Fast forward to 1985: "My husband read an article about a doctor who said there was hope for epileptics wanting a family. Right away we made an appointment with Dr. Penry. He said that I should come off the meds I was taking and we could have kids with this new medication called Depakote. He also told me that the average newborn had a two percent chance of birth defects and the odds of my baby having any defects would increase to three percent. So in August 1986 I started taking Depakote.
February, 1987: I had blood tests and my pregnancy was confirmed. Dr. Penry increased my dosage because the stronger the dose, the less chance of a seizure, and a seizure could cause a miscarriage.
November, 1987: My son Casey was born. We went to a geneticist to make sure there were no problems. He had an enlarged spleen and we were told to come back in four months. Everything else seemed fine.
September, 1989: I gave birth to Cody, our second son. I was still taking Depakote but this time I didn't tell the doctor that I was pregnant until the fourth month. During these months I took a low dose of the drug.
About this time I started to notice a few odd things going on with Casey. He was now 15 months old and started to regress; for example he used his fingers to feed himself instead of utensils and instead of speaking he was frequently making noises. We took him to a pediatrician and he told us that Casey might be autistic.
I decided to get a second opinion. I took Casey to another geneticist and he said Casey's symptoms were the same as fetal alcohol syndrome, which were synonymous with Depakote side effects. He told us not to have any more kids. But that warning came too late.
Dr. Thomas, the geneticist, told us that Depakote was the cause of Casey's birth defects and we had to get him into therapy. His facial features included a broadened nose, thin upper lip, eyes further apart and head bigger than normal and a few other minor features. He had 'global delays' including poor motor skills and limited comprehension.
A few months later, just before he turned three, Casey was classified as autistic. At this time, Cody didn't seem to have any problems. Then his behavior started mimicking Casey's. Two weeks before his 4th birthday, Cody was also labeled autistic.
1995: This was a bad year. We read about a doctor in Chicago who might be able to determine that Cody and Casey suffered from something other than autism. We gathered all of their medical records and that's when I found a letter written from the first geneticist to Dr. Penry. In the letter she said that there were 'life-long global delays associated with Depakote.' This letter had been written when Casey was four months old. I was never told anything about this drug.
I was crushed. Had they told me at the time, I would never have had a second child. But we've made the most of it. I have my hands full but hey, it is an adventure, albeit an expensive one.
The boys are now 17 and 19. Casey is learning some words but has behavior problems. Cody is doing better because he has speech. Although Casey will graduate in June it has been a battle with the school system -- I was petrified after Columbine so I home-schooled Casey.
When I found out that Depakote caused their birth defects it hurt t but I dealt with it. Recently a friend told me about some attorneys who might take my case and help with some of the medical expenses. I saw a Depakote lawsuit on the Internet - more than anything, I want to get the word out that nobody should be taking this drug while pregnant.
Even if I don't get any money, I would others to know about dealing with birth defects. It's a long hard battle because not only are you fighting mental health and school systems, you are fighting with society in general -- dealing with the public. And then there are the medical bills...
That's it in a nutshell. I am convinced that Depakote caused the birth defects. Casey is worse because my dosage of Depakote was increased right away. With Cody the drug wasn't increased until I was four months pregnant.
This is what I want to say to the drug makers: they really made me feel foolish, to say the least. When I was seven months pregnant with my second son, Dr. Penry, along with the drug company, convinced us to attend a medical convention in Winston, Salem. We got up on stage and like guinea pigs, talked about how safe Depakote was. Isn't hindsight 20/20? If only I had known..."