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Wite Science Almost Killed Me

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

by Juju Angeles/POORmagazine povertySkola

Sharena Thomas, 49—trainer, organizer, and activist at the Peoples Community Medics and Moms 4 Housing—almost died from being given a fatal pill cocktail from her doctors.

“It’s been a long journey,” Thomas says. “I broke both of my hips and it took a year to get help.”

In March 2021, Thomas fell and when she went to the emergency room, “The hospital treated me like I was a drug addict.” They provided her a low, over the counter dose of ibuprofen and sent her home with two broken hips.

Because of the lack of medical help with her hips, Thomas heavily relied on her hands to get around. She had to hold onto walls because she wasn’t given any walking devices for support. Medi-Cal didn’t kick in until June 2021 and that is when she started to receive treatment.

In June 2021, “I started to experience hard pain in my hands. I felt numbing, tingling, and pain from my fingers to my elbows. My doctor sent me to a specialist, and I was diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. He ran a series of neurological test that made the pain worse.” She was prescribed Gabapentin. She was supposed to receive physical therapy for her hands, but never got it.

The pain in her hands got increasingly worse and her doctor kept prescribing a higher dosage of the Gabapentin, but Thomas did not take it as prescribed because of the concerns she had when she took the drug. “It made me feel sleepy and weird,” she said.

When I asked her if she shared the side effects with her doctor, she said yes, “But they just ignored me.”

In December 2021, Thomas finally received a hip replacement and in February 2022, she started to receive physical therapy for her hips. She was told by her doctors that because of her insurance, Medi-Cal, she could not receive physical therapy for hands as well.

“All of the strain I had to do from physical therapy impacted my hands more. All the exercises they had me do triggered my hands.” She took the pain medicine strategically when she had to do long car rides, when she had to do physical therapy, when she couldn’t sleep, and when the pain would go up to her chest.

She told her doctor that she had sleeping problems, and they prescribed her sleeping pills.

When she took the sleeping pills and the Gabapentin together, she describes, “I felt like a blanket of darkness came over me.” She was hallucinating, blurting out nonsense, social, paranoid, and insecure. “My kids were looking at me differently.”

She went back to the doctors to tell them about her blackouts and “They acted like it was nothing. My character was altered. I was suicidal and blacked out.”

Thomas started to do her own research and learned that she should have not been given a mixtures of Gabapentin and the sleep aid. She learned that that is a fatal cocktail. She could have died.

“They are freely giving these medicines out to the community. A lot of odd stuff is happing with violence and mental health. People are being institutionalized and tracked.” Thomas is concerned by her treatment and the treatment of poor folks who do not have a voice. Who are being experimented on and abused by the lack of care and concern by their providers.

On top of all of that, Thomas was misdiagnosed. She doesn’t have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The doctors do not know what her current diagnosis is. Her hope is to get support so that she can get a second opinion outside of her insurance network.

She needs help writing and typing a complaint. “I need help to articulate and advocate. It took me twenty five day [off of all medications] to stop crying.”

Since then, she isn’t on any medicines. She needs relief and she wants answers as to why her doctors did this to her.

She asked her doctor, “Why you did that to me? Don’t you know I’m somebody!” All her doctor could do was cry.

She says, “I am lucky to be alive.”

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