Saturday, November 08, 2008

Journal of a Living Lady #334

Nancy White Kelly

The Living Lady is currently a resident of the Intensive Care Unit of a near-by hospital. This is my fourth day tubally attached to oxygen, pouches of blood, various antibiotics, and an ugly yellow bag. What began as routine replacement surgery for a badly damaged knee turned into a medical nightmare.

The orthopedic surgery went great. I awakened about three hours later in a regular room surrounded by family and friends. A routine pain pump was attached to my arm to administer pain medication at steady intervals. I had some pain, but nothing unbearable. Buddy went on home later after a long day that had started at 4:00 a.m.

A few hours later, I began to violently vomit. My limbs railed and thrashed. I had no control whatsoever of my muscles or bodily functions. Even with the new knee attached to a heavy, therapeutic, rowing machine, I kicked it around as easily as a piece of foam.

My muddled mind was still functioning, but only short phrases could be uttered, mostly “Help me, help me, please.”

The room gradually filled with staff. They cautiously backed up to the wall watching wide-eyed, and each asking the other if they have ever seen anything such as this. No one had. The on-duty doctor was phoned for instructions. In the meanwhile, an anesthesiologist who was attending a lady-in-waiting was unexpectedly called down for a code. It was three a.m.

In the midst of my unending thrashing, the number of spectators grew. The anesthesiologist asked me rapid-fire questions. I could only muster syllabic answers in a raucous voice. This was not me.

My body thrust forward as if doing unending sit-ups. My trembling hands rattled the bed railings. The crook of my inside elbows helplessly looped the trapeze bar above the bed only to jerk away again and again.

I knew what was going on, but was powerless to stop the frenzy. The doctors administered one drug after another to no avail. I felt like I was on the brink of dying.

In time, my exhausted body gave out. I awakened in ICU. The doctors informed me that I had apparently suffered a heart attack from the strenuous physical battle.
The current medical consensus is that I had a drug reaction from the medication in the pain pump that reacted to yet another drug. Several drugs had been administered before, during and following the surgery that day. You can be sure almost all those drugs are on my forever “no-no” list.

In the meanwhile, my new knee has patiently awaited physical therapy which was delayed. It is difficult now to lift my stapled leg even one inch off the bed without intense pain. The therapist assures me this is not a big problem and that we will make good progress in the days ahead.

Again, the Living Lady lives to write another day. Someday you will read my obituary, but not this time.


Bob Cleveland said...

Oh wow, lady. Does anything EVER go routinely for you? Or HAS this gotten to be routine?

I had a knee replaced a couple years ago and that's now my preferred leg. Just do all the therapy exercises.

As for those extracurricular exercises, that sounds like me, yesterday, when they did a CAT scan preparatory to making me up for radiation treatments. See, there was this catheter thing involved....

Patrick said...

Great, informative post. Your readers might be interested to know that numerous studies have indicated that pain pumps, which are often inserted into arteries after surgery, can cause severe damage to cartilage, especially in the shoulder. This can cause a condition known as Postarthroscopic Glenohumeral Chrondrolysis (PAGCL), which causes severe pain and requires significant medication. If you believe you have suffered as a result of a pain pump, such as On-Q and Marcaine pumps, or you may be entitled to compensation for your injury. Learn more and obtain a free case evaluation from the renowned law firm of Parsons Behle & Latimer at