July 8, 2011
CCSVI and the lure of the "benign"
I'm a nurse and I have to tell you the thought of introducing a catheter to any part of my body (but especially the vascular system) fills me with a bit of fear.
I know I'm a chicken. All of my rellies died of cancer (just about) by the time they hit 60. So the fact that I am on a long term immune system modulator gives me pause, lemme tell you. Every time I inject the copaxone, I think about how a. they are not completely certain how it works, b. it doesn't seem to slow the eventual progress of the disease, just reduce flare-ups and maybe lesions, which everyone agrees don't really predict disease outcomes, c. how since I've been on it, my body doesn't swell up with mosquito bites any more and how weird that is and how there may well be cancer cells sneaking around my body at this VERY MINUTE looking for a good place to lodge and grow, happy and healthy.
I'm on an antidepressant, too - started before my diagnosis, and it's supposed to be doing something for me but again, no one knows what, or whether the depression is caused by the MS or just a reaction to it or to the constant pain, or whatever. I've withdrawn from antidepressants before and it is some scary stuff, believe you me. They obviously do something altering to your brain and I'd feel a whole lot better if somebody could show me the "insert tab a into slot b" directions for how it worked. But they can't.
Why does the thought of a catheter thingie seem more risky than these steps? Well, I've seen the damage from bad insertion of things (some jokesters might say - like my kids...- but I love them, so perhaps not..) I know that whenever you put something into your body of the metal or unnatural kind, in places where things are not usually put, you get some damage. Could be little damage, and worth the risk - such as when you get a screening colonoscopy (which also result in some poor outcomes, however) - given the risk of the alternative. Placing a stent in your heart, for example, is not just one of those things you get done cheerily and wander off to be your regular self. There is damage caused by the manipulation of tissue that is normally protected.
I've always had troubles with my neck, being a short person with significant stenosis and a lesion or two back in the spinal column. I fear chiropractors manipulating there ever since I heard of strokes caused by neck manipulation. So the thought of a snaky tube going up through those vital spaces fills me with fear.
And yet, the thought of a potential cure for the awful symptoms I live with every day is tempting. Being part of the study that is being done on all those here in Canada who are being followed up for the "treatment" interests me, too - after all, some days I don't feel I am much use except as a medical curiosity. Every day I take up my arms in battle against MS. Sometimes it is wearying.
But I've never viewed the procedure as benign. And of us who have had urinary tract infections after a catheterization know of the risk of introducing illnesses. Many people coming back from India where they have had medical care end up bringing along a superbug with them, which then spreads throughout our hospitals. And others have other bad results, from spasms to neck problems to this latest report - death by stroke.
This poor woman. She was basically healthy, had symptoms that were nasty, and the certainty that they would most likely get worse. But the hope of this "benign" procedure was held out to her - and she chose it - and she lost, horribly. I know everyone has the choice in this case, but isn't there some responsibility for the medical profession to give the right advice? And maybe she received all the information and decided to continue, I don't know. But if you read the article, some interventional radiologists don't think they should be offering an untested procedure.
I've met a lot of people with chronic illnesses who do become self-harming with the various treatments they take - before I was diagnosed, I was told I had fibromyalgia. One of the members of the support group was choking back guafenisin to treat herself based on a protocol someone had created - a dangerous idea, as the side effects are grim. Others are taking opiates for the pain, gradually increasing the doses until they become at risk of falling or doing damage to others.
It sucks having a chronic, incurable disease. We all want a magic pill. But we need to be sure it isn't more of a Snow White apple, laced with more poison than benefit.
My deepest sympathies to Maralyn Clarke's family.