Karen Daggett was enjoying a Valentine’s Day dinner with her husband when her vision started going black, her muscles began aching, she became fatigued, and she started to experience motion sickness. Karen, who was taking medications for an irregular heartbeat following a heart procedure a few weeks earlier, feared something was wrong with her heart and asked her husband to take her to the hospital.
Her husband drove her to the nearest hospital in Naples, Florida, where the Minnesotan couple was visiting friends.
Doctors were able to regulate Karen’s body, but warned Karen and her husband about how serious the health episode had been.
“Doctors at the hospital told my husband that if he hadn’t taken me to the hospital when he did, there was a good chance I wouldn’t have made it,” said Karen, recalling the frightening episode.
Once stabilized, the doctors ran tests to figure out what had happened to Karen. Karen’s potassium levels were dangerously low, and it was difficult to keep her hydrated. But beyond these findings, none of the tests provided answers to what was causing Karen’s problems. After five days in the hospital with few answers, doctors told Karen she needed to return to Mayo Clinic, where her doctors and medical records were. Doctors estimated they had 48 hours to get back to Minnesota before another episode would occur.
Karen and her husband returned to Rochester, Minnesota desperate for answers.
“Doctors at the hospital told my husband that if he hadn’t taken me to the hospital when he did, there was a good chance I wouldn’t have made it."
When Karen arrived at Mayo Clinic, most of her tests, including her heart scans, came back as normal. Doctors wondered if Karen’s health episode could be related to the heart medications she was taking. Doctors ordered genetic testing to find out. The testing, which specifically looked at a person’s CYP2D6 gene, is part of what would eventually become the OneOme RightMed test. The RightMed test is a medication response test that analyzes a patient’s DNA to predict how a person is likely to respond to certain medications.
When the test results came back, Karen’s doctors learned that Karen has a genetic variant that affects how she metabolizes many medications, including the heart medication she was taking for her irregular heartbeat. In Karen’s case, she processed (or metabolized) the heart medication slower than normal, causing it to build up in her system.
“I finally had an answer for what likely happened that night. The doctor told me that my adverse drug reaction was related to the fact that I processed the heart medication slower than normal, causing the medication to accumulate in my body at dangerous levels.”
In addition to explaining what caused her health episode, the test results also helped to explain why Karen had struggled for so long to find pain medications that work properly for her. The results revealed that Karen’s body isn’t able to convert certain pain medications into their active form, making them ineffective.
Using the test results, her doctors prescribed a new set of medications. Even though it took four months for Karen’s body to recover, she finally had medications that worked properly for her.
“The doctor told me that my adverse drug reaction was related to the fact that I processed the heart medication slower than normal, causing the medication to accumulate in my body at dangerous levels.”
After learning that her DNA played such a big role in her health scare, Karen felt she needed to share the details of what happened with her family members. She worried that, given their shared genetics, they may also be at risk for medication-related side effects.
“I wrote a letter to all of my family members, and many of their doctors ordered the RightMed test for them. Of that group, 25 people, including all of my siblings, have the same genetic variant that caused my reaction to my heart medication that night. Thankfully, their doctors now have valuable information to use when prescribing medications that may help them avoid what I went through.”
Beyond identifying the shared genetic variant in all of Karen’s siblings, the RightMed test also helped two of Karen’s brothers understand why their doctors had struggled for so long to find pain medications that provided relief, helped one of her sisters, a breast cancer survivor, find the right medications to decrease her risk of recurrence, and helped inform another sister's doctor on how to alter the sister's blood pressure prescription so that her blood pressure was finally managed after struggling for 15 years.
Since the episode that Valentine’s Day night, Karen’s test results have also helped doctors to prescribe her pain and anesthesia medications.
“I would not be here today without that test. I have now survived another heart procedure with medications guided by my results. If I can help to save one more person from going through what I went through, it’s all worth it.”