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      Some time back I read a book called The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559. One thread I picked out as particularly clear was their explanation of the effects of gunpowder. The first bit is what as known as pike and shot. Early gunpowder weapons were slow and inaccurate. But late medieval pike units had already changed warfare: not only could they […]
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A thing that happened.

I’ve been absent for awhile. I’m still here but working on something else. But I had a thing that happened to me this past Wednesday that I thought I might share.

For anyone who knows me and hasn’t heard about this yet, don’t worry. Every thing is fine now. I’m all right. I just thought I’d share this because it does sort of touch on things we cover in this blog.

Last Wednesday, I was scheduled to get a CT scan with contrast. I get them about every six months. It’s routine. My doctors are keeping an eye on something. It’s just a nuisance, not anything bad.

So, I get to the radiology center a few minutes late. I was behind a bus for a good part of the drive and then I got every ]#%ing red light. You know how it is when you are trying to be punctual? Suddenly the world seems uncooperative? It was that kind of morning.

Anyway, I got there a bit late so other people were able to jump the line. I waited an extra 30 minutes before they took me back for my contrast IV. How it works is they take a CT scan without contrast, then they push contrast through the IV and take another scan. Contrast iz weird. It feels warm when it enters the body and makes you think that you’ve wet the bed. Very weird sensation.

Usually, they test your kidney function before the IV. If it doesn’t meet a threshold, the contrast is not administered. I’ve had a half dozen contrast IVs and never had any problems. Maybe that’s why they skipped the kidney function test. I should have drunk a gallon of water before the IV but I guess I just don’t take this stuff as seriously as I used to. That’s a good thing and a bad thing.

So I get the IV and they roll me into the CT and everything is ticketyboo and all is going just as expected. Then they roll me out and push the contrast into my IV. Immediately, I feel the warmth coursing through my veins. Not unusual except this time it feels a lot warmer than it usually does. No biggy. A few minutes later, the scan is done, they roll me out, take the IV out and send me on my way. Ta-da!

I get in my car and turn onto the main road in front of the hospital when all of the sudden, my back starts to itch like crazy. Ahh, maybe I’m having an allergic reaction. Hmmm, well it’s probably not serious. I’ll just get some Benadryl on the way home and call the radiology center. About a half mile later, my face starts to feel warm. I wasn’t expecting that. But I thought it was just another mild allergic reaction.

I’ll bet you can see where this is going.

About five minutes later, my eyes had almost swelled shut and I was starting to see flashing lights in front of my eyes, like the kind you see just before you pass out. I used Siri to call my favorite Republican. Um, I don’t know what’s happening but I think I’m having a severe allergic reaction and I don’t think I’m going to make it home. I’m turning into the Eat n’ Park because I think I’m going to pass out. I parked my car, opened my door and threw up until I had dry heaves. Then I called my boss and told him I was probably going to miss my early meetings. Then I passed out.

The next thing I knew, there was a paramedic banging on my window. I don’t know how long I’d been out. He asked if I needed help. I said I did. He opened the door and pointed to the gurney. That’s when I realized that I could barely walk. I didn’t know what I was doing. He helped me to the gurney and hurried me into the ambulance. Before I knew it, the EMT on my left had slid an IV into my hand and started giving me Benedryl. I tried to answer their questions but a strange lassitude unrelated to the Benedryl had come over me. I was floating. The EMT on my right slapped my right hand and told me to stay awake. He was talking to the ER about whether to give me epinephrine. That was all I remembered until the ambulance got to the hospital.

Then there was noise and movement and people all around me. A nurse looked at my hand and said, “oh wow, your fingers are purple. Look at her face. That’s really swollen.” I was hoping it wasn’t permanent.

They wheeled my gurney somewhere and I felt a BP cuff on my arm while I verified my vaccine status with a PA. She put a mask on me and started cursing when the blood pressure cuff kept reading 80/50. She went to get another cuff. In the meantime, another nurse tried to give me another IV but gave up in frustration and just used the one the EMT had started. I started to get really cold and shivered so hard the gurney shook. The PA said she was going to give me a massive dose of Benedryl and steroids. “See you on the other side.” I was out in seconds.

Three hours later…

I started coming around. I felt a lot better. The itching had stopped, my eyes were starting to be functional again. A doctor was checking me out.

“You had an anaphylaxis reaction to the contrast. No more contrast for you. EVER. You should be good to go in about an hour”.

That’s when I took a good look at my surroundings.

I wasn’t in the ER. I was in the HALLWAY to the ER. I was lined up against the wall with a row of other people on gurneys. The ER didn’t have room for us. All the stuff they did was in the hallway. A harried nurse came by and said “you don’t need this anymore” and she reached under my shirt, grabbed a handful of EKG leads and yanked them out of the sensor pads. “Sorry”, she said, “I need this. Can you take the pads off yourself?” And off she went running down the hall.

An hour later, they sat me up, made sure I could walk, and sent me to the ER waiting room for my ride. I felt ok for the most part. They’d given me Benedryl, steroids and Pepcid. I could tell I was still swollen like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man but I’d be fine. I took a look around me and the waiting room was full of people with masks, struggling to breathe. I decided to wait for my ride outside.

What I learned: 1.) Covid is keeping the ERs around here very busy and full. 2.) anaphylactic shock enables you to jump the queue.

Not sure if that’s helpful or not but I thought I’d pass it along.

I saw it first hand.

I’m fine. Really.

14 Responses

  1. What an absolutely dreadful experience! I am so sorry! I am very glad that you somehow got through it!

    In a few weeks, I am going to have surgery to remove a skin cancer from the back of my scalp. I have always tended to be at risk for them, since I have fair skin, and played and swam in the sun, before people realized how dangerous that could be. Anyway, this will need a skin graft, and general anesthesia, which I do not want, but the plastic surgeon thinks that it would be too painful to do under local/ But that begs the question (yes, I know, Propertius, it is not the proper archaic meaning), of, isn’t it going to hurt a lot after?. Then there is the matter of being sure that it is all removed. I would love to avoid this experience, but it would not be a good idea. i don’t know when it will be, probably within the next two or three weeks. i know that the things you have gone through in the last few years were far worse, but none of it is fun, of course.

    • Probably won’t hurt as much as you think. My multiple surgeries didn’t hurt much after I woke up. My last surgery was a long one and I lost a bit more blood than they intended so when I came around, I felt like crap for about a week. But oddly, not much pain. I dunno, maybe I tolerate pain well. But then I think, labor was horrific. So maybe it’s the way they treat pain these days. Also, the advice I got was if they give you pain meds, don’t wait until you have a lot of pain before you take them. Take them as soon as it starts to be noticeable. Catching it early prevents it from being bad later and helps you wean yourself off of them. The pain is only triggered early after surgery. It’s going to go away on its own after a day or two. But if you take your meds before it gets really painful in those first couple of days, you’ll recover more quickly. I hope that makes sense.
      Anyway, I’m betting it won’t be as bad as you think. The general is probably because local wears off unpredictably. You don’t want to be fidgeting while they are stitching you up. Better to be out. The thing about general is that depending what they give you and how long you are under, it can make you feel yucky.
      Just plan to sleep it off and stick to a protein drink or brothy soup. And plenty of water.

      • Thanks, RD :). Because there is not much skin around the crown of the scalp, I am told it is very hard to stitch up, which is why the skin graft in that area is preferred, and presumably not noticeable. So two areas to throb afterwards, but I will take your advice on the pain medications, though i have usually tried to avoid them. And yes, it is said that women do have a higher pain threshold than men, which a I guess is good to have if necessary. I will stock up on chicken soups, and i have very many bottles of water, which I bought when I did not know how long we would have to stay inside.

        I hope you are feeling completely well after that horrific episode!

  2. Jesus. I’m glad you’re okay, but that must have been terrifying.

  3. Sorry to hear about this, but glad to hear you are fine.

  4. Make sure you get CT contrast put as an allergy in your medical chart, preferably the electronic record. Even if you easily remember it now, someday when you’re old, you might not. And if you were unconscious you couldn’t tell anyone either.
    I made up patients charts in the past and would spend a lot of time investigating allergies like this, sometimes having to read CT reports closely to determine if an allergic reaction occurred.

    • I already updated it on my iPhone and called the radiology department to report the reaction. Yep, I’m right with you there. So not good.

      • Next time you’re at that hospital having something done, ask if it’s in the record. Radiology might not have updated your allergies, it can easily fall through the cracks.

  5. So glad you got through the experience safely!! Yikes!

  6. Another random thought: All this “Omicron is *mild*” bull^%$# is getting a whole bunch of people killed. Lebensunwertes Leben seems to be the way we’re rolling these days.

  7. I hope you both (RD & Wills) get well soon. I must prepare to go to work now.

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