Getting (my wife) Healthy

January 16, 2008

Sorry I haven’t written much here in the past week or so.  Last week my wife became very ill with what started as a viral infection two weeks ago and was compounded by an unusual strain of pneumonia.  Her pain level was about a 8 or 9 on a 10-point scale after multiple Dr’s appts (where they missed the pneumonia), I took her to the ER where an X-ray confirmed it.  This was the same woman who took bare minimum painkillers in 2 C-Section deliveries and was off painkillers a day after each birth.  At 4am on Saturday, a combo of painkillers, anti-histamine, and antibiotics were administered, and we went home. 

The next day, the painkillers caused a severe histamine response which yes, you guessed it – attacked her joints and caused her to break out in hives all over.  So two days ago, we were back to the ER when she started having trouble breathing.  The Dr’s narrowed down the offending class of painkillers, prescribed an anti-inflammatory and inhaler and she’s doing better now.

This has been one of the scariest experiences of my life.  We’re young- in our early 30s and I haven’t set foot in an ER more than twice in the last 15 years.  Our sons thankfully are healthy and outside the occasional cold or flu, we’ve never had to deal with the medical industry in our adult lives outside a short visit or checkup.

A few things I learned throughout all of this:

  • Have Family Emergency Information Organized in one Place – My wife had changed primary care physicians and mentioned in passing in a conversation but I missed which made it harder to get a clear picture to give the Drs.  Have all pertinent Dr’s info (including past Dr’s) written up with phone #’s, medical group, dates the Dr. was seeing you etc.  Even more important is any known allergens and have a good family history. 
  • Know who you can call to watch the kids/pet in an emergency – Do you know who you would call at 1am? Our very good friends came over at 1am to watch the boys while we went to the ER before family arrived.  For extended care, fortunately, a family member flew in to help with the kids so I could focus on Nickie. 
  • Take Control of the Situation if the one who is sick cannot – After seeing five Dr’s over this, my Type-A wife wasn’t making sound decisions while on painkillers which meant I had to take control of the situation.  I called in a family member who is a Harvard-educated Family Dr on the east coast. When he offered to speak to the attending Dr., I politely asked the ER doc to speak to him as he had been the only consistent Dr. monitoring.  Taking ego into account so you don’t appear to be questioning his/her diagnosis and he gladly obliged.  Talking to my Uncle later put me at great ease.
  • If you aren’t getting the Medical Service you need, go elsewhere – If you don’t trust your Dr. or believe that he/she is working in your best interest, find another Dr.  Dr’s offices where you’re regularly shuttled to a "partner Dr." to be seen in emergencies in my opinion should be a warning sign.  Good Dr’s manage their schedule to allow time for last-minute/emergency patients.
  • If you do have respiratory illness – wear a mask! Yes, you look goofy but it’s good protocol and courteous to others- it’ other patients were administering masks to people who were coughing with dirty looks.   In today’s hyper-connected world, you never know what people might have.
  • Ask questions and document – I am not a Dr. no matter how many episodes of ER I may have seen.  I will have questions – if I don’t, that’s a problem too. Also take notes – I found it difficult to memorize all the new terms and lab counts on the fly.

 

My wife is doing much better now – for those who have been aware, thanks for your well wishes and I’m looking forward to returning to work tomorrow.   If you have other suggestions for above- post them in comments- the top 4 will get invites to xobni (see last post).

5 responses to Getting (my wife) Healthy

  1. 

    Utilize all medical personnel for information, especially the nurses! General questions about a particular situation or disease can often be explained by a nurse to help you get a better understanding. This will prepare you better for the conversations you have with the doctor. If you or a loved one is in the hospital, having someone else present that is not as emotionally attached to the situation can also help with understanding the terminology/situation and asking questions directed towards the medical staff you may not think of.

    I’m glad that your wife is doing better now and you are working to help others be prepared ahead of time.

  2. 

    Thanks Mark- and thanks to everyone who reached out via email/FB/IM. Nickie’s doing much better now and I’m optimistic by next week thinks will return to normal.

  3. 

    Sean — So glad your wife is doing better now! Makes you appreciate normalcy! Your experience here inspired me to do something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile — finally dig into Microsoft HealthVault and start recording my information and sharing it with my partner.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and spurring others to proactively take charge of their medical affairs before something happens.

  4. 

    Thanks for the tip on HealthVault Paul!

  5. 

    If you ask for something from a nurse/Dr. and they have not done anything within a reasonable amount of time, KEEP ASKING! My brother has cancer so we have been in the hospital a lot, and anytime he needed something, we had to ask the nurse a couple of times before he/she would do anything. I understand that we are not the only patients in the hospital so you may forget from time to time. But don’t feel bad reminding them. 🙂