Medication errors are a big deal in the nursing field. Nursing school instructors pack their lectures with stories of nurses accidentally killing patients because they grabbed the wrong pill or vial. Some medications are so sensitive that hospital policy requires two nurses to be present for the medication to be administered. Textbooks contain pages about look-alike and sound-alike medications.
So, in general I feel my nurse’s training has over-qualified me to deal with our own small cupboard of prescription medications. Marnell takes a couple of pills each morning for his blood pressure, and when I deal them out I do so without even looking at them. Both are white, but one is shaped like a very tiny football, the other like a miniature Oreo Cookie with flat sides. I think they both have little numbers etched into them, but I never bothered to study them in my morning perusal.
Usually, I don’t even take a prescription medication.
My blood pressure, for instance, is almost on the low side. But since dealing with morning sickness, I’ve been taking the magical pill Diclegis, shaped like very tiny Skittles, round with fat sides. Diclegis is white with a number stamped on it in black. The great thing about Diclegis is that it has a bit of a sheen or glaze on it. I, who abhor pill-taking and am extremely aware of disgusting pill tastes, have been able to swallow it with no problem, even when slightly nauseated. It has no taste and slides down easily. (Possibly, some of these characteristics contribute to its somewhat alarming price tag.)
Although I have still experienced some sickness despite the Diclegis, it has overall been manageable. For this reason, I determined I would not stop taking the medicine until I was sure I was fine, particularly not until AFTER the book signing in southern Indiana last weekend. I knew I had to be in good form for this event, and so I made sure that I packed the medication travel box in good time so I wouldn’t forget about it.
Since I have only one kind of medicine, I decided to put all of mine in one compartment and just count out the correct amount of what I would need over the weekend. No, better take an extra one. What if one got lost in the shuffle? I wouldn’t want to go without a dose, that was for sure.
After packing the travel box, I put the bottles away. For a second I was confused and thought maybe I had put my bottle of Diclegis on Marnell’s side of the cupboard. But no, the Diclegis bottle was still on the kitchen table. No confusion.
Thursday night, we traveled to Fort Wayne, Indiana and spent the night in a hotel. Marnell wanted to go to Sweetwater, the electronics and sound equipment behemoth in the morning. I took a pill out of my compartment for the evening dose as I always do before going to bed.
In the morning, Marnell went to Sweetwater and I luxuriously stayed in bed.
I had a bit of headache, which I attributed to the strange bed.
I took my morning pill early, as I always do to space them 8 hours apart and snoozed a bit longer. Finally, knowing I needed to write my blog and eat something warm, I got ready for the day and walked to Bob Evans with my computer. I still had a little headache, but the warm food seemed to help. I drank some coffee and water, and succeeded in writing my blog.
As we hit the road for southern Indiana, I realized my breakfast wasn’t settling well.
“There’s just nothing like the egg and bread and cheese I make for myself at home,” I sighed to Marnell. “For some reason, nothing settles quite as well.”
I put back my seat and tried to rest, but my stomach continued to churn. My headache had come back, and I massaged my temples.
“Maybe I have COVID,” I said anxiously. I had sneezed and coughed just a little the day before, and now here was another symptom. However, I had checked my temperature and had no fever.
The book signing was in an area that had a recent COVID outbreak, and we were already on high alert about spreading the virus. One of the men hosting the event (a tall, physically fit business owner) nearly died of COVID just a few weeks before, and was still battling fatigue and a weak voice in his recovery.
We stopped for gas and Marnell wondered if I needed something to eat. I tried to think of anything that sounded good, and finally settled on popcorn.
In fact, popcorn was the only thing on the planet that could be considered food right then.
And, after eating most of a bag, I felt remarkably better.
“I have to remember to take my pill as soon as we get to the building,” I told Marnell. But in the flurry to set up, I forgot. We ran back to our hotel, and I quickly took the pill. I noticed a bitter taste in the back of my throat as I swallowed it, but I was in a desperate hurry to shower and get back to the book signing and didn’t think twice.
Well, the adrenaline of the event helped me feel great. I chatted with people coming for books and asked them for their own personal stories about Tom Kirkman. Many of them had great thoughts or memories to share about this man I never got to meet. After it was over, Marnell’s brother Norrell took us to a delightful Mexican restaurant where we had an over-the-top good meal. Finally, we retreated to our hotel. I was tired but so glad the book signing had gone well. I flopped onto the cool, comfortable bed and regaled Marnell with senseless chatter. Finally, I got up to take my evening medicine.
The medication box was over on the hotel desk. I went to it, and opened the lid to my compartment. I picked out a pill to take, and suddenly had an odd sensation of doubt.
Were these my pills?
They were white like mine, but they were the shape of tiny Oreo cookies with flat sides instead of rounded fat sides like tiny Skittles. I stared at the numbers etched into the side. I hadn’t memorized the numbers on my Diclegis, but I knew they were stamped on in black, not etched. Bewildered, I searched the medication box.
“I don’t have my medicine,” I told Marnell in shock.
Not only did I have no Diclegis to take, but clearly, I had been taking something else other than Diclegis for the last three doses. I searched Marnell’s compartment. Yes, indeed. I had taken one of his blood pressure pills, the ones that are only supposed to be taken once a day, THREE TIMES in the last 24 hours.
Ah, yes, that bitter taste when I took the last pill. How had I not noticed? That confusion with the bottles after packing the travel box. How did I not double check what I had actually put in? My pharmacology teacher would sigh deeply and probably reach for her own pills.
I googled the medicine and read a few stories about overdose and cardiac death. I called Poison Control. The lady was very nice and said what I had taken wasn’t a toxic dose, but she really wasn’t an expert on pregnant women, so I should drink lots of water and call my OB doc if one was on call. I called the OB doc on call, and she said that the medicine wasn’t harmful to the unborn (something that hadn’t even crossed my mind) and that if I wasn’t dizzy or lightheaded I should just let it wear off. I called the front desk to see if they had a blood pressure cuff, but they didn’t. But there was a hospital close by, she said, and if I felt badly I had only to call her and she would call an ambulance.
Marnell put his arm around me and said, “Well, hopefully you’ll be alive in the morning.” Later, he suggested -oh so helpfully- that the next time I get confused about pill bottles while packing the box, I should take a second look.
As you might have gathered, I was alive in the morning, although I had that awful headache back. Not a COVID headache after all. A “taking-your-husband’s-medicine” headache. I survived the weekend, but I sure was miserable for parts of it, especially when driving. I’m back home now, taking my Diclegis and feeling fine over all.
Trust me. I’m a nurse! Actually, maybe I’ll let Marnell pack the pill box next time.
A big apology to e-book purchasers. I was made aware that I still have typos in the published draft. Thankfully, I haven’t advertised it yet, but if you bought the ebook and haven’t read it yet, I think I could email you an updated draft. I’ll update when I have it fixed!
And as always…