Wednesday, February 22, 2012

when the medication is right

Last night I got a phone call from two excited 6 year olds.  Their mom tried to hook us up with Facetime, and I got a brief glimpse of their bright smiles before my crappy internet connection failed.  So we talked on the phone, and put the speakerphone on so Stevie Wonder and I could hear their news at the same time.

They wanted to tell us about their accomplishments at school.  Maddie went first.  She told me about her grades and that she can read 106 words a minute.  She had several 90's, and a 100 or two in other things like spelling, language and math.  SW and I told her how proud we were of her.  Her teacher had written something along the lines of A+++ on her paper.  SW and I were both grinning from ear to ear.

Then it was Duncan's turn.  My stomach clenched, waiting to hear his results.

Duncan has ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder, a learning disorder).  It has been a months long struggle, plus a lot of tears for Jenny (his mom) to find the right medication.  It took her weeks to decide to try medication.  Then weeks and weeks, three different medications, plus adjusting the doses.  The first medication, Intuniv, made him too sleepy.  He couldn't stay awake.  After a couple weeks of that, the pediatrician tried Vyvanse, another medication for ADHD.  The medication was adjusted after a few weeks.  And it turned a happy little boy into an aggressive, angry, unhappy child.

The problem with the medication was that when it wore off, Dunc had withdrawals.  Every evening Duncan was angry, and hated everything and everyone.  And if you knew Duncan, you would know what a personality change this was for him.  Polar opposite.

Jen would call me from time to time, and I'd listen as she despaired ever finding the answer.  She questioned giving him medication at all.  She worried he would be held back.  She worried what it would do to his self esteem if his twin sister went to second grade and he got left behind.  She worried what the medication was doing to his body, and the turmoil he was in.  She worried because he struggled, struggled, to do his schoolwork.  She worried what it was doing to Maddie because Duncan required so much time and attention.

We shared information we found back and forth with each other, trying to figure this out.  And I listened.  And provided moral support.  Encouraged.  Bolstered Jen's flagging spirits.  Provided the optimism I knew Jenny needed.  Worried myself sick when I wasn't talking to her.  Prayed, lots of prayers.  I knew Duncan was trapped inside his own mind.  I knew there was an intelligent, bright boy in there waiting to show us what he could do.  Wanting to learn but unable to process the information being given to him.  Struggling, struggling to learn.

Third medication, Focalin.  We all held our breath.

Duncan started doing better.  Suddenly.  The doctor had told Jen that if the medication was right, she would see immediate results.  And there were, but he was still having some trouble.  Jen talked to the doctor on her gozillionth trip back to the pediatrician's office with Duncan.  She increased the dosage.

And now here we were, on the phone.  I waited to hear the results, and held my breath.  Duncan started talking.  He was so excited I couldn't understand a word he was saying.  Jenny started laughing.  She told me not only had Duncan passed all his tests last week, but he made dramatic improvement.  My stomach fluttered and I took a deep breath as she told me just how much he had improved.  An 85 in math, 93 in reading, 80 in spelling and 70 in language.  Jen said she had hollered in amazement when she saw the math grade.  Duncan had been failing math.  Failing.

The best thing for us?  Duncan is Duncan.  His personality hasn't changed, and we see no aggression in him.  He's our happy, loving child again, giving us lots of hugs and smiles.  I asked him last weekend if he felt any different when he takes the medication.  He told me no, he couldn't tell he was taking anything.

That is the way medication should work.  When you get it right, you have a child who can learn, who gains self esteem from his accomplishments, and leads a normal, happy life.

Way to go Duncan.  Way to go.
Duncan and Maddie, first day of 1st grade

~cath xo
Twitter @jonesbabie
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