Friday, October 29, 2010


On Tuesday, October 5, I went to UCSD Medical Center for my routine bronchoscopy and trach change, which I have done every two months, by Dr. Harrel in the pulmonary department. I have a bronchoscopy whenever I have a trach change because I have had problems with scar tissue in my trachea blocking the tip of my trach, and blocking air flow. The bronchoscopy allows the doctor to see where the scar tissue is so the trach can be placed away from it. The procedure usually goes like clockwork, and I am in and out of there in no time. But, not this time.

Before the doctor starts the procedure, the nurse squirts Tetracaine, a numbing agent, down my trach. It looked like she used more than usual. I usually get a litle light-headed and get a slight buzz, and it doesn't take long for the effects to wear off. But, during the procedure this time. the room started to whirl around, the voices of the doctor and nurses seemed distant and were fading in and out. It was like a bad trip. When I closed my eyes, I still felt I was spinning around. I also felt nauseous and drowsy. After the procedure, which went well--except for the bad trip--I was so out of it. I was still dizzy and had to keep closing my eyes, and was incapable of driving my wheelchair out of the room. Ernie, my nurse, had to use the attendant control on my wheelchair to drive me to the waiting room/recovery room, where I had to wait for the drug to wear off.

While waiting for the effects of the Tetracaine to wear off, my heart started to flip out. My heart rate shot up to 188, and my heart went into atrial fibrilation. This is when the atria, the two upper chambers of the heart, beat irregulary and out of coordination with the ventricles, the tw0 lower chambers of the heart. My heart was beating so fast, it felt like it would come out of my chest. After what seemed a long time, my heart returned to a more normal beat. It was a scary experience, especially since I didn't know what was going on. Dr. Yung, the ER doctor who was summoned when my heart acted up, said that they would have had to shock my heart back into rhythm if it hadn't settled down by itself. Yikes!

As a precaution, Doctor Yung, and Dr. Harrel, my pulmonologist, decided to admit me to the ICU overnight for observation. Not what I wanted to hear, but I knew it was probably for the best. After waiting for a few hours, they finally were able to move me to the ICU. I was transferred to a gurney and wheeled up to the ICU on the tenth floor. Being on a ventilator means that I always end up the ICU whenever I am hospitalized.

While in the ICU, they had to take the dreaded blood work. Whenever I need blood, I am usually subjected to numerous needle pokes until a decent vein can be located. I always end up feeling like a human pin cushion. This time was no diffrerent. After much poking, and the attempts of three different people, a vein was found in my wrist and thtey got the blood.

The results of the blood work showed very low potassium levels. Low potassium is dangerous for the heart. I was given potassium to boost my levels. The next day they had to take more blood. The vein in my wrist had collapsed, so they had to do more searching and poking. Finally they found a good vein on my foot. The results showed that my potassium levels were now too high. I could not be sent home until my potassium levels were normal. That meant one more night in the hospital, and more blood draws. Lucky for me, the vein in my foot was so good they were able to use it for all additional blood draws.

The next morning, I found out that my potassium levels were back to normal and I was given the green light to go home. I was glad to get out of there.

My stay was not too bad, though it was boring. All I did was sleep, and watch television. The good thing was that the selection of television channels was decent. During the day my mother sat with me, and Ernie, my nurse stayed the nights. My sister spent a few hours with me my last evening there. I always need someone with me when in the hospital because I can't press the call button, and the nurses are too busy with other patients to be there all the time. The nurses appreciate the extra help. The nurses were pleasant and professional. They were attentive, and turned me often to prevent bed sores. Even the respiratory therapists and doctors were friendly. They all had a good bedside manner. My night nurse for both nights, Fidel, was especially friendly and tried to make my stay as pleasant as possible.

I was glad that my hospital stay was short, and that I was in for something that turned out to not be life-threatening. But anything concerning the heart is scary,especially when you don't know what is happening at first. It is humbling to think that the beats of that fist-sized organ in my chest is all that is between me and oblivion. It is highly likely that my heart episode was brought on by the Tetracaine, and not due to some worsening heart condition . For that, I breathe a big sigh of relief.