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When Margaret Payne got a prescription for OrthoNovum, an estrogen-based birth control from her doctor, she never imagined the life-changing impact it would have.
An undiagnosed blood-clotting disorder, called Factor V Leiden, was triggered by the estrogen in the pills, and Payne suffered a stroke in the bilateral ascetic region, often called “the heart of the brain,” her mother, Deb Payne, said.
It was something that the prescribing doctor had taken notes on but did not remember at the time he prescribed the pills.
“In spite of his own records, he gave it to her.” Deb Payne said. “He should have known.”
Margaret was also a smoker at the time, a contributing factor for increased risk of stroke in reaction to birth control pills.
The stroke happened in 1993, and for three years, Margaret, a recent Texas A&M graduate at the time, “could function if she was told to function,” her mother said.
“She was living in an assisted living facility. They’d say ‘come to dinner,’ and she would go for dinner, but she had no concept of seasons,” Deb Payne said. “She’d dress in shorts in the winter.”
Then, on a ski trip with a special assistance group, Margaret fell and broke her knee. The EMT’s gave her morphine to combat the pain, which also had unexpected effects.
By the time her mother found her at Swedish Hospital, “Margaret was laughing and talking and making jokes and teasing—truly her old, delightful self,” Deb said.
The effect of the morphine lasted five days, for as long as she was on the drug. When the doctors switched her to Percocet, “she went back into her coma-like state,” Deb said.
Margaret’s mother advocated to get her on the morphine again, and one doctor agreed, doing a blind study with morphine and liquid Benadryl.
It worked, however, he would not continue since he assumed it would require increasingly higher dosages to gain the effect.
Two years later, Deb managed to find another Neurologist, Dr. Julie Siebert, who was willing to try the Morphine again. This time she coupled it with Ritalin.
“Bam—she came back again, and has been back ever since,” Deb said with a grin.
Now 45, Margaret Payne is thriving in comparison to her previous solitary existence.
“She has some memory deficits and some unusual quirks, and she lives at home with us, partly because she cannot manage her own finances, and mostly because she gets very lonely and craves contact with people,” her mother explained.
Margaret takes karate lessons and has achieved her second-degree black belt, and she volunteers at the Castle Rock Thrift Store and our church.
Although the women would like to see a doctor take on Margaret’s case for research in order to help others with brain trauma, they have advice for women who are considering birth control pills.
“Research it carefully, research all the options,” Deb said.
A history of clotting or blood disorders on the female side of the family are red flags, she said.
“It’s easy to check, just get a blood test for Factor V Leiden,” Deb added.
Deb also said that women need to be checked and know what their risk is. The protein S deficiency, she said, is also a major risk factor for women on estrogen.
Their bottom line, Margaret said, is “don’t just rely on your doctor to know your medical risks.”
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