So on May 23rd, just days after proudly declaring how I had managed to keep my asthma under control and stay out of the hospital for a full 5 months, my good luck streak came crashing down and I ended up back in the hospital sicker than Ive been in a long time . (Below is the actual hospital discharge summary, which is pretty self-explanatory).
In total, I spent 13 days in the Intensive Care Unit, 8 of those on a ventilator. I picked up a ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP) and developed what they call a Metabolic Encephalopathy along with some eye problems.
I don’t remember much of the first 9 days except having horrible non-stop nightmares that I couldnt awaken from. But according to Douglas and my doctors, the sequence of hospital events goes something like this………..
Following a 12 hour effort of trying to break the attack at home, which began a day earlier, I was admitted to the hospital on May 23rd and intubated later that afternoon for status asthmaticus and impending resp failure. I was extubated 3 days later on the 26th, but after just a short time off the ventilator my ABGs started to looked terrible again, so they had to re- intubate me. I was then extubated a second time on May 29th. My ABGs the second time around remained stable, but apparently a few hours later I started getting very restless and combative and then my whole body would suddenly go completely limp. After this happened several more times, they thought I was having seizures or a stoke , so they re- intubated me yet again as a precaution and carted me over to the Neurology dept. for a complete brain work up. (Hence waking up with this glue like substance all over my head). The EEG and CT of my head came back normal, so they extubated me for a third and final time on June 1st. After this last extubation I did fine breathing wise.
Regarding the Neuro thing, the current thinking is that I might have had a reaction to the steroids or one of the sedative medications, which has happened before , but not to this degree. Fortunately, my brain issues resolved quickly once I successfully came off the ventilator the third and final time. Other than the hospital induced weakness, wobbly legs and some lingering amnesia, I seem to be doing ok now that Im home.
But it’s not just the lungs that are affected by these severe bouts, did you know that every time I go through multiple or prolonged intubations, I have to basically re-learn to walk? I don’t mean re-training for a competitive walk, I mean I loose the ability to stand up and put foot one foot in front of the other without falling over. The drugs used to keep you knocked out while on a ventilator can cause profound muscle weakness and wasting. If this goes on for more than a day or two, the problem gets compounded. Ive been out of the hospital for almost 4 days now, and can just now barely walk again without tripping over my own feet or requiring a walker. Yes, this disease can suck in more ways than the obvious ones.
So many complications, all because of a very common condition known as asthma. One thing’s for sure, after this latest attack Im starting to feel less and less invincible. Despite staying physically fit and receiving the best possible medical care, at age 63 Im beginning to wonder if nothing more than sheer luck has kept me from dying from this disease. A view which is completely different from just a year ago.