Broken Nights and Lost Days: Inside World of Severe Autism
Addressing the Mystery of Self-Injury: A Parent’s Struggle
The Unexpected Onset of Unusual Behavior
It was a regular early morning at 5:23 AM on February 1, 2009, when an unexpected occurrence disrupted the peace. Jamie, a young individual with health conditions, began displaying self-injurious behavior. Unfortunately, this was accompanied by abnormal seizures, a previously unseen phenomenon. An attempt to control the seizures was made by administering 10 milligrams of Diazepam, a medication known for its anticonvulsant properties. However, this did little to halt the self-inflicted harm.
Jamie appeared to be focusing his attacks on his ear, an area previously damaged in a group home. The motivation behind this behavior was unclear. What was more baffling was the abrupt onset of this self-injurious conduct after almost five days without any such activity.
Changes in Medication and Behavior
Jamie had recently been weaned off Depakote, a drug used to treat seizures, and had started on Lamictal, along with Ativan, as required. The latter was occasionally used for attacks and to manage self-abusive behavior. On the night of the incident, Jamie was given Diazepam as a fast-acting rectal gel since waiting for Ativan to take effect wasn’t an option. As a result, his behavior was erratic, characterized by a wild look in his eyes, starkly contrasting his usual demeanor of laughter and contentment.
Uncertain Health Status and Need for Medical Investigation
Jamie had been mysteriously losing about 25 pounds over the past four months. A CT scan of his abdomen revealed only fecal impaction, which was addressed subsequently. Repeated attempts had been made to persuade doctors to conduct further tests. One such procedure was an endoscopy, which unfortunately lasted only 30 seconds due to Jamie’s reaction to the sedative and thus did not provide any substantial insights.
Despite the lack of clear medical evidence, Jamie was suspected to have undiagnosed gastrointestinal issues. However, medical professionals seemed to dismiss this theory. An alternative suggestion was to conduct a PET scan to investigate possible brain anomalies.
The Struggle with Doctors and Psychotropic Medication
Over 17 years, numerous consultations with medical professionals had yielded little more than prescriptions for various psychotropic drugs. Jamie had been treated with Risperdal, Prozac, and other medications like Naltrexone and Clonidine, none of which had effectively curbed his self-abusive behavior. This resistance to the drug suggested that Jamie might be behaviorally fragile, where even the slightest discomfort could trigger self-injury.
The Challenge of Restraints and Search for Answers
Restraints were not entirely effective as a means to control self-abusive behavior. In addition to the physical strain they put on Jamie, they also presented a constant cycle of restraint, self-injury upon release, and condition again. The need of the hour was not to control the symptoms but to understand the root cause of such behavior. The change in his countenance indicated that there was more to his actions than what met the eye, a mystery that required diligent medical investigation to solve.