Posts Tagged ‘Breathing’

I’m Back (And a Little Rant)

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

Well, Saturday we were at the Dogwood Festival when I received a call that my Mom had been taken to the ER. When I talked to her on Friday, she was fine, and thought that she might be coming down with a cold. She mentioned having a sore throat. During Friday night, she had a 104 temperature, and Saturday morning, she got up and couldn’t swallow anything. By 10 a.m., she had called 911. Her throat was closing up and she couldn’t breathe. Dad had gone to the Lake on Friday – he received a call from one of the neighbors saying only that an ambulance had been at the house, and no other information. He raced to the hospital and found her in the ER.

Seems she had a severe case of Epiglottitis, which means that her epiglottis was infected. This is evidently extremely rare in adults (the diagnosing doctor called other doctors from around the hospital to come look at the case) and is fatal if not treated quickly; thank God she had the presence of mind to call 911 before it was too late. The epiglottis was swelling up and obstructing her airway. (Interestingly, George Washington reportedly died of Epiglottitis.)Once they realized this was an infection, they took cultures to figure out what was causing the infection.

While getting her breathing under control with epinephrine breathing treatments that made her act annoyingly like a speed freak for an hour or so after every one of them, and keeping her on oxygen, they moved her to ICU. By this time, Lisa and I had rushed the hour and a half drive from Atlanta to get to the hospital. We found her scared, out of it, and struggling to breathe. Right after putting her in the room, they also brought in a trach tray, which is the big package they keep around in case they need to do a tracheotomy. Based on a few years of watching ER, I know that if someone’s airway is obstructed, they will intubate them (stick a tube down their throat), but evidently if your epiglottis is swollen up, it is more likely they won’t be able to get a tube down, and so they will have to cut a hole in your throat to your trachea.

Suffice to say that all of this tracheotomy stuff and doctor’s talking about “life-threatening” and “potentially fatal” stuff pretty much freaked our shit. She was not supposed to swallow, cough, or talk, for fear of her airway closing up.

Luckily, Lisa is a nurse, so we had just enough knowledge to scare the shit out of ourselves. At first, we were going to take shifts staying at the hospital, but when they pulled out the trach tray, Lisa, who was on first shift, thought she would feel better if i stayed too. We spent Saturday night sleeping upright in ICU waiting room chairs. Lisa had trouble sleeping. I was exhausted and managed to crash out, contorted and drooling, for over four hours straight.

Lisa and I took shifts sitting bedside in the ICU, watching the fucking vitals monitor: four numbers and the “normal” values for those numbers are seared upon my brain forevermore. When visiting hours were over (inevitably this was the time at which the doctors bothered to check in on their patients, thus making it difficult to get information out of the doctors) Lisa and I would take turns going home to sleep or shower.

It was Monday before I felt comfortable that she was going to be okay. Monday during the day, they brought in an infectious diseases doctor to see Mom. He identified her infection as being caused by a gram negative bacteria. You can read all about it through that link, but the long and short of it is that those are the “big baddies” of the bacteria world. Things like E. Coli and salmonella. The culture had not grown enough to know what exactly the bacteria was, though, so they were pulling out the big guns and giving her like five antibiotics. (All of this was through IV; Mom couldn’t swallow even a sip of water until Monday.) The doctors seemed really interested in her, and very serious, and maybe even a little grave when they spoke to us. We were really frightened for her, and felt like the doctors weren’t telling us something. Most of the time, we tried not to let on to Mom how scared we were for her. The rest of the time, we spend trying to figure out how to get her to shut up; Anyone who has ever met my Mom knows she will try to make friends with a lamp post. It was nearly impossible to keep her from talking to every nurse and tech who came into her room, even though the doctor told us multiple times that speaking was endangering her breathing.

I should mention that Mom has Rheumatoid Arthritis, which basically sucks ass, because it means that her immune system is compromised and she is susceptible to all sorts of nasty virus and bacteria.

On Monday night, the results finally came back, though, and she has Haemophilius Influenzae. This sounds like a flu virus, but it is actually a bacteria. The kind of funny thing is that they initially were worried that she had Diphtheria, which there has evidently been a bit of a resurgence of in the United States. Kids are vaccinated for both HIB and Diphteria (the famous “DPT” of Raising Arizona fame). Or at least kids should be, and that is where my rant comes in.


Mom could have gotten the HIB anywhere. It is all over us. Diphtheria, though? It might be coming back. just like any number of other infectious diseases that could be prevented through vaccination.

Next time you decline a vaccination for your child, think for a second what that means to newborns, to those with compromised immune systems, and to the elderly.
Better yet, check out what a nice case of Diphtheria can do for your little precious here.

Mother fuckers.

Oh, Mom, when you get out of the hospital and read this? I love you. Glad you called 911. Sorry I cuss so much, but it is pure love cussin’.