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More Fainting: Another Crisis Averted

Posted by on June 22, 2010 in IL-2, Immunotherapies (IL-2, IL-15, PD-1s, etc.), Medical Procedures and Other Drugs, My Health Updates - No comments


As usual, this whole disaster could have been avoided if everyone had just listened to me.  — Dena Battle

Despite my best efforts, the various folks at Duke who make the appointments did not listen to me and scheduled Chris’s last appointment yesterday for the afternoon rather than the morning.  That’s problematic because as we all know, doctors are always running behind.  This day being no exception, we didn’t get in to see our doctor until after 5:00.  The result was a chain reaction of complications that made for a very unpleasant evening.

First, when we arrived at the hospital, it was too late to get our first dose if IL-2.  Second, some of our paperwork was missing, which caused us to miss our second dose as well.

They were able to get a picc line put in, but then had trouble scheduling the x-ray needed to insure that the picc line had in fact not been inserted directly into Chris’s heart.  The malfunctioning telemetry machine (which measures heart rate, etc.) was blaring constantly — suggesting that something was wrong with Chris’s heart and causing the medical staff to suspect that the picc line might in fact have been inserted directly into his heart.

Once we got the x-ray, the oncology nursing staff decided that the picc line should indeed be readjusted. The picc line staff disagreed.  “It is in the optimal location,” they asserted.  The oncology staff, however, countered that something was causing his heart to palpitate in an unseemly fashion, and the picc line was the only new factor that could be causing it.

At this point, it was about 4:00 am.  Moving the picc line did nothing to fix the malfunctioning telemetry machine which continued to blare at random intervals. It did, however, agitate Chris, as the picc nurse had to strip the bandages from his harm and kept pressing against the catheter running through his arm in order to pull it back. After all this, he finally fell asleep at around 4:30 or 5:00 am.

At 6:00 though, I heard him get up.  Fortunately, at around that time, the nurse popped in too.  She said, “Are you ok?”  He said, “I feel a little dizzy.”  She said, “I think you should get back in bed.” Which is when he fainted.  Flat out cold.

There was commotion.  There were bells being buzzed. There were people running in.  The telemetry machine blared.  I woke up. Somebody kept telling Chris to keep his eyes open and soon the group managed to get him off the floor and back into bed.

“How many doses has he had?” barked one of the various nurses. “Uhm, none,” I awkwardly told them.  This created more distress among the medical team.  They started talking about stress tests and heart tests, some kind of stand-up sit-down test — which sounded vaguely like a game they play in kindergarten.  Then they all left. And Chris went back to sleep.  I sat in my chair worrying.

About an hour later, Dr. Morse, who runs the IL-2 clinic stopped by.  I like Dr. Morse — he’s a no-nonsense guy.  He’s more conservative than our oncologist, Dr. George, however. Dr. George is an aggressive, let’s carpet bomb these tumors kind of a guy — which I also like. Dr. George’s job it to focus on killing the cancer; Dr. Morse’s is to ensure the toxicity of the treatment does kill the patient.

Dr. Morse apologized for the paperwork problem and said that we could get right to business and start with the first dose at 10:00, but he asked if there had been any problems that he should know about.  I hesitated, “Well, other than the fainting episode?”

He paused and looked at Chris.  “You passed out?  Seriously?”

He seemed irriated, which I appreciated because frankly I was irriated by the whole thing too.  I mentioned that a barrage of tests including musical chairs had been ordered.  Dr. Morse waived those off and said he’d have them cancelled.  “Look, it’s probably not a brain tumor and I doubt it’s a pulmunary embolism. Sometimes people faint. Let’s get going.”  I like this Dr. Morse.

Last night was no fun, but we were able to laugh a little about it today.  Some people (Chris) might look at it as an inauspicious beginning.  (He seemed a little irritated too.) I on the other hand figure it can’t get much worse than last night, right?  I’m pretty sure I’m right.  (If you’re doubtful, just refer back to the quote at the beginning).

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