Anthony’s son, Michael, was born in 2004. When he was three years old and in preschool, a teacher suggested Michael get tested after she had noticed that he wouldn’t look directly at anyone who was talking to him, including his parents. “We brought Michael to a child psychiatrist and she told us that he is autistic,” says Anthony. “I was in denial for a few years and my wife was devastated. Right away she got to work, researching the proper care and the right schools. A therapist came to the house three days a week while he was still going to public school. As you can imagine, the costs were astronomical.
“I can’t remember exactly when we made the Depakote-Autism connection, maybe about six months after Michael was diagnosed,” Anthony explains. “My wife Sandy and I saw ads on TV that said, ‘If your wife was on Depakote at any time during her pregnancy and your child has these symptoms - including autism - you should contact a Depakote attorney.’ Sandy was on Depakote during her entire pregnancy and she stayed on it until she was pregnant with our daughter. I guess her doctor knew more about the side effects as time went on because he told her that (after Michael was born), if she should get pregnant, he would take her off Depakote and prescribe something else for epilepsy.”
Unfortunately, Depakote works for epileptics. When Sandy was on this med, she was fine, but just one month with the new med, she started to have seizures. “The alternative med was the lesser of two evils,” says Anthony. “Having a seizure while pregnant is obviously not good for the baby - Sandy had her pregnancy induced and our daughter was premature but only by a few weeks. She’s now four years old and barely weighs 25 pounds, but there are no signs of any cognitive problems.”
Michael is another story. He is now seven and doing a lot better with therapy, but Anthony says he has gone through four schools in the past few years: public schools can’t accommodate him and the special education classes in their area are not suitable. “Michael requires attention but not all the time,” he adds. “If you give him a task, he will start to work on it but will lose attention fast, so he needs to refocus. We are still trying to figure all this out. As for the future, I think Michael will eventually be able to cope because we finally found a private school. Money is coming out of my pocket and thank god I have family willing to help us financially.
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Sandy is back on Depakote; she also had a hysterectomy. Michael was an unexpected pregnancy but even if it was planned, Sandy would have stayed on Depakote, as per her doctor’s instructions. “In retrospect, we both wish she was taken off Depakote but hindsight is 20/20,” Anthony adds. “It would have been nice to have warnings on the label. My wife reads labels religiously before starting anything, especially because of all the meds she is on to make sure they don’t contradict. She will read the sheet back to front, even for a new brand of aspirin. We believe the makers of Depakote are guilty of failure to warn.”