Monday, February 18, 2008


Blogging while watching T.V. Only clean up, editing, etc during commericals.

A&E Intervention
53 - Brooke
Monday, February 18th 09:00 pm ET
Tuesday, February 19th 01:00 am ET

Brooke, 26, was a beautiful teenager with a magnetic personality. An elite gymnast on the cheerleading squad, she looked forward to a successful and athletic life. But tragedy struck in her senior year when she was crippled by Still's disease, an early form of rheumatoid arthritis. Her doctors prescribed narcotics to ease her pain, but Brooke soon became addicted. Her heartbroken family has sought new treatments to help Brooke, but she denies she's an addict. Now her family has turned in desperation to their last hope--an intervention.

From her dad, "Brooke doesn't want to deal with any pain. At all."
From her sister, "I'm not going to let her ruin my day."

I'm watching this episode of intervention. I've seen it before. My heart breaks for this girl.

What they see as her being "pilled out" according to the older sister I see as someone in PAIN who isn't getting the right kind of help. I watch and just want to weep for her. She's late to the sister's wedding shower. SHE'S IN PAIN! That doesn't mean she's doped out. It means she's late. She hurts. I struggle to make it to school on time every day.

I watch her standing at a curb and trying to step down and my heart just breaks for her. I know that walk, that waddle, the arms held out. She HURTS.

Not that she's not abusing the situation. She took two extra pain pills for her sister's baby shower. She's passed out on the floor. Not a wise move, but understandable. The family is looking for evidence that she's a druggie. She wants to be on her A game. She takes an extra pill. It knocks her ass out.

Brother in law "I'm trying to understand what would make you fall."


The family says things like "She's not the same person."

Hell, no. I'm not the same person as I was before I had R.A.

Sister (Brianne): "I don't want you to come up there when I'm in labor. It can take all day and I don't want you popping any freaking pills."

Tough shit. I imagine, if had a choice, Brooke would not want to pop pills either.

Brianne "I don't get it and I just want my sister back."

Nice. I'd like to be back.

Her twin Brittany: "I feel like she doesn't care enough about me to stay straight, even for my wedding -- the most important day of my life."

So, hearing that her sister passed out and broke a glass, she decides that Brooke couldn't stand up with her at the wedding.

Brooke: "Why? Why am I being punished?"

Brittany: "This has been extremely hard for me. I'm hanging up now."

I think that the sister could have walked up the aisle and then sat down, or sat on a barstool. You CAN accommodate a sick family member. If you want to. Plop her in a wheelchair. Or would that look bad in the wedding?

Now Brooke's calling to check on her sister in labor and her mom basically just hangs up on her. WTF?

It's like they can't take that she's sick and choose to focus on her drug use. They focus on the fact that they think she has Lyme disease and she was diagnosed with RA and accepts that diagnosis-- she must just be choosing to not get well and be a druggie. But you can't get the healthy girl back by taking away the drugs. Everyone is talking about their pain but not Brooke's. Not a single person has mentioned how much pain she's in, how it's hard for her to function, how they could help her get ready. Have you ever tried to put on hose when your hands don't grip? Someone could swing by and pick her up, for goddsake. DO you see those swollen knuckles trying to work the car key?

Brittany speaking to her dad: "What were my options? Let her stay in and hobble down the aisle, or show up pilled out or two hours late?"

Let her stay in and hobble down the aisle.
Let her stay in and hobble down the aisle.
That's the truth there. She doesn't want a cripple there. She wants the sister she had before.

Oh my god! Brooke has on high heels! Who the hell let her wear those? Does anyone know how much PAIN she's probably in?!?

The counselor: "The people who she loves most in the world are saying these horrible things about her and she doesn't know another way out."

The other counselor: "She is really suffering...she doesn't want to live like that, so she doesn't mind being loaded."

Dad speaking of the wedding: "We saw a glimpse of the old Brooke again." Yeah. In high-heels. OUCH! They'd rather have her smiling in pain and looking good than looking on the outside how she feels on the inside.

Mom: "I've lost you to prescription drugs and I want you back." Uh...there's this talk about getting her back from the drugs. But are they sure it's the drugs? Could it be the disease they want to get her back from? Can they separate the two?

Okay... commercial break. I know I'm being hard on the family. I know this. I don't know what the last 8 years of their lives has been like, how many times they've picked her up for an event, helped her get ready, etc., and maybe she's been nasty or thrown it in their face. Their hearts have broken over and over trying to make it better for her and her inability to get well is just stubborn. I see it happen all the time -- my old boss for instance. She was all sympathetic about my R.A. at first. But when years went by and I was still struggling, she'd lose patience, as if I'm choosing to not get well. She would ask if I were depressed.

But honestly, the family needs counseling about grief.

When I got R.A., the sweet lady who ran the regional arthritis center talked to us about the grief process. She looked at my mom and said, "Maybe you always wanted Lesley to be a pole vaulter and now she can't be." We giggled, but it was important to understand that I wasn't getting well, that our expectations for my life were going to be altered and that was part of the deal. This family doesn't understand that.

They miss her. They miss the healthy girl. It's like she's died. It's hard to deal with...

"Pain doesn't have to interfere with your life," the counselor says.
She gives him a dirty/questioning look. It's like she doesn't believe it.

"We have a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of issues we have to work through as a family, as a whole family," the mom says. Uh-huh.

"Go get well baby," the dad says. And what happens when she doesn't? What happens when she still is in pain in a year, even though she no longer takes all the pills?

The postscript on the screen:
Brooke's doctors still can't agree on a diagnosis for her condition.

After watching this episode, Brooke agreed she is an addict.

Big whoop! She's an addict. Really, that is totally the side issue. The real issue is that she's sick and no one understands that she will be sick, maybe the rest of her life, and they have to learn not to blame her for it. She needs good treatment. Maybe biologic agents?

I know I'm being hard on the family. She's taking 12 loratab, 2 oxycotin, and 12 of something else a day. She passes out. She shakes. She gets incoherent. She is obviously taking too much medicine. In the family's defense, that is obvious.

But I can't help but take her "side." I know what that sort of pain she's in. If I still felt now what I felt like then when I was 16, I might take the same amount of pills. Pain makes you crazy, makes you out of your mind. Drugs are worth the trade off when you're like that.

Okay, these are random thoughts while watching the TV show. I hope I wasn't too hard on the family.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Someone could have gotten hurt"

"Someone could have gotten hurt," the teacher says, angrily, as I help sweep up the glass from the ancient schoolroom door. She walks by but does not help.
Two other teachers and I gingerly pluck knife-blades of glass out of the frame.

I try not to look inside, try not to do any thing that might give more attention to the situation and make it worse. A small boy, 8 maybe. is sitting quietly in the arms of the occupational therapist, while the secretary cleans the cuts on his hands.
He is not the someone she is talking about.

I had been in the computer room when I heard the crash. I walked by the P.T./O.T. room and saw the special ed teacher picking up another small boy, this one older but tinier, and carrying him out of the room. There were shards of glass in the hall where excited fifth graders were milling around.
"Is everyone okay?" I asked
"Henry is still in there," she said. So I walk in. The lights are off, the O.T. has a boy in his arms, there's no blood I can see. The oldest boy is walking around, flicking his fingers.
"Come on Henry" I said. He let me take him by the hand, which he doesn't normally do. He's not that type of kid. I lead him downstairs to the classroom and return to help sweep up the glass and call the nurse on the intercom.

These boys are not the someones she is talking about either.

One of the real kids, the kids that are her business, the kids that are the point of the school, the ones who can read and write and talk and let us know what's bothering of them might have been hurt. You know, a child who is not autistic, not like the 3 boys in that room.

Never mind that the 120 year old school building has paper thin glass that rattles when doors slam. Later, I learn a kid shattered three panes last year by slamming a door -- a real kid. Kids throw things, kids pound things. It's the nature of kids, all kids, the real ones and the ones that they all wish would just go to another school and leave them all alone. And it's the nature of glass to break.

She walked by one more time, "It was just a matter of time, ladies," she said.

There are times when it almost hurts, when you can just feel it all break right open at the littlest thing. I felt that way Monday, watching a non-autistic boy, maybe a real boy by her estimation, sleep on the floor of the counselor's office. Oh, he has problems, behavior and sensory and home life, enough to put him on the borderline between her kids and and ours. He and I were supposed to be working on spelling words, but he was snoring. Maybe it was nothing, maybe he was up late watching cartoons. I also have heard more sinister rumors about his home life. Whatever made it so he couldn't sleep at home might be nothing, or it might be something I couldn't imagine. I sat in the counselor's office for over two hours, watching this tiny little guy under a throw blanket, sleeping so deep he scared me, sleeping so deeply he sometimes wets himself.

What I wanted to do was pull him in my lap, hold him like a momma does, or should, and promise him that he would be safe.

As I cleaned up the glass and listened to the ladies complain today, I envied the O.T. in there with the bleeding boy, holding him, keeping him calm.

Whatever battles these kids are fighting, against autism, against whatever else is going on in their lives that I don't know about, against learning disabilities and developmental disabilities, against the frustration of not being understood -- these battles are bigger than I can ever dream of. They are real, so real that it hurts.