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Thread: Info on anxiety attacks appreciated

  1. #1
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    Post Info on anxiety attacks appreciated

    Yesterday when I picked my 18 year old daughter up from school I knew right away something was wrong. Her face was flushed and she looked upset. My first thought wwas that she had received a poor mark on a recent biology test. She started crying and told me that she has been having anxiety attcks for about a year and that she had just had one. I was shocked as I never seen her having one and she didn't tell us because she didn't want us to worry and she thought they would just go away.
    She said they vary in intensity and just happen out of the blue- there is no particular situation that triggers them. At their worse, her hands go tingly and then numb, her heart races and she becomes all flushed and light headed.
    I have never experienced this before nor has my husband but I do remember my brother having them in university.
    We have a doctor's appt. next week but I would sure appreciate hearing from anyone who has experienced these or has some ideas for dealing with them. We have a wonderful doctor but I would like some ideas before we go. My daughter does not want to take medication at least at this stage. BTW she is a very good natured easy going person- never would I have suspected she had this problem.
    I feel terrible that this has been going on for a year without our knowledge. Teenagers sure can be challenging!!

  2. #2

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    You're taking the right step in seeing your doctor. He/she needs to make sure that there's not some underlying physical cause for her symptoms. The Mayo Clinic has a great website with good information about all health matters including mental health issues.

    Good luck to you and your daughter!

  3. #3
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    Several years ago I had what I thought were anxiety attacks: short periods of heart palpitations and shortness of breath that came on suddenly. It happened at least once per day for a couple of weeks before I went to the doctor. She put me on one of those 24-hour heart monitors, found nothing wrong, and suggested I decrease my caffeine intake (at the time I was drinking 3-4 cups of coffee and one coke every day). I completely eliminated caffeine (except chocolate) and haven't had a problem since.

    Maureen, I applaud your ability to be so forthright about these troubles. I also have a bipolar family member, and completely agree the stigma needs to be removed. And more research. Please.

    Best of luck with the doctor. Take care.

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    Kima,

    I have suffered from panic attacks (although in my situation, there is an obvious trigger). I am currently on medication to help control things, which has made an incredible difference. I haven't had a panic attack in about a year and a half.

    It must be a helpless feeling to watch your daughter go through this...but just know how incredibly important your support and love is. I couldn't have gotten through everything without my mom. She's been so amazingly supportive--the only person who really understands what I've been through. Just knowing that she is there for me, whenever I need her, makes such a difference. That's the best thing you can give to your daughter.

    Please keep us posted.

    Julie

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    Although I rarely post anymore (due to the over-sensitivity of a few unfortunate bb-ers AND the tremendous workload I have been shouldering this semester), I feel that I must weigh in here and empathize with your situation, KimA, as I may be able to offer some prudent advice. Although all of my friends and peers would consider me extremely friendly and (unless we are in the law school atmosphere) quite easy-going and fun-loving, I began to experience "modified" panic attacks around the time of my first law school exams. It was so strange and, in regards to your "stigma" comments, very embarassing since it was so contrary to my nature. I commend your daughter for speaking up, as I am certain that this relieves her of a tremendous burden. I immediately sought help, since I had four exams to take, and my doctor put me on a "mini-tranquilizer" of sorts called ativan. It worked wonders, I only took it during exams, and considered it a short-term fix; after this scare, I began practicing yoga regularly, spending more quality time with friends (and less time driving myself crazy in the library), and simply nurturing myself and my soul. Now I believe I will never need that medication again, but it certainly did get me over the "hump." The moral of the story? I am not certain what type of school your daughter is in, but I know better than anyone perhaps what havoc the pressures of education can wreak on one's life; please urge your daughter not to be afraid of embracing the concept of short-term medication, as it may open doors for her that she has recently begun to believe are closed to her forever.

  6. #6
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    kima,

    I have had panic attacks. They can be terrifying and come out of the blue. I went to doctors, even ended up in the ER before I diagnosed them myself by doing some reading. The doctors only looked for physical causes and never even suggested panic attacks. It's good to get her physically checked out. What she experienced sounds exactly like what I had. It's NO FUN! I haven't had one for several years now, but a couple of times I have felt like one is coming on. I've been able to calm myself down and talk myself out of it. But I'm also on antidepressants (not due directly to this). Let her know that she CAN get through this! If you or your daughter would like to talk more, please e-mail me! My name is Chrisi

  7. #7

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    kima- How awful for you and your daughter! There was a period in my life where I suffered from panic attacks. I would lay in bed and force myself to breathe in and out for hours because I was sure that I would die if I didn't. It was terrible. I went to my family physician first and then he referred me to a psychiatrist. I was prescribed an anti-anxiety medication (Zanax) but I chose not to take the pills. They simply knocked me out instead of dealing with the stress that was causing my attacks.

    Despite the fact that your daughter is a "very good natured easy going person" does not rule out that she may be having a stressful time. I am really laid back but still went through a few months of extreme stress that caused attacks. I want to stress that it isn't something you or your daughter should feel ashamed of. It can happen to anyone.

    My suggestion would be to have her try meditation, yoga, or maybe something as simple as walking each day to help her release tension from her life. And reaching out to loved ones or expressing feelings in a journal can help. Your doctor can help determine if the cause is physical but I am thinking it is more likely mental. Just the fact that you care so much and are there to support your daughter during this time seems to illustrate that she will have lots of love to help her through. Hang in there, it does get better!!

    [This message has been edited by m4star (edited 05-03-2001).]

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    I am having a panic attack right now. It's actually on the downswing, but earlier today I was afraid I'd have to leave work. They were diagnosed when I was 16, but I started having them about the time I was 8. There's no specific trigger, but serious stress in general does not help (I got married 6 months ago, started a new job, am getting ready to quit said to job to move because husband got a real job, and my grandpa is really sick). My attacks start out of the blue, like your daughters, but with a single obsessive thought that grows and grows and grows until my heart is racing and my head feels like it's going to blow up. I shake. You know, the nervous twitch leg shaking thing-except mine gets so serious that it tires my leg out and I have muscle spasms. My biggest fear is that this time they will not go away (I seem to go about 5 years or so between really serious episodes). I worry because my great-great grandmother and my grandfather comitted suicide, I have a schizophrenic aunt, and many, many other "crazy folk" in the family (OCD, Manic Depression, etc).
    I just want to let you know that I understand what your daughter is going through. I have started taking Paxil again (I was off of it for 2 years-for the 31/2 years I was on it I was attack-free). I am looking forward to it kicking in (takes a few weeks).At first I didn't want to take the meds, but then I got really suicidal and was scared and wanted any kind of help I could get.

    Just because the symptoms are physical dosn't mean the problem isn't psychological-stress can affect the body in many ways. Please take her to the doctor, though, not just a psychologist. She could have a very real physiological problem-a chemical imbalance, a heart murmur as suggested above, or even a vitamin deficiancy. Mine are caused by the first-I've had the other tests, so process of elimination, right? This is a totally treatable problem-DH had them in undergrad and they've since gone away, though he's still in school. May I mention that my husband and I are both very intellegent (if I do say so myself), very sensitive overachievers.
    Anyway, let your daughter know that she is going to be ok. Take her to the doctor, and don't push her to talk about the attacks if she doesn't want to-I still can't tell anyone about the root of my attacks, though I know what it is. Anyway, sorry to bother you all with my problems, but I wanted to let you know there are plenty of other people out there with this problem and that it is treatable.

    Jen

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    Jen, hey, we are not "crazy folk!"



    [This message has been edited by emilycat (edited 05-04-2001).]

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    Thankyou all for being SO supportive and open about your own situations. I am close to tears just feeling all your concern.
    I am trying not to bring the subject up with Allie ( my daughter) because I don't want her to think I am constantly watching her. When I picked her up today she said "I am fine mum" even before I said a word!
    Allie is in grade 12- graduating in a few months. She is really into art and this semester is full of courses that she loves. She is planning to work and move out (waaa...)this next year before going to art school. She has a great boyfriend and many friends. She has a VERY part time job and really isn't one of hose over loaded kids. But you are right- there could be things going on that I know nothing about.
    It's funny beacuse a week or so ago I saw an ad for a free mediation group and Allie was quite keen. She has also expressed an interest in yoga- so I will lightly encourage those activities. Her doctor's appt. are next week so I will let you all know what we learn then.
    I did read women are much more prone to panic attacks than men and it is more common in younger people. Thhey can disppear on their own as well.
    anyway you guys are the best. I send a big hug to you all!!

  11. #11
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    OK. From a medical perspective, let me comment on a few of the other comments.

    Panic can be caused by a physical problem, but often it isn't. Though I hate the term, there can indeed be a chemical imbalance in the brain causing them.

    My preferred treatment for panic or anxiety disorder is Paxil. Originally approved as an anti-depressant, it is technically a selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitor. Seratonin is a brain chemical, that can lead to many different problems if not properly regulated. Paxil is now used for many different conditions including panic & obsessive-compulsive disorder among other things. Go to their web-site (www.paxil.com); click on "Panic Disorder" & you'll find a lot of good information.

    I have NEVER heard of a heart murmur causing panic! Many years ago, many people with panic were also found to have a prolapsed mitral (heart) valve; the reason for the correlation has NEVER been found. Mitral prolapse does cause a murmur.

    Ativan is not a "mini-tranquilizer; it is a full-fledged tranquilizer just like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. I strongly urge you to avoid those if possible; they can be addictive.

    Please go to the doctor with an open mind & hopefully (like I do), he or she will welcome the research you've done with the computer! And, yes, I would ALWAYS rule out a physical problem before just shot-gunning a mental approach. Good luck....

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    Thankyou for your input Ralph. It sounds like you are a doctor?
    My concern with Paxil is - how long does one stay on it and also my daughter can go a week or more without an attack so is a medication like that on a daily basis justified?
    I sure agree about the Ativan- I know of someone who became addicted to it.
    Your best wishes are also much appreciated!

  13. #13
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    The below thread will take you to a great article from the American psychological association.
    http://www.apa.org/pubinfo/panic.html

    Ralph I recall you are a doctor thanks for a great explanation.I also believe its good for patients to research and they can share their findings and questions with the doctor or mental health proffesional.

    My dad is a clinical psychologist and after ruling out by your doctor any physical problems your daughter might benefit from therapy by a psychologist or psychiatrist. Probably she will be given some medication and a proffesional can help her work through her fears, questions etc. Adolescence its a hard time in life with so many changes and its wonderful that she confided in you.


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    This isn't meant to be critical. I just wanted to make this correction to Ralph's post, in case anyone is trying to get more information through research and has difficulty finding information because of a misspelled word. "Serotonin" is spelled with two "o"s, no "a"s.

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    Originally posted by kima:
    Thankyou for your input Ralph. It sounds like you are a doctor?
    My concern with Paxil is - how long does one stay on it and also my daughter can go a week or more without an attack so is a medication like that on a daily basis justified?

    Yes, I'm a family practitioner.

    Paxil can be used indefinitely, but ideally, I'd recommend a year of treatment. As for the infrequency of the attacks, that's the rub - we want to prevent attacks, yet we never know when they'll come on. And unfortunately, the meds for acute episodes (like Ativan & Xanax) are too risky for most people to just take as needed.

    Aggie, doctors have never been known as great spellers! Maybe that's why our writing is so poor!

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    Sorry for the lack of clarity, Ralph, about the ativan--I just meant that on the tiny, tiny dosage that was required to help me, it acted as a "mini-tranquilizer." There were no problems with addiction or dependency, probably because I was on such a low dose. As I stated before, I stopped posting because of the tendency of post-ers to sort of jump to conclusions and become a little over-reactionary (i.e., the bold letters). I just wanted to offer some support to kima and let her know that her family is not alone in this time of strife. Sorry once again for any confusion.

    [This message has been edited by hhcowgirl (edited 05-03-2001).]

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    Hi Hhcowgirl-Please don't worry about the mini-tranquilizer thing. As a doctor (not me- Ralph!!) he probably feels it is important to be very accurate about the terms used to describe medications. I think he just wanted to make sure no one lumped Paxil and Ativan in the same category.
    I really enjoy your posts and of course your insight into this condition- so stay with us-your input is valuable.

  18. #18
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    Originally posted by Ralph:

    Aggie, doctors have never been known as great spellers! Maybe that's why our writing is so poor!
    Ralph, it's funny you should mention that. My DH tells me that there have been studies that actually show a correlation between poor handwriting and poor spelling. And I think all the subjects were doctors. (jk!)


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    Thumbs up

    As a child & adolescent psychiatric nurse...I commend all of you for your openness and support...I do agree with Ralph as the medication of choice being Paxil. We use it for many of the kids at the hospital very safely. Kima, please keep your daughter away from Ativan and Xanax if at all possible, as they are addictive. The best treatment is to keep your lines of communication open, as it seems you have done...the pressure that kids today have is immense...even though some of it may be "self-imposed"... All of you are such a wonderful group of people...and I do believe that by having open discussions such as this, the stigma that is still attached to mental illness and related issues will be wiped out!


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    Ask your doctor about a beta blocker; some anxiety attacks can be caused by a very slight heart murmer that can be controlled with a beta blocker. It is a prescription, but I believe it's fairly mild...the generic name is propanalol.

    I'm so glad your daughter finally told you...that is a heavy burden to carry around! Keep us posted on her diagnosis,etc.

  21. #21
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    Kima,

    You didn't go into any details about how she feels psychologically when this happens -- are you sure they're anxiety attacks? I don't mean to pry, but it doesn't really sound like what she's experiencing has much to do with her mental health. I say this only because mental health problems have run wild in my family, and while physical symptoms can certainly result from a psychological conditions, attacks are typically sparked by something, no matter how trivial.

    I could be completely off-track, though; it's really great that she shared this with you and that you're going to the doctor. I hope everything turns out well!

    Emily



    [This message has been edited by emilycat (edited 05-03-2001).]

  22. #22
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    Thankyou for your post Emilycat. Mental Health problems exsist in my family as well. My mum is manic-depressive and from the little bit I have heard about my grandparents etc. I know there were other incidences. My mum is on lithium- a salt derivitive and has been for over 20 years. She is doing extremely well- just wish she was on it while I was growing up!
    I checked out the mayo clinc site as well as a few others. A physical problem is a definate possibility and I will make sure the doctor cheks out all possibilities in that regard. The heart murmer idea is an interesting one.
    Growing up I was very ashamed of my mum and never had any friends over. She was a single mum an a very small income and I now admire her tremendously for keeping things together at all. It is time for mental health to be talked about and the stigma removed. I still am very careful and hesitate to talk about depression with people but when I do I can't believe the response. Many people are relieved to be able to share their own stories. I appreciate your sharing Emilycat.
    Thankyou.

  23. #23

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    kima -

    Sounds like you're doing the right thing - getting her checked by a doctor. And while it could be physical, it could very well be mental as well.

    I studied psychology in college and from what I've learned, many people who have panic attacks actually feel like they are having a heart attack. It can be triggered by fears - such as fear of elevators - but they can also be very generalized - such as just being in public or away from home. The problem with panic attacks is not their physical ramifications, but that people who suffer from them will begin to do anything to avoid having them - including staying home and avoiding all public situations, anything that can trigger them. It can also be an unrelated stress, as opposed to a situational stress, that is causing them.

    So, I guess all us lay people can speculate away, but as long as you are seeking help and addressing the issue, you're doing the right thing!

  24. #24
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    I also want to thank you, Ralph, for the clarification on beta blockers and heart murmers. I guess I jumped to this conclusion due to a testimony from someone who suffered from anxiety attacks for years, then was finally found to have a heart murmer, put on a beta blocker, and never had any problems after that. I think I've learned that when it comes to talking about medicine, I might be best to leave it to the docs!
    Anyway, best of luck to your daughter, Kima!

  25. #25
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    Just my $.02...

    I have had panic attacks since I was in high school (about 11 years ago). At one point I was unable to drive my car, go out to eat, go to the movies or out dancing, and I had to drop some classes. With the help of a couple good therapists, a renewed interest in exercise, and the cessation of smoking, alcohol, and caffiene, I am happy to say that I am now, if not panic free, completely able to handle my panic attacks. I have driven to the other end of Texas -ALONE (for someone who couldn't back her car out of the driveway, this is good!). I have done multiple presentations in front of large crowds, auditioned (and sang in) many choirs, and just gotten on with my life.

    The things that have worked best for me have been the exercise and healthier lifestyle. I can have a soda or some tea every once in a while, but I have to watch it. Yoga has taught me deep breathing, which helps a lot when I'm feeling panic-y. But the most important thing has been that I remember that ultimately, the worst that will happen to me is that I will feel icky for 30 minutes and THAT'S ALL! When I finally realized that the panic couldn't hurt me (at least not permanently), I was able to let it go more quickly. And when I can't let it go, I go out for a run. This allows all the "fight or flight" chemicals to burn off (these chemicals cause the physical symptoms, which you then focus on, which makes you panic more, which brings out more chemicals...) and helps you regain your calm.

    Best of luck to your daughter and tell her that she's not alone.

    Traci

  26. #26
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    I spent most of my 20's having them. They would come at odd times and at that time in my life I was under a great deal of stress. Stress can behave very differently with people. I know that I kept a lot of it to myself, and still do. I felt there was no answer to the problems I was facing at the time. So, I took a beta blocker (can't remember the name) for a long time. I think at the time it did help me get through those times in my life. I am older and I deal with stressfull issues very differently then I did then. I have stopped with the med's and found regular excersise & healthy living have helped tremedously. Excersise is a great stress reducer. I still get panic attacks from time to time, I just ride them out. I find that I go longer between episodes when I don't drink so much caffine, excersise on a regular basis and eat healthier. I don't know if they totally go away, but I feel better able to control them. Which relieves the stress associated with getting panic attacks.

  27. #27
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    Everyone's been very thorough, but let me throw my $.02 in.

    It's good you're getting your daughter checked out physically and mentally. But do have them run some tests for acid reflux and/or ulcer (meaning have them do a test for the H Pylori bacteria). I've suffered from acid reflux all my life and was only recently diagnosed and treated for acid-related problems.

    In my case, the symptoms were very much like anxiety attacks, and they came on during times when I was under a lot of pressure (like my senior year in high school, and when I was changing jobs).

    Your body and your mind are so closely connected, their symptoms can overlap (in the case of ulcer or reflux, you can get a racing heart and irregular breathing and all the other 'anxiety' symptoms).

    I will keep you and your daughter in my thoughts; I hope all goes well.

    Diana

  28. #28
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    Kima, I too had a problem with panic attacks in university. I got sick (an ear virus) the night before my first exam of that session, ended up in the emergency room and got prescribed anti-dizzines medication (and told to relax and take it easy). I was alone at that point, my family was far away, and everybody was busy with their own exams. Voila, start of panic attacks. No real trigger, just the feeling I'm in over my head.

    It took a few years for me to sort things out and get over them. Medication did more harm than good in my case, so I really wouldn't recommend it. What helped enormously was learning a few breathing techniques (which I did on my own, following the suggestions of a book on the subject). When panic attacks come on, you start hyperventilating and depriving your brain of oxygen. This is what produces that "I'm going crazy" feeling and the sensation of passing out. Constant anxiety also makes for constant shallow breathing, which is why the world feels "unreal", like you're floating outside your body. Breathing techiques can help stop a panic attack before it starts, and proper breathing minimizes anxiety on a day to day basis. I found that yoga and massage also help because they promote body awareness and relax at the same time. And I'll echo Traci June in saying that caffeine worsens things considerably.

    Counselling also helped a great deal. I had friends whose situation was bad enough (they developed agoraphobia due to the panic attacks) that they _needed_ specialized help, but in my case I felt more comfortable talking to someone whose business was only to listen and not to cure, especially after my bad brush with medication. Panic attacks feel so awful that you don't want to think about them, even less talk about them, just in case you trigger them. But that's what allows fears to grow and take over. Because you feel bad for no apparent reason, your rational brain cannot accept that and starts making up reasons, some of which are plausible and some of which are totally wild, but after a while it's hard to say which is which. I remember how trapped in my head I felt at the time. I was lucky I had a great deal of support when it mattered.

    This is a rather long winded answer. I guess I just want to say that I feel for you and your daughter, and for everybody experiencing and living with somebody with panic attacks. It's not easy. To this day I remember with crystal clarity the moment during which I stopped and said to myself "Hey, do you realize that your reasoning stopped making any sense?" and I knew I'll never have panic attacks ever again. And I haven't had any since, no matter how tempting they look when life gets tough and I feel the need to bail out. I consider this the greatest accomplishment of my life, and I know I did it myself.

    Ok, so I got rather sappy in that last bit Traci June, congratulations: I know exactly how it feels.

  29. #29
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    I have to agree about exercise being a great stress reliever. I haven't been able to work out for a few weeks now because of all the other things I've had to do (also contributing to the extreme amount of stress that seemingly led to this episode), and I think that's contributed to the attacks. I'm going to start working out again soon. The attacks have lessened - I didn't have a single one yesterday - though I'm still nervous that I'll have more. The Paxil seems to have kicked in, and some of my stress is gone. We found a place to live!!! Anyway, I just wanted to add that about exercise.

    Oh, and Emily, ain't no folk like crazy folk . Makes for some fun family gatherings,anyway (and I'm just as crazy as any of 'em!).

  30. #30
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    Just wanted to update those of you who showed such concern about my daughter's anxiety attacks. Her doctor put her on a mild anti-depressant. I am not sure of the name (not Paxil). After taking it for a week my daughter did not like the way it made her feel. She has decided to try a natural approach. She is exercising more and we went to the health food store, library and internet to get ideas. She has decided to try insoitol (Vitamin B) and magnessium first as apparently panic attacks can be linked to vitamin deficiences. The next thing she wants to try is Kava.
    Has anyone tried any of these approaches? I applaud her for being open to new ideas and for taking control of her situation. As she is 18 and is a bright intelligent girl I really can't tell her what to do anymore!! She still has attacks about 2-3 times a week and they are very random and vary widely in severity. I am impressed with the maturity she is showing throughout all this. She is going back to her doctor tolet her know what she is doing.
    Again thanks to all for your concern. Hope you are all doing well!

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