You’ll probably have to zoom in on these images, but do any of the drug labels on my IV pole look familiar to you?
You may have heard of these drugs before, but you might not beware that they are also used in the critical care treatment of severe asthma exacerbations, what they call status asthmaticus. These are just some of the potent IV drugs that were running into my veins during my Hospitalization back in October, and indeed during many of my hospitalizations. They’ll often infuse blood pressure controlling drugs and various other non-narcotic fluids as well.
Ketamine ( or Special K as its known in certain circles) is a not only strong anesthetic drug, but its also a potent bronchodilator. It’s sometimes used to treat difficult asthma in the intensive care setting.
Precedex though not a party drug that Im aware of, is used to keep patients sedated while intubated and sometimes after extubation.
Fentanyl, another drug that gets a bad rap because of illicit use and addictive nature, is a strong short-acting opiate drug that is often used in the hospital setting to quell acute breathlessness and air hunger in patients with severe lung disease, including asthma.
Propofol, which was spot lighted after Michael Jackson overdosed on it, is another powerful anesthetic drug that’s used to sedate a patients during intubation.
When nebs and steroids don’t work, these drugs can be life savers for those in the trawls of a severe asthma exacerbation.
But even when used as indicated, these drugs carry a lot of side effect. Some of them, especially Ketamine, can cause mental issues when they wear off, such as hallucinations and feelings of detachment from reality. Basically, they can make you feel high or stoned, but not necessarily in a pleasant way. These drugs can also affect your blood pressure, so they’re usually only given in a closely monitored environment such as an ICU.
One of the side effects Ive noticed over an over again when being treated with these drugs, is that they seem to make me more prone to bouts of psychosis and delirium, especially when Im in the ICU. Its hard to pinpoint what specific drug or combination of drugs, or other factors such as fatigue and sleep deprivation might contribute to this delirium, but Im sure that high steroids makes those side efftcs even worse.
During this particular hospitalization where I had to be intubated twice because of tiring out after the first extubation, I was doing remarkably well doing well until the 2 days later when suddenly out of the blue I started hallucinating, got paranoid and pretty much lost touch with reality for about 6 hours.
It was around 10 pm, just after they had dimmed the lights in the ICU, that I started fixating on the Nursing station and the people in it. If you’ve never been in an intensive care unit, the rooms are usually set up in manner where they face outward toward the Nursing stations or the desks where the Nurses sit so that they can observe and monitor you. From the patients perspective however, it’s like being in a fish bowl or a glass cage looking out, where the only view you have is the Nursing station area. So while the medical staff are peering into your world, if you’re awake, you can’t help but to peer into theirs.
Getting back to my delirium, from my vantage point it was kinda like watching a play where the characters were doing a scene in someone’s living room. As I fixated on the activity going on in the nursing station, it appeared to me that a bunch of them kept going into a back room behind the station. In my mind I thought they were going in there to get high and were secretly recording some sort of music video (Yup, I was slightly delirious.) When I confronted my Nurse about this he got very defensive and dismissive, which only made me more paranoid. I demanded to see the Nursing supervisor and when she finally arrived, I told her I don’t mind what the Nursing staff does during their breaks, but I that didn’t want to be involved in anything illegal. I demanded that they release me and threatened to call 911 if they held me against my will. At that point all I remember is feeling like they were trying to kidnap me. It seemed so real, because after all….I was in their living room! Finally I yelled out…Go ahead and kill me, Im going to die from this disease anyway. Next thing I know, they’re putting more drugs into my vein which took the fight right out me. I woke up 6 hours later and was back in my right mind self trying to figure out what had just happened.
These are just a few of the many medications that most people don’t realize are used in the treatment of life threatening asthma exacerbations and severe lung disease. Bad effects or not, I for one am certainly happy they’ve been available to me when I needed them.