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My Story of an Unintentional Mistake

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By Becca Atherton

About three months ago I messed up big time when it came to my health and medication. While it was all an accident, I didn't want to update and tell everyone what had happened because it was all my fault and I really didn't want to feel like I had to defend myself or reassure people that I didn't do it on purpose.

I forgot to take two weeks’ worth of one of my pulmonary hypertension medications.

When I finally figured out that that was why I felt so crummy, almost every medical professional I told asked me, "Are you sure it was by accident? Is there any part of you that might've done it on purpose?" I know that they have to ask, I understand. But I hated hearing that question because I have always been compliant with all the things I have to do. And now I was worried that in the future they won't believe me or trust me as much as they used to. All because I made a completely unintentional mistake.

I know what you're thinking, because I've had people ask this question too. "How could you forgot to take all those pills?" Here's the thing, I thought I had put the pills inside my weekly pill holder. But I hadn't. I fill up two weekly pill holders at the end of two weeks. I sit down at my kitchen table and take one bottle out at a time. When I am finished with that bottle, I set it down outside of the box on the kitchen table, so I know that I have done it.

My theory of how I forgot is that I took the pill bottle out, got called to go do something else (maybe to help my nephew, put something away, answer the home phone, etc.) and set it down on the kitchen table. When I came back, I saw that it was on the kitchen table along with my other “done” pills and just assumed I had done it before I got up to leave.

I also got the question, "And you couldn't tell that you were taking less pills at pill time?" No, I couldn't. I take 50 pills a day. I take eight huge potassium pills with every set of pills, and they typically are all you see when they are in the box and in your hand.

I was turning gray just walking from my couch to the kitchen counter. I was getting out of breath just bending over to pull up my pants. I was feeling absolutely horrific and terrified. Was this my new normal? Would I be able to recover? Was this the beginning of my health trending downward? What would we be able to do to make it better since transplant isn't an option anymore?

I kept asking these things in my mind as I sat in the hospital in California. And the worst part of it all—it was all my fault. I had done this to myself. I was so angry at myself—I still am. I felt terrible for so long and I am still making a slow recovery, all because I made a mistake.

I have prided myself on being an excellent patient and always doing what is best for my health. And here I was, in the hospital, because I messed up. I kept thinking to myself that if I died, I would die angry at myself. I would die worried that my parents would be angry at me too, because this all could've been avoided—if I just had double checked my pills. My mom told me that she wasn't mad at all, and I knew that. But I was still angry at myself on behalf of them, because after 25 years of so much hard work, I could've just thrown it away in just two simple weeks.

For any of you out there who hate taking your medication or are thinking of going off of them—please reconsider. They are keeping you alive. Yes, the side effects suck. I have bruises all over my body, I have to take thyroid medications because one of my medicines messed up my thyroid, my nose is always stuffy because of my PH medication, I get aches in the back of my legs and I constantly have to go to the bathroom because of the diuretics. Trust me—I know how inconvenient and annoying side effects can be. For me, they are so much better than the alternative.


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The opinions expressed by ACHA bloggers and those providing comments on the ACHA Blog are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Adult Congenital Heart Association or any employee thereof. ACHA is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the ACHA bloggers.

The contents of this blog are presented for informational purposes only, and should not be substituted for professional advice. Always consult your physicians with your questions and concerns.

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