Warfarin is a drug in very common use – a variety of stroke, heart and other blood conditions tend to lead to it being prescribed. It comes in several strengths, each of which has a different color; patients get blood tests, at first weekly or biweekly, to see just how much they should take to keep their blood clotting at a particular rate.
It was originally a rat poison: because blood can't clot, so wounds can't heal – if you imagine it, a nasty way for rats to die. Someone in a laboratory must have really hated the little beasts. But now they give it to people....
For seven months now, I have had frequent nosebleeds, felt tired, felt toxic. Warfarin also has lactose in it, and I'm allergic to that, so I kept taking lactase to keep the discomfort down. And worst of all, after most midday meals, I would have a rush of painfully irritable itching – a sort of proto-hives, a sense that I was burning up; and would frequently go lie down for two or three, or four, hours. Or more.
Even though I take four HIV medications, plus three or four other medications that are either post-stroke or for other conditions, I somehow just knew that Warfarin was the evil culprit... or at least I thought it was.
So, when the doctor took me off the rat poison on Wednesday, and added one more post-stroke medication that is tricky to handle (it can't be exposed to air for long!) but apparently not as nasty, I was both hopeful and worried: what if the nasty side effects would go away? – but, just as possibly: what if they didn't?
Well, ha: the pharmaceutical companies can go back to poisoning their rats for fun. Just four days off Warfarin; dealing with the headaches that the new medication causes for the first three or four days you take it (the headaches are already passing away today); but the hives are gone, and my nasal passages seem to be functioning normally.
Most tellingly, I just feel closer to well, even with the headaches: less toxic, more awake, more alert, less depressed and tired at the prospect of work to do. Yes of course there are too many e-mails, yes of course the mass of students going abroad are acting like a herd of cats, yes of course there are too many administrative demands piling up as the endlessly efficient Richard leaves us for another job: but I seem strangely able to keep up, even to get ahead – marking, spreadsheets, decisions –
Perhaps the rat in me is feeling friskier: more able to jump from trash can to trash can, and enjoying the tasty garbage in the bin. Well, hey: whatever works....