Sarah G’s Story
Here is my account of the events beginning February 2016. Some pertinent facts before I begin: I am a 36 years old masters level psychotherapist working with mental health and dual diagnosis underprivileged clients. I graduated in July 2015 from Chestnut Hill College with a M.S. in clinical and counseling psychology. I am also a yoga instructor. My goal was, and is still, to bridge yoga and meditation with traditional psychotherapy, especially to at risk youth, domestic violence victims, and veterans, and with clients who have suffered complex trauma. I was working at the Easton, PA office of Pinebrook Family Answers as well at Concern For Kids in Bethlehem, PA as a psychotherapist. In addition I was taking post masters licensure credits as a requirement for licensure as a LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) in Pennsylvania. Any and all classes for licensure were to be completed by April 2016, finishing up my educational career for LPC.
I have a fiancee named Louis H (Lou) who has accompanied me to every ER and doctor visit I’ve gone to since February 10th, when this all began. Lou and I were planning on moving forward with our relationship and getting married after I finished school this spring, 2016. However, after the events since February that is put on hold until my health improves enough to plan and attend my own wedding.
Graduate school was difficult, but I finally attained my goal even though there were times I thought I could not finish due to life and family events. Quickly after I graduated I began working at Pinebrook Family Answers in August 2015. I built a caseload of about 25 clients a week and was growing steadily. In early February 2016 I became ill with a sinus infection. I remember because I was sick on my birthday, February 4th. On February 10th 2016, my day off, I decided to go to St Luke’s Hospital North Walk-in Urgent Care because I could not get in to see my PCP. I was prescribed Azithromycin and cough medicine with codeine to help me sleep. Due to the inaccessibility of my records of that visit (I am in the process of contacting St Luke’s, but records might need to be subpoenaed), I cannot name the treating physician at this time.
On February 16th 2016 I knew that I had to go back to St Luke’s North after I had a coughing episode in session with a client which ended the session early. On February 17th 2016 I went back to St Luke’s North and was treated by Courtlynn Pulcini, a physician’s assistant. Miss Pulcini ordered a chest x-ray while appearing to be rushing through the examination, as evidenced by a lack of a full physical examination (ears, nose, throat, etc.). After determining the chest x-ray was normal, then Miss Pulcini stated “well, I usually wouldn’t prescribe you another antibiotic, but I know Levafloxin will knock it right out.” I, as a practice, have not taken many antibiotics, and only was familiar with Zythromyacin and Amoxicillin. I was hesitant to start another antibiotic, but Miss Pulcini did not warn of any possibly debilitating serious side effects that Levafloxin could cause. She also suggested a course of orally administered steroids, which I declined. There was no questions about my Inflammatory Bowel Disease (which places me in a more vulnerable position to have a negative reaction to antibiotics), or consideration of my current medications (one of my medications is Wellbutrin XL which turns out to be counter indicated with Levafloxin) both of which are on record at St. Luke’s.
On February 20th 2016 there is record of me texting Lou about not feeling well (see timeline). On February 21st 2016 there is record of me texting Lou regarding heart palpitations and shortness of breath (see timeline as all texts that refer to my evolving symptoms are noted). On February 22nd 2016 I visited Lehigh Valley Hospital, Muhlenberg campus. Lou approached the check in desk at least three times informing them of my condition, but was told to just have a seat. I left after 2+ hours of not being seen for my shortness of breath and heart palpitations, because I had a very important presentation due that night in class. I ended up not presenting and leaving class early due to my symptoms. My symptoms subsided a bit and I attributed the incident to the exhaustion and anxiety of my workload and not being healed of the sinus infection.
On February 24th 2016 I had an already prescribed routine blood test ordered by Kimberly Garcia CNP (Preventative Measures, Allentown PA) to which the results are uploaded to the drop box. Thyroid hormone was significantly higher than at any time in the past. I have never had any thyroid problems and have no family history of such.
My friend texted a couple days later and asked me what medication I was prescribed the second time at St Luke’s North, because my symptoms continued to flare up and then subside. After hearing that I was prescribed Levafloxin she sent me a link to a network news special on the dangers of Leavafloxin and other fluoroquinolones. I immediately suspended taking Levafloxin and expected the symptoms to subside completely.
In the month of March 2016 my symptoms increased in quantity, such as unexplained weight gain (when I’ve never had a weight issue), Edema, pain in both wrists to he point that typing my notes at work became impossible, along with eye pain, tingling (pins and needles) on the top of my scalp, Fatigue, that manifested into sleeping whenever possible, and memory loss that Lou had started to notice, which is highly uncharacteristic of myself and my history. Lou also claimed that I was acting strangely in the middle of the night, of which I had no recollection. I didn’t believe him because the things he told me I was saying were so uncharacteristic of me that I thought he was teasing me. He then, out of exasperation, recorded me the very early morning (approximately 3am) of March 8th 2016 (recording to be uploaded to drop box). Upon hearing it I was disturbed and filled with fear because I thought that the person in the recording couldn’t be me (even the voice is strange) but I had to face the fact that it was actually myself. This is something that I will research further with my nurse practitioner who treats me for depression and anxiety. Despite all my efforts I could not move my appointment up from the scheduled date of May 28th 2016. In the Lehigh Valley Psychiatrists are booked out 6 months in advance, which is commonly known amongst mental health care professionals in the area.
On March 23rd 2016 I had an emergency appointment with Deborah Bryant, my PCP, to not only discuss my elevated thyroid and 20 lb. weight gain, in addition to looking into my joint pain throughout my body, especially the pain in my wrist, along with intense burning eye pain. Miss Bryant ordered two different tests for Lyme disease, a Rheumatoid factor screening, and an anti-nuclear antibody screening, but she refused to give a referral to an endocrinologist, which lead me to searching for a new PCP. Test results uploaded to drop box.
On April 3rd 2016 I went to the ER with Lou (see timeline for encounter details) Doctor proceeded to minimize any health concerns that I had, specifically the high inflammation factor in my blood work. I was somewhat relieved that my thyroid level dropped into the normal range (but latest blood test show that its elevated again) but was confused as to where all the other symptoms were coming from.
On April 7th 2016 I visited Dr. Snyder of St Luke’s Physician Group (of which records are not yet available on St Luke’s patient portal, for reasons unknown, might need to be subpoenaed) in search for a new PCP, and in hopes for a referral to an endocrinologist. In addition to discussing my now 30lb weight gain and thyroid fluctuations. Dr. Snyder prescribed me Tramadol for my all over joint pain and referred me to an endocrinologist.
On April 10th 2016 I was taken by ambulance to Lehigh Valley Hospital at 17th and Chew streets in Allentown PA for abdominal pain. I was administered IV pain and anti-nausea medication. They also ran blood work. Nausea subsided.
On April 26th 2016 my mother took me to Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest ER to address shortness of breath, as well as extreme swelling in my hands and feet to the point that it was difficult to walk or use my hands. The doctors ordered an EEG and blood work (see records). EEG revealed abnormal heart function as compared to an EEG I had on February 24th 2016 at St Luke’s Hospital in Allentown. This was not discussed the technical language with me, or referred me to a cardiologist. It was only after I combed through my records that I noticed the abnormal reading. I am requesting a referral to a cardiologist from my PCP, Dr. Neal Berkowitz, LVPG Southside Family Medicine.
May 1st 2016 I was taken by ambulance to Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest ER in Allentown Pa. My mother and Lou were with me in my home, saw the agony I was in with pain, and inflated hands and feet that I could not walk to the car. Upon arriving in the ER and seeing the doctor, she almost immediately stated that I was having a reaction to the Levafloxin, and that there was not much that the ER doctors could do for me that day. I was diagnosed with serum sickness due to a drug, and instructed to follow up with my already scheduled specialist appointments, such as neurologist, endocrinologist, and rheumatologist. Upon discharge I was given a doctors note to not work for at least a week, and subsequently I tried to return to work only to end up taking a leave of absence to my devastation. I also have had to move out of my beloved apartment due to financial despair. I was granted part time unpaid medical leave, which is not usually granted, to part time employees, but an exception was made due to my excellent work performance as well as the circumstances surrounding my medical leave.
On May 6th 2016 I attended an appointment with Joy DuPont of LVPG Neurology in Allentown PA (see records). She ordered a MRI to check for physical brain abnormalities such as tumors, lesions, or growth. She ordered a full panel of blood work, and an upcoming 48-hour ambulatory EEG scheduled for June 16th, 17th, and 18th to assess abnormal involuntary movement, that is almost constant now, and significant memory loss. Follow up scheduled in August 2016.
On May11th 2016 I attended a visit with Dr. Diep Nyguen, endocrinologist with Coordinated Health, Blood work was ordered (see lab results), abnormal thyroid function, significantly elevated C–Reactive Protein, and abnormal CCP Autoantibody.
On May 12th 2016 the FDA issued an official statement on their website stating that flouroquinaline antibiotics are not to be used to treat sinus infections, and should only be used as a last resort. The FDA also stated that Fluroquinolines could cause significant damage that matches my symptoms. The following is a link to the FDA announcement:
I have subsequent appointments with a rheumatologist and a doctor of natural medicine. I will amend this statement as those appointments are completed, and hopefully progress is made, but there is no guaranteed.
Over the last few months my moral has plummeted being replaced by despair. I do not sleep more than 2 hours at a time without waking up screaming due to the pain. There are days where I do not want to go on any longer. My relationship with Lou has suffered due to the stress of this ordeal. I have lost more than I ever thought possible.