chat is what brought to mind that ground-up penicillin in honey my mother gave me so long ago, and the value of proper tools. Without the technology of today, I would have never met this amazing soul and heard story of resilience. She has lived with SCAD, heart failure, heart transplant, lung cancer (from anti-rejection meds) – but worst of all, abandonment when her trials were too much for others to bear.
Now she has a new family to help carry her burden, thanks to a Google search, a message and a phone call.