Thursday, July 19, 2012

Complacency Kills (Almost)

So, I haven't been around much online.

Last week, I stumbled into the emergency room. I couldn't breathe and I had to be admitted into the ICU and placed on a ventilator due to an inability to get in enough oxygen and expel enough carbon dioxide. The doctors made it very clear that had I waited much longer, I probably would have ended up dying. I would effectively suffocated to death.

Now, as disturbing as this all was, it also was somewhat self-inflicted and an excellent example about how foolish stubbornness and medical complacency can take what should be a minor inconvenience and turn it into a near-lethal event.

Let's take a step back. As some as you may or may not know, this summer my family had some major upheavals and I started looking for a new day job. Among the complications involved in this job search was the reality that we weren't even sure what part of the country we'd end up in. Also complicated the problem was my lease running out. So, we were temporarily homeless and didn't know if we'd end up in Texas, Chicago, or San Francisco.

Here's where we hit the first checkpoint. I decided that we'd stay with some in-laws in the Midwest for a few weeks while I waited to hear back from my job opportunities. That'd place us relatively close to two of my potential jobs. Indeed, while staying with those inlaws, I ended up getting my job offer and we knew we'd be moving to Chicago.

Now the place I stayed had a cat. I have mild asthma. It's not a particular issue 95% of the time, but I am also allergic to cats. Unfortunately, even though I was well aware of this and, for that matter, have a detailed knowledge of respiratory immunology, I convinced myself that it wouldn't be a big deal. I had stayed at people's houses with cats before and using a combination of medications thought I generally could manage the problem. Sure. I'd be sick for a while afterward, but eventually I'd recover. A little discomfort, I realized, was better than shelling out money for weeks and weeks of hotels (thank God I have medical insurance).

So, I stayed at the house with the cat for longer than I normally would before we came to a hotel in Chicago to look for apartments. I was very sick, but I figured it'd pass eventually. I just needed to manage the symptoms. Things seemed like they were maybe getting worse and my wife suggested I see the doctor, but I insisted that, no, now that I was away from the allergen, things would clear up. Of course, at this point, my bronchi were probably all but shut up due to inflammation.

My wife continued to insist that I go to the doctor. I said I'd take it easy and things would clear up. Last week, she refused to take no for an answer and insisted that I go to the emergency room. I figured I'd go to the ER, maybe they give me some shots, and I'm good to go. Sure, I was sick, but it wasn't that bad. I tried to talk her into waiting one more night.

I stepped into the ER, though, and realized that I'd gone from being very sick to being unable to breathe. The next few minutes were a blur. I was non-responsive to certain front-tline allergy and asthma treatments, so I had to be drugged and place on a ventilator. My oxygen levels and carbon dioxide levels were dangerously low and high respectively. I was suffocating to death in a normal room.

I went in and out of consciousness, including an incident where still sedated and restrained I pulled out my ventilator (I'm very fortunate that I didn't end up aspirating). I was at the hospital for several days as they helped get the inflammation down a bit in my lungs, aided me with oxygen, and otherwise got me to the point I could go back home. I'm now back home. I'm definitely not 100%, but I will recover, and, in the future, will not treat my chronic medical issues so casually. This incident has also imprinted on me the necessity of making sure my family is taken care of. I would have left behind a wife and two young children with special needs, so I'll be getting life insurance as soon as possible.

I have nothing but praise for the staff of Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital. They were professional and very kind. As a result, my hospitalization was as pleasant it could be all things considered.

Many of you follow me on FB and have left your well-wishes.

I deeply appreciate your thoughts and prayers in this difficult time. Please learn from my lesson. Take care of yourself, if not for you, then for the ones you love.


Anonymous said...

It's good to know you're doing better! And congratulations on the new job!

J.A. Beard said...


Bill Blais said...

Very glad to hear you are doing better, but what a terrifying thing! I have a bit of that "I'll get over it mentality", but, as thankfully in your case, my better half is far sharper than I and knows when to overrule my own obstinacy and hubris. As a new parent myself, I sometimes need a reminder that I'm not messing just with my own life. Considering myself reminded and wishing you and your family the best (and a speedy recovery!).

Helen Hanson said...

You have a good, kind, and intelligent wife. I, on the other hand, nearly let my better half die from anabolic shock resulting from multiple ant bites. I was in a hot tub yakking with my sister while he contemplated his final moments.
He still loves me. Go figure. Delighted you are recovering. All the best to you and family.

J.A. Beard said...


sue said...

Well I hope you learned a lesson. LISTEN TO THE WIFE I'm glad you're on the mend and I hear Chi is a good city. And yes it's very fortunate that you have health insurance.