Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) June 14, 2012
Author Judy Gray Johnson applauds efforts by states such as Ohio to curb prescription drug abuse in hospital emergency rooms, but cautions medical personnel against taking such prevention too far when treating sickle cell disease patients.
Judy says sickle cell disease patients have long complained of going to emergency rooms for treatment of excruciating pain episodes caused by the illness but tend to be viewed by doctors and nurses as addicts seeking a “fix.” The result is that doctors tend to withhold needed opiates from sickle cell patients while verifying the need for such drugs, causing patients to suffer longer than they should. Some doctors advocating for sickle cell patients have said that emergency room personnel should take the word of sickle cell patients that they are in extreme pain and administer medication right away.
“My concern is that when the state wants to change the way emergency rooms operate, then part of the decision-making team should include medical personnel trained in treating sickle cell disease,” Judy says. “I am further concerned that the general attitude towards those who need opiates is confused with others who may abuse the system.”
Judy, the author of the recently-released memoir Living With Sickle Cell Disease: The Struggle to Survive, commented in reaction to a recent announcement by Ohio Governor John Kasich that hospitals will be governed by new “emergency room protocols” restricting how narcotic painkillers are prescribed. Groups representing hospitals, physicians, pharmacists, and urgent care centers, along with Ohio’s departments of health and aging, developed the protocols. They were announced during the recent Ohio Opiate Summit in Columbus.
Ohio officials are reacting to what is viewed as an “explosion” of opiate addiction in the state, which they say is fed at least in part by physicians over-prescribing pain pills, 40 percent of which are prescribed in emergency rooms. Under the new protocol, narcotic pain pills will be harder to obtain, and those who do get them will only get a three-day supply.
Gov. Kasich was quoted as telling emergency room patients, “We’re not giving you this stuff willy-nilly anymore.”
However, Judy says any doctors who have been giving patients opiates “will-nilly” are in serious need of re-training. She also says that patients truly in need of opiates, such as sickle cell disease sufferers, should not be punished for the actions of a few drug abusers.
“Because the sickle cell disease community relies on opiates for pain relief, my fear is that we will be the first to be denied treatment,” Judy says. “If there is an opiate addiction gripping any community, then medical personnel should be retrained on how to handle it.”
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. Healthy red blood cells are round and they move through small blood vessels carrying oxygen to all parts of the body. However, the red blood cells of persons with sickle cell disease become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a sickle. Sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Sickle cells can get stuck in small blood vessels and block the flow of blood and oxygen to organs in the body. These blockages cause repeated episodes of severe pain, organ damage, serious infections, or even stroke. Sickle cells don't move easily through small blood vessels and can get stuck and clog blood flow. This causes pain that can start suddenly, be mild to severe, and last for any length of time.
Judy says her experience with sickle cell disease pain showed her that emergency room personnel are seriously lacking in how to handle pain management. She notes that sickle cell patients are difficult to treat, but a patient in pain who cries or screams should signal to doctors that they need pain medication right away. This is especially true if the patient comes to an emergency room in another city or state where the personnel may not have the sickle cell patient’s medical history readily available. However, if doctors still feel uncomfortable prescribing painkillers to patients unknown to them, Judy says, they can always run tests as quickly as possible to determine if in fact the patient does carry sickled blood cells.
In Living With Sickle Cell Disease: The Struggle to Survive, Judy describes in crystal-clear detail how she endured repeated instances of insensitive treatment from doctors and nurses whenever she went to emergency rooms seeking relief from severe pain episodes brought on by sickle cell disease.
The book tells readers how Judy lived her life while enduring the incurable pain and fatigue. Living With Sickle Cell Disease: The Struggle to Survive is available in hard cover, paperback and e-book versions through http://www.lulu.com. Her book is also available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple’s iBookstore. Readers also may visit Judy’s website at http://www.judygrayjohnson.com.