Dialogue Volume 13 Issue 3 2017 - Page 35

PATIENT PERSPECTIVES Donna May’s daughter Jac in happier times. On the streets Jac knew that her in-laws had a prescription for Oxy- Contin, and started to pilfer some pills. When her in-laws discovered that, Jac turned to the street. She asked her mother for money for food and diapers, but Ms. May now knows that she was using it for drugs. At first OxyContin, then heroin and Fentanyl. Jac lost her relationship, then she lost her kids. She ended up in social housing. Ms. May realizes that Jac had her troubles, long before the drug addiction. She acted out considerably as a child, and Ms. May knows she had undiagnosed mental health issues. Yet the drugs turned her life upside down. Soon, Jac got into criminal behaviour to support her habit, from theft to trafficking to prostitution. In early 2012, Ms. May got a call from a hospital in Surrey, B.C. Jac had necrotizing fasciitis. The doctors doubted she’d make it. Ms. May flew there right away. Jac told her that she didn’t think she was going to die just yet. She wanted to go home with Ms. May and help her understand the depths of drug addiction and the need for family support. Ms. May took care of her. Jac was in and out of the hospital constantly. One day in August 2012, Jac got a call from her eldest daughter, who was pregnant again at 17 (she had her first child at 15). Jac burst into tears. “This is what I’ve caused,” Ms. May recalls Jac saying. “I’ve ruined not only my life but my children’s lives as well.” Jac was distraught. Ms. May put her to bed. When she went to check on her, Jac was in respiratory distress. The next day, Jac died. The exact cause was undetermined. Ms. May isn’t anti-pharmaceuticals. She recognizes that pills, taken appropriately, can be effective. Her message to doctors is: Don’t base your practice on what pharma says. Take the time to know your patients. Hear their stories. Be cautious about that first prescription for opioids. If patients are hooked, don’t cut them off. Help them taper responsibly. In the time since Jac died, opioid prescriptions have continued to increase. And figures released at the end of August revealed that opioid-related overdoses claimed the lives of 865 people in Ontario in 2016, a 19-per- cent increase over the previous year. Ms. May wants her grandchildren to see their mother as a forerunner in harm reduction. “By her example, I’ve shared what addiction truly is. Jac is the bravest person I ever met. If you have a loved one who’s abusing drugs, let’s not shame and blame them. Let’s deal with the underlying issues.” To Ms. May, V4ER2W"֗76'WB>( 2Vv7( Ğ( G&fV'W"fVV6RwVFW2RrFRv( Ч622( FRFw26R6VF( B66Ɨ6আW"ƖfR6^( 266Ɨ6rW"FVF( Ф@55TR2#rDuTP3P