Note to Readers: Please bear with me. I write only to open eyes to one small aspect of the horrible worldwide suffering. In no way do my words marginalize the pain suffered by millions in hundreds of different ways. Our hearts go out to you today for whatever level of difficulty you are experiencing. May God be your North, your light, your high rock in these days of trouble.

We started back to our little rented house in Magdalena Apasco. I suddenly realized I was scrunching my chin and biting the insides of my cheeks, personally, two clear signals of suppressed stress. That fifth and final “no” had been awfully hard to bear. The carpet had been yanked out from under my feet and I found myself floating somewhere between despair and God’s love.

It has seemed the last few days that my little shreds of medical comfort have been systematically stripped away. As much as one trusts in God, there is a certain level of comfort in knowing you’ll see your doctors every few weeks, get lab work done regularly, fill your prescriptions as usual.

I share my thoughts and feelings today for you, friend, who perhaps also finds yourself tiptoeing across the precarious balance beam of disease or chronic illness and viral pandemic.

I presumed to a great extent we’d just hang out at home for a few weeks until this thing blew over, our lives not really hugely affected. Yes, there were cancelled plans. That hurt. But people, thousands of people are dying around the world. Who cares about my little plans? There are bigger things at stake here. I’d just do my part and stay home, not complain and pray.

Then I realized I wouldn’t be able to get home to see my doctors. They have actually closed the highways into the south of Mexico. It would be foolish to go to a lab to get my regular tests done. Not only do I have lupus, but I also happen to be 24 weeks pregnant and positive for an anticoagulant antibody which can cause blood clots. I depend hugely on medical vigilance and care. Suddenly, that carpet was gone; found myself floating in faith’s realm of precarious calm in the unknown. I committed myself and my unborn baby to the capable hands of the One who performed the world’s first surgery, the one who extended Hezekiah’s life, the one who attended Jesus’ stable birth. And faithfully took my medications.

I was thrilled to hear the antimalarial, natural based drug Plaquenil was helping Covid patients to recover. It’s a great medication. Plaquenil is a cornerstone of many lupus patients’ treatment plan, helping prevent the disease from potentially life-threatening flares. It’s also one of very few options for women who are pregnant to control their lupus. Basically, I and thousands of other women (especially) depend hugely on the availability of Plaquenil.

My rheumatologist told me this morning through WhatsApp I should go buy a few boxes.

We went. To five pharmacies.

And returned home empty handed.

No, not because in Oaxaca there is a huge demand for this drug but because American drug companies are stockpiling and sending to hospitals instead. Pharmacists are reserving portions for their friends and families. Am I glad there is hope for critical Covid cases? Yes. I am. Very, very glad. I’ve seen my son die while on a ventilator. It’s horrible. I don’t want anyone to die.

But I do wish we could somehow spread out the supply. This isn’t toilet paper, people. This drug is life, and has been life for many years, for many, many women. Suddenly, I don’t feel so safe anymore. Staying home just isn’t enough. Lupus means we don’t have an immune system. It means plaquenil was our only human help for resistance. It also opens the door to lupus complications. Staying home doesn’t stop that.

Thankfully, I have a great group of people, from doctor to family to pharmacists working hard to hopefully find and mail me a couple boxes from across the country (this is Mexico, things work a little differently here). But what about the women in the US and elsewhere whose pharmacies simply refuse to fill their orders? Not offering half orders, not making exceptions for very severe cases. The answer is unequivocally no. I’m not fighting just for me. I’m here crying out for all those women who today are weeping into their husbands’ chests, wondering not only how to keep safe from a killer virus, how to make ends meet since he was laid off, but now how her own health will maintain its integrity without proper treatment.

Maybe I’m naive to orthographically argue with powerful drug companies who don’t care about my stupid opinion. But. I’ve given them a lot of money over the years. My voice should count. You cannot completely sacrifice one group for another. There has to be balance. Imagine the outrage if suddenly insulin were denied diabetics to cover some medical emergency. If cancer patients could no longer receive chemo because it killed off some horrible, spreading bacteria.

Speaking frankly, I’d be happy to take half my dosage (cognizant of the fact I can’t get labs to see how my body is responding) to help save some lives. But do I feel comfortable with the possibility of being denied completely my most basic pill? Especially when its effectiveness in actually treating Covid-19 is yet to be proven? No. I don’t. Call me selfish, call me carnal. Call me a woman who has some kids and a husband to love and care for and who would like to have her best chance at life. Just like you.

4 thoughts on “Opinion Piece: Plaquenil

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