Thank God I am not autistic. If I was, I wouldn’t be here today writing this article. Before you go ballistic on me, let me explain what I mean by that statement. If I was autistic, I would still be able to think. I would still be able to write. I might even be a better researcher than I am now. However, If I was autistic I wouldn’t be able to write this article because I’d be dead right now.
Last Friday night I suddenly became very sick with projectile vomiting and severe diarrhea. I have never been so sick. It started around 9:30 Friday evening and by 3:30 Saturday morning I knew I was in trouble. There was nothing left to throw up but my body kept trying to get rid of whatever it was that had invaded and was trying to kill me. I realized this was no simple virus and if I didn’t get to the hospital for treatment I might not make it. Of course, I also realized there was the possibility that I was being overly dramatic. My husband thought so, too. He wasn’t thrilled about going to the hospital in the middle of the night. He’s more of a “power through it, honey” kind of guy, but he could see I was serious, so off we went. I am so thankful we did.
When we got to the Emergency Room it was only a matter of minutes before I was taken to an exam room and within a half hour I was on IV fluids, and had received a dose of medication to stop the nausea. Blood work had been taken and my primary care physician was notified. Within another two hours I was in a private room on the med/surg floor with a crew of caring nurses attending to me. I was very fortunate. At the time I had no idea how fortunate I was. It wasn’t until the following day when my family doctor came for rounds that I learned just how serious things had been. My doctor started asking if I had been taking diuretics. “No.” He asked if I had been taking any new supplements. “No.” I asked if I would be going home today. “No.” That’s when I learned that my potassium had bottomed out. “It was in the critical range. Your potassium was 2. We need to keep you for a while and build your potassium back up.”
Thankfully, the doctors and nurses who treated me did the necessary tests to find out what was wrong. They gave me the treatment that was needed to stop the vomiting and diarrhea that led to the hypokalemia (low potassium) in the first place. Once they stopped the vomiting and diarrhea, they were able to stop the loss of potassium and begin the replacement. I went home after two days in the hospital.
I was fortunate. Thank God I am not autistic. If I had been autistic, things could have gone much differently.
Alex Spourdalakis has autism. For nearly four weeks (as of this writing), Alex’s mother has been trying to get help for her son’s gastrointestinal problems, manifesting as vomiting and diarrhea. Unfortunately, because Alex carries an “autism” diagnosis, he has not been treated with the same kind of care that I received. Alex’s doctors don’t see him the same way that my doctors saw me. They see autism. They see a child who is nonverbal, who can’t tell them what is wrong, and who acts aggressively during times when he is having bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. Instead of testing to find out what’s causing the vomiting and diarrhea, Alex’s doctors are treating his aggressive behavior with psychotropic medications. They are more concerned with keeping him under control than they are with treating his medical condition.
I wish I could say that what is happening to Alex is an isolated case; an anomaly. Sadly, it is the norm for children with autism. Because they have an autism diagnosis, their physical health is often ignored. When the child is small, he or she doesn’t present much of a problem to control. But Alex is fourteen. It takes more to control him. It takes a lot of psych meds. It apparently also takes shackles and chains; at least that’s what Alex’s doctors believe. And therein lies the problem. It’s what they BELIEVE. When doctors “treat” patients based on “belief” rather than “knowledge,” the patient is the one who suffers. All that is necessary to gain “knowledge” about what’s going on with the patient is laboratory testing and clinical assessment of the body. This is not being done for Alex, and it’s not typically done for other children with “autism.” Why? Because they have “autism.”
This MUST CHANGE.
WE HAVE A CRISIS ON OUR HANDS.
AUTISM IS NOT MENTAL.
AUTISM IS MEDICAL.
MEDICAL ILLNESS REQUIRES MEDICAL TREATMENT.
Please read the following article. Read it. Print it out. Email it. Share it on facebook. Give it to your child’s doctor. Give it to your friend who is considering going to medical school. If you are in medical school or nursing school, give it to your classmates and professors.
Once medical professionals get past their own prejudices, fears, and outdated belief systems, then AND ONLY THEN, can the healing begin. I am begging. If you are a doctor, or if you know a doctor, please share this information with him or her. We have to work to educate the medical community about the problems that are so common in children with autism. This must be accomplished with all possible speed. Our children’s lives depend on it.
To learn more about Alex Spourdalakis, please read the following article, written by Lisa Joyce Goes for Age or Autism.