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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why Pharmacy?

I have always been drawn to the health care field, and I have always wanted to be a MOM. When I was younger, I knew everything I did NOT want to be…. I knew I did not want to be a teacher; I did not have the patience. I knew I did not want to be a lawyer; it seemed somewhat boring to me. I knew I did not want to own a business; I just did not have the desire to carry something like that on my shoulders.
So, when my high school counselor asked me, “What do you want to be?”

I replied “I want to be a Mom”

She looked at me in disbelief and frustration….she went on to lecture me about the fact that I am so smart, I can do whatever I want, I should not throw away the chance to go to college……and find a career that I would enjoy. I was going to college, there was no doubt about that, but at that time I could NOT tell her what direction I felt compelled to go.

Two years later, I am married to a wonderful man and little did we know, that the path that I took to become a Mom would literally lead me in the direction I needed to go to find out what I wanted to “be when I grew up”.

Do you know what hyperemesis gravidarum is? Have you heard of it? Did you know that 1% of expecting moms are afflicted with this devastating, horrible condition during pregnancy? You can find out more about this condition here. http://www.hyperemesis.org/

Here is a little bit of my story…the condensed version….

In 1999 I discovered HG in all her glory. One day I was a happy, ecstatic, newly 5 wk pregnant wife…the next day, I was SICK, sicker than I had ever been in my life…..From week 5-week through ~ week 27 I turned into a sick, skinny, unhealthy, scared woman that threw up upwards of 20+ times a day…and could not drink or eat anything by mouth. I bounced back and forth from the Emergency Room to replenish my fluids and electrolytes, I was on the phone with my OBGYN crying, wondering why they could not help me more. This was SO MUCH MORE THAN MORNING SICKNESS!

I had lost 20 lbs in a matter of a few weeks….at my lowest point I was 92 lbs. Anyone who knows me knows that I did not have this extra weight hanging around; I could not afford to lose weight. As my body rejected all of my efforts to live, all I could think about was making an effort to eat and drink so that my body could give my growing baby what it needed. I was thirsty all the time, but could not drink without being sick. I stopped using the bathroom because I was unable to eat or drink for such long periods of time. I literally felt like I was flirting with the brink of death….and it was the scariest and hardest thing I ever lived through.

During this time, the doctor did try several new drugs in an effort to alleviate my horrible symptoms. We quickly learned that Phenergan did not help me. We moved on to a new drug that was used to treat nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy. At the time the drug cost over $500 for 14 days worth. We got the medicine, but it was impossible for me to keep it down long enough for the drug to work. I got sick, and could taste the medicine coming back up. I tried all the home remedies that the elders of the Lumbee Tribe could think of…..I tried a homemade wine concoction, I tried ginger, and I tried homemade turnip soup that was supposed to cure all ailments. Everything to NO avail. I ended up just going back to the hospital to get hooked up to the IV again, to replenish fluids, to get the IV drugs that did help marginally because instead of having to go through my mouth, they went straight into my veins, so while I was in the hospital I did get a break from the wretched cycle of vomiting every 20 mins~ when I was awake.

I cried. I felt helpless. I felt cheated. All along, all I wanted was to be a Mom but no one told me that the path to get there would be so hard. I thought I would be a happy, fat, tickled pregnant woman that felt more glorious than I had ever felt in my life with shiny, thick hair, and a voracious appetite. My definition of happy up until this point was “pregnant and eating without abandon”. Something like this....

Unfortunately, our reality was that my husband saw a ghost of what is wife used to be, and while he was so supportive, the helplessness in his eyes broke my heart. We were both at a loss…..

When you are THAT sick it is very easy to get lost in deep thoughts. When a person has not eaten a whole meal in weeks, or enjoyed a glass of water without wanting to die, it is so easy to lose the original optimism and happiness that goes along with being pregnant. I was lost in thought for weeks at a time….it was the darkest time of my life. I did slowly start to emerge from this world of sickness….slowly but surely…..At about 26 weeks with my Sun, I kept down my first meal. At about 28 weeks with my Flower, I kept down my first meal. For some reason, I was sicker the second time around….But, when I kept down that “first supper” words cannot convey to you how happy I was.

I started to get my life back, starting to gain some weight, starting to look forward to the new baby we would be welcoming into the world. I could not help but reflect on what we had experienced, and what I felt we had barely lived through. I almost died. I felt like no one could help me. The doctors were at a loss. “Time was the only thing that could help”~I heard this hopeless sentence over and over again. The medicines did nothing….even the most expensive and newest ones! WHY??? Why didn’t the medicine help me? Why do some women have to go through this? It was frustrating to me that today they can cure so many diseases, but there was no cure for HG. It is the beast that still threatens me and intimidates me when my husband not so subtlety hints that he would love to have more children. Me too………….But……..I am scared.

This ordeal during my pregnancies…how can I say it?.....Um, It pretty much lit a fire under my rump. I wanted to know more about those drugs that could not help me. Were there other options that my doctors did know about? Why didn’t they help me? …..

Fast forward 5 years later, It is April….I am sitting at a job that overworks, under appreciates, and underpays me….I continue to hear my subconscious saying, “You can do so much more”………My Rock had just found out he got a promotion and after we talked about it for months…..and realized that IF we are creative and make some sacrifices that we could make it on one salary…….one day we just realized that it was now or never and I just quit….I took two courses of chemistry that summer and LOVED it! I was hooked…..I knocked out 3 semesters and two summers of all science classes, prerequisites for Pharmacy school….In November I took the PCAT and did really well! YAY! In December I applied to my #1 and only choice for Pharmacy school. I got a call for an interview in March, and interviewed in April. At the end of my interview, they said, “Congratulations, we would like to offer you one of the 100 seats in the Class of 2011” I was so happy!

I love my career choice. I love knowing way MORE about all these drugs than I ever thought possible. I love the structures, I love knowing where they go in your body, and what their intended use and sometimes unintended side effects are….Ok, my inner nerd is showing......

Mostly, I love knowing that what I lived through happened to me for a reason; the first being that my children were worth living through anything. I would do it over again for them 1,000 times over. The second being that I would have never taken this path, if I had not been the patient that needed help and could not get it. It was in those dark moments, at my lowest point in my life when my destiny was wholly and completely realized. To be in one extreme, a dark time in life and simply realizing the possibility of the other extreme of sunlight and dreams…..is the epitome of hope.

Deciduous Heather
Pharmacy Doctorate Candidate Class of 2011
Mother of two beautiful miracles, my Sun and my Flower, that showed me the way…..


Captain J said...

You are so courageous! I did not know about this, not only did I learn something about HG, but your path to Pharmacy school. Thanks for sharing!

Kari said...

Amazing post and wonderful that you are doing something you are passionate about. I always feel bad when you hear stories of pregnancies like that. I was nauseated and gagged for both mine for the full 9 months, but never did I experience what you did. You are a very strong woman!

Deciduous Heather