On Sunday, December 14, “The Young and the Restless'” Melody Thomas Scott (Nikki Newman) took to Twitter to announce that she had been “incapacitated” with a serious reaction to a medication she had been prescribed for a sinus infection. As a result of taking the medication, Scott said she returned to work after six weeks of “misery, a brief hospital stay, and have turned to alternative remedies, as the medical community had nothing to offer me.” On Monday, December 22, Scott posted an in depth essay titled “Prescription for Madness,” which details the ordeal the actress said began on November 13.
PRESCRIPTION FOR MADNESS
It started on Thursday, November 13. I had been sick with a sinus infection for a couple of weeks, which also included a hellish cough. I had already missed some work, which, in my business, you had better be half dead to call in sick. I was. At least I felt like I was. I had a constant fever, had no energy, was very pale and just couldn’t beat this thing. For reasons too complicated to go into here, I found myself with no personal physician at this time in my life. The previous week I had found a week’s dose of the antibiotic, Zithromax, in my medicine cabinet and happily started taking it, thinking I would finally feel better. I finished it. I felt better for a day or two, then plunged into feeling worse than ever.
“You have to go to the doctor,” everyone started saying to me.
“I’d love to…Who should I go to?”
“Don’t you have a doctor?”
“No, do you?” “Well, no.”
Then my husband suggested I go see (We’ll call him Dr. Smith, for now.) We didn’t really know him very well. He’s not a doctor I would have chosen to go to, though I had seen him once a year ago, when preparing to go to Monte Carlo to do some press for my show.
I was desperate. I had been missing too many tape dates and I HAD to start feeling better. Dr. Smith had two office locations: One in Beverly Hills, where we live, and one about 40 miles away. On this Thursday he was only seeing patients in the office farthest from our house. Of course. It couldn’t be easy. As I was soon to discover, nothing in this process would be easy.
My assistant drove me to Dr. Smith’s office. My husband met us there. They snuck me in the back of the medical building so that I would have privacy. Chest x-ray: check. Lung capacity test: Check. Listening to heart and lungs: Very croupy. I wheezed terribly every time I exhaled. Even I knew it sounded terrible.
Dr. Smith didn’t seem very concerned. I left his office with three prescriptions he had prepared for me. My wonderful assistant took me home to rest while he had the scrips filled at the pharmacy. Cough syrup with codeine. I had been given this many times over the years and I always found it quite satisfactory at killing the cough. Then, there were two new (well, new to me,) prescriptions that I had never taken before: Augmentin, an antibiotic, and Cadista, another name for Methylprednisolone, which turned out to be steroids. The steroids were given in a huge dose initially, then were to taper down over the next 7 days. As it turned out, my body did not like those steroids, or the antibiotic, but I had nothing to compare them to. Smith was the only doctor I had access to. I wanted to feel better. I kept taking them.
I was hallucinating by early evening. Lying in bed up in my room, I thought I was somewhere in Texas or Mexico, close to the ocean, in fear of “them” coming to get me. I wasn’t really sure who “they” were, but I knew I was in danger and I didn’t think “they” spoke English. I kept listening at the balcony screen door off of my bedroom. I was certain that a pack of men would soon be scurrying up my balcony to kidnap me. My head was spinning with dizziness and I was disoriented. I have learned that one isn’t really aware that they are hallucinating while they are in the middle of an episode. It’s not until the fantasies are over that you realize what your mind has been up to. By the time you figure it out, it is such a terrifying realization, that you can’t seem to articulate it. Am I crazy? Am I dying? Why is this happening to me? The thought that it could be a reaction to the meds I was given hadn’t occurred to me yet.
After a difficult night of no sleep, I awoke Friday morning and knew immediately that I was still in no condition to go to work or anywhere else. I was starting to slip deeper into a vague sense of reality, feeling worse than ever, the cough having returned. My memory is foggy about that day, but I must have just stayed in bed, worrying if I was ever going to get better. I must have watched television, but for all I knew the “off” switch could have been activated as, even though I was staring at the screen, my mind had other visions playing out before me. By that evening, I shared my fears with my family, but neglected to tell them about the hallucinations. It just seemed too frightening to actually say it out loud and they were worried enough. I told them I was feeling worse and worse and they just kept telling me to keep taking my medicine and that I would start feeling better soon.
By Saturday, I really felt terrible. A mixture of dizziness, nausea, a weak grasp of the world around me. My world was getting smaller and scarier. I remember being awake most of the night, hallucinating about where we were and how we were going to “get out of there.” I was in my own home of 15 years, but my mind was somewhere else and that scared the wits out of me. That morning, after I kept asking my husband where we were and did he know how were we going to get out of there, he called the rest of the family to tell them that something very serious was going on with me. They rallied around me, but I wasn’t in the mental shape to be around anyone. I lied on the couch in the family room, hallucinating while pretending to watch television. I do remember that Don Diamont’s son, Zander, was playing football on the screen and my husband was cheering for him whenever Zander did something that football fans cheer for! (No, I’m not a football fan…) I also remember overhearing Edward speaking to Dr. Smith on the phone about what was happening with me and they discussed the possibility of my suffering a severe reaction to these new meds, especially the steroids. It was decided that I should stop taking them immediately. I was very happy with that, but in retrospect, I should have stopped taking them sooner. It was determined that the most serious side effects one could have was what I was suffering with (aptly put) and that only a very low percentage of people react to these medications as severely as I did. They shouldn’t happen at all, in my opinion. These side effects are too serious to play around with. No matter how low the incidence. I tried to stay downstairs, with the people that I love. (And, of course, my constant source of comfort throughout this whole nightmare, was my precious Reilly, a ball of white fluff who we rescued from the pound in March. I have never had a dog who was so devoted to me. She was either on my lap, sleeping on my stomach or, literally, wrapping her paws around me,as if to say,”It’ll be alright, Mommy,” 24/7. She never left my side. Right now as I type this, she is at my feet.)
I couldn’t eat any of the foods being offered to me as I had apparently lost my taste buds at some point in the last few days. I learned that the term “lose your taste buds” actually means “everything tastes bad.” Inedible.
Constantly freezing, I hid under blankets on the sofa, while trying to engage myself in the conversation or movie the family was watching. Remember, I was not aware at that time that I was hallucinating. I don’t know if this is typical, but I could never identify the hallucinations while I was having them. I had to wait until they were gone to realize that they had happened.
Sunday drifted by much the same until the evening. Alex and her husband, Alessandro came over. I didn’t feel well, couldn’t find anything to eat that tasted right, and I floated down into the abyss of the leather reclining couch, miserable. Suddenly, major nausea took over and wouldn’t stop. It got to the point where I literally couldn’t breathe and I truly thought I was going to die. Not being able to breathe will do that to you.
The next morning, Monday, I was worse than ever. It was decided that I should be taken to the ER at Cedars-Sinai, the preeminent hospital in Los Angeles. Coincidentally I was also born there. The irony didn’t escape me. But at least they could check me out, get some fluids into my system and then send me home. Here’s a lesson for all of you reading this: Never assume you know what will happen in an ER. When we arrived at the hospital, I couldn’t get out of the car or walk on my own. Someone came up with a wheelchair, which at least got me inside. Though I learned later that it was an hour’s wait for patients that morning, they took me right away. I was slumped over in the wheelchair, eyes closed, in and out of reality. I remember the doctors asking me “Do you know where you are?” “What’s today’s date?” “What is your name?” “Who is the president,” etc. The only answer I could come up with was that I was in the hospital. I heard the doctor tell Edward (who never left my side, best husband in the world, he is!) that they would at least be keeping me for that night (it was then only about 7:30am) as I didn’t know who I was and they couldn’t release me in that condition. It’s a very strange feeling to hear people talking about you and you are not able to respond. Edward told them about the medicine reaction, but I don’t know how much that explanation changed their mind about their latest “drug addict-of-the-day.”
This began a swirl of tests that would last all day. Some of my indications matched those for meningitis and had to be ruled out, so a spinal tap was first up on my new agenda. I also learned that my electrolytes had measured in at a straight ZERO at the time of admission.
The maddening thing was that now that I was officially a patient, I was at their mercy. I just wanted to go home and die, thank you very much. But I couldn’t. I was their prisoner. Soon, all of my family showed up, bless their hearts. I hated seeing the fear in my children’s eyes. But there was nothing I could do to reassure them. The day slowly dragged on, with me not knowing what was coming next. As time passed I became more lucid and the blood tests had confirmed that I wasn’t filled with “street drugs,” However, I was tested for every brain disorder, stroke, seizure, MRI’s, CT scans, no expense spared, as the resulting bill verified…And every test came up normal.
By late afternoon, they finally decided to check me into a regular room. The only hold-up was my continuing bursts of vomiting, still with the death-defying “I can’t breathe, please help me” panic etched on my face, during which no one ever moved a muscle to help me.
They finally wheeled me to an isolation floor, both of my arms now encumbered with multiple IV’s, with a newly attached divided line on my left arm that had something to do with a supposed heart condition that I have never had in my life. Another side effect showing up at this late hour? Hard to say. During the longest, most uncomfortable night of my life, I had doctors and nurses constantly barging into my room, asking me if my heart rate has always been this low,” etc. I’ve NEVER had one thing wrong with my heart in my life and I still think it was a mistake and I don’t believe them. Edward actually saw the readings and kept taking my pulse. He says it was low. Now, I trust this man with my life and I know he would never lie to me, but I still don’t believe it.
At some point they brought me some food to eat. At least that’s what they called it. Though I was starving, every single thing tasted horrible, gag-worthy. This was apparently at the height of my losing my taste buds, which I can only assume was part of the drug reaction, as I’ve never had anything like that happen before.
The rest of the horrific evening was spent moaning and constantly having to use the bathroom, dealing with other severe issues that I worried I would have to forever live with. And I couldn’t make a move without a nurse being present. The bed was equipped with some kind of alarm that actually yelled out, “STAY in bed! Do NOT stand up!” In spite of the high marks I gave all the nurses, sometimes it took them a while to get to me. Edward spent the night in my room in a cot, happily snoring away as I pondered what was to be my new life, in misery.
Tests continued the next day. I still could make no sense of the nurses buttons/TV channel box that was connected to the bed. I stared at it and it meant absolutely nothing to me. I needed Edward to push the buttons. Even though he showed me over and over, I couldn’t remember any of it.
Throughout my entire stay, I never saw Dr. Smith. Actually, I take that back…I did see him through the slit of the curtain of my ER cubicle. He was about 10 paces from me and I assumed mine would be the next cubicle he would visit, to see how I was doing. After all, he KNEW that I was having a bad reaction to the medicine that HE had prescribed. Edward had told him all about it on the phone on Saturday. In fact, Dr. Smith was the one who decided to take me OFF of the poison. I didn’t have enough wits about me to be upset about his nonchalance that at the time. I just wanted to go home. One of Smith’s partners came around fairly regularly and it was she who finally took enough pity on me to discharge me. I felt like I was getting out of prison. As they were wheeling my wheelchair towards the exit, I had one last eruption of vomit, all over their floor. My closing commentary? Maybe.
After arriving home, gratitude quickly turned to worry, as I was obviously not ready to resume my normal life. My boss called me on my cellphone and I couldn’t remember how to operate it. Nor could I figure out house phones, computers, remote controls, any kind of gadget with buttons and numbers on them confused me. I wasn’t “right” and it didn’t seem that anyone from the medical community could help me or even cared.
We decided we would have to approach this from the world of alternative medicine. Edward got on the phone, collecting information from friends, two of whom had suffered with This Very Thing. These Very Same Medications. Including myself, we had already located 3 people who had suffered with this supposed “very rare” reaction. That’s too many. And the doctors had no suggestions.
We learned of an exceptional acupuncturist, Jordan Hoffman, located in Santa Monica. I have had good results in the past with acupuncture, so I was eager to meet with him ASAP. I’m sure he wondered what in the world was wrong with his newest patient when I entered his office, only able to walk by hanging on to Edward, moaning with every step. As soon as I staggered in, I collapsed on a sofa, covering my eyes with my arms, still very sensitive to light. As he approached me, I was crying. Though he isn’t an MD, per se, I treated him as such, as he gave me more concern and care than any MD had so far.
“Are you the doctor?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Please help me.”
And he did. With Edward and Alex there to help me relay most of my story, Dr. Hoffman very thoroughly documented my situation, concocted a “prescription” of herbs for me to incorporate into my new diet and ended the appointment with a “pull-out-all-the-stops” treatment that miraculously made me feel better. For the first time in over a month, I had hope. We finally left his office at 11:00pm. What MD would be that generous with their time?
The next day my massage therapist of many years worked on me for 2 hours. Again, I felt a slight improvement in my general condition. Every other day I would have a massage, getting acupuncture treatments on the alternate days, that yielded very slight improvements each time. I have also, on the advice of my hero, Jordan Hoffman, switched my diet to dairy-free, all organic, lots of kale and other super-foods. The change in my energy is remarkable. People keep stuffing me with good food. And I actually walked into Dr. Hoffman’s office on my own steam for my second appointment! Slowly, but mobile.
And that is how I have been recovering. The daily improvements are slight, but very welcome. This has turned out to be a long haul. Albeit, a very unexpected one. It’s still difficult for me to believe that this happened. How could it happen? Why are the medical “experts” so aloof about the situation? These are things that will be more aggressively pondered as I continue to “get my brain back.” Right now I am just focusing all of my energy on being able to resume my life. But if anyone reading this saga knows of someone who has gone through the same experience, please let me know. This is an issue that needs to be talked about, not swept under the rug and certainly not allowed to continue to happen.
For the lack of a better term, I have taken to calling it a “Neurological Breakdown.” I have stopped hallucinating, my taste buds are back and I finally went back to work 2 weeks ago. The dizziness was the last symptom to disappear. My memory was still a bit sketchy when I first returned to work, but it’s improving every day.
Thank you for your patience for reading this seemingly endless saga (I know how you feel!) but between my experience and your helping to get the word out, we can hopefully change the attitudes of MDs and pharmaceuticals and the outcomes of innocent patients steadfastly following instructions, not prepared to end life as they know it.
Daytime Confidential reports that as a result of Scott missing numerous tape dates, “Y&R” was in the process of possibly temporarily recasting the role of Nikki Newman with Jessica Tuck (“One Life to Live,” “True Blood”).