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Voice of the Patient - Debbie Case

Many people see more than one doctor or healthcare professional, especially when diagnosed with several medical conditions. This was the circumstance for Debbie Case. Diagnosed with fibromyalgia, arthritis, cluster headaches, and ovarian cancer, Debbie was seeing five different specialists and prescribed a large number of medications. Helen Newberry Joy Hospital staff helped Debbie get back to feeling like herself and living life again. 

Case owned Little Rascals Daycare in Newberry, where her energy and enthusiasm for taking care of children was apparent to all she encountered. Even after battling cancer two times before, Debbie didn’t let her illness stop her from caring for her husband, Fred, or keep her out of her scrapbooking room. This summer, he grew concerned when Debbie wasn’t eating, sleeping all the time, and uninterested in her usual hobbies. At first, Fred thought her chemo treatments were what was causing her to act differently. “Chemo takes a big chunk of your life,” explains Debbie. Soon, episodes that Fred thought were seizures, would send Case’s arms and legs flailing so bad she would have black and blue marks. He knew something wasn’t right.

On August 3rd, Debbie had an episode so bad Fred brought her into the Emergency Department of Helen Newberry Joy Hospital. Debbie was lethargic and confused. “The ER staff were wonderful. Not only did they take great care of me, but they took care of my husband,” recalls Debbie. Dr. Vix spoke with Fred to try and get an idea of what kinds of medications his wife was on. The couple had a conversation weeks prior about this topic so he knew the list was long. That list ended up being over 30 different medications. Whenever a patient is taking multiple medications there is a risk for drug-drug interactions. This can decrease or increase the action of either or both medications or increase the risk of adverse drug events.

Debbie was admitted as an inpatient in the early morning hours of August 4th, her wedding anniversary, so she could continue to be monitored. Staff, along with her daughter, Krissy, helped the couple celebrate their anniversary. “With my medical history, I am afraid of being alone. The inpatient nursing staff stayed with me and comforted me,” recalled Case.  

As an inpatient, the staff could monitor Debbie while looking into all the medications she was on. Dr. Vix brought in HNJH Pharmacist, Dr. Mark Fischer, to assist in investigating. “Typically, doctors and pharmacists are highly trained to treat a patient by prescribing certain medications. This situation was the opposite, we needed to make her better by stopping some medications,” explains Fischer. Every morning, the staff made up of nurses, doctors, pharmacists, infection control, physical therapy, utilization review, dietary, and social work would have a rounding meeting to discuss Case’s treatment plan and communicate her progress. Communication also took place with Joe Jankowski, PA-C as Debbie’s Primary Care Provider. As a team, they were able to significantly reduce the number of medications Case was taking and get her back to feeling like herself. “They gave me part of my life back,” says Debbie. While continuing her cancer battle, Debbie is still working in her scrapbooking room and enjoying life each day. Fred even has to tell her to slow down a little. 

One of the most important things patients can do when being prescribed multiple medications by different providers is to keep a medication list with you and share that with any provider’s office and pharmacy. Using one pharmacy to fill all of your prescriptions is a good idea. The pharmacist can provide a safeguard so the medications you are taking don’t interact. Fortunately for Debbie, HNJH staff were able to figure out it was the medications causing her symptoms and gave her part of her life back.