What a crazy a week, I ended up back in the hospital. On the one hand this is a bad thing, however, I also got a lot of other important things accomplished during the time spent there.
First off, the primary reason for my hospitalization were my lungs of corse. Seems like I never fully recovered from the previous months asthma flare. As hard as I tried to be proactive and self treat, I just couldn’t get over the hump. After a month of getting progressively more short of breath each day, my Pulmo, and PCP both recommended I quit messing around go in for treatment. Thankfully I made it to the ER before things got really bad and avoided an intubation. I total I spent 8 days in the hospital. 5 of them in the ICU and 3 in the stepdown unit.
While breathing always takes precedence over my other health issues, I had some pending medical procedures that would eventually require inpatient hospitalization to get done. Because my asthma stabilized fairly fast this time, it seemed like a good opportunity to get other things done. Namely dilation surgery for my throat and some and allergy some testing to see if I was still allergic to Penicillin. I had severe anaphylaxis as a teenager, so have never been able to take the drug since.
3 days into this hospitalization for asthma, I was deemed stable enough to have my 5th dilation surgery done for my glottic stenosis. My ENT figured that since I was already in the hospital and was already scheduled for test less than 2 weeks out, they would take advantage of my inpatient status and just do it while I was here.
The surgery went well and my upper airway is fully open again, but shortly after returning to my room I developed severe shortness of breath. I was oxygenating OK, but my lungs got so tight it felt like I couldn’t move any air. It was bad….probably the most short of breath I’ve ever experienced during an acute attack. No how hard I tried I couldn’t exhale, a scary feeling. It got so bad that they had to call the “Rapid Response” team to check me out. I’m not too clear on what happened next, but apparently I started decompensating and became more and more unresponsive, so they escalated the call to a “Code Blue”. The next thing I remember is waking up in the 6th floor ICU on non invasive ventilation. As a precaution they kept me in the ICU for another 24 hours. By the following morning I was breathing well enough to come off the Bipap, the continuous Albuterol and even the oxygen. Later that day I was transferred out of the unit and back to the stepdown ward…. for the 2nd time. Here’s the actual medical record of the event. UCSF’s Rapid Response is the best!
Next up on the to-do list was the Penicillin Challenge. Again, because I was in the ICU following the previous day’s respiratory scare, my Immunologist/Allergist thought the timing was right to test me for the Penicillin allergy. She actually came in on a Sunday afternoon to do it, which was pretty nice of her. Anyways, like many many people, I have a history of a severe reaction to penicillin as a child, but never knew if that was still the case and wanted to find out. Since I was already hooked up to monitors and was being closely watched, they decided that in addition to the penicillin testing, that they would do the full range of allergy skin tests, mostly on my forearms and back.
As was expected, I had no severe reaction to the amoxicillin trial. As is the case for over 80% of people who had a bad reaction to penicillin as child, I outgrew mine and am no longer allergic to it. This is important because if I need penicillin type of antibiotics in the future, I can take the best form of it and not have to rely on the more potent, more expensive ones. Not too mention antibiotic resistance problems. So, if you had a penicillin allergy that occurred at least 30 years ago, or as a young child, chances are you’re not allergic to it anymore either. It’s just good to know.
I did however, test highly positive to grass pollens, dust mites and a few other things, which is pretty much expected in people who have asthma. Oddly, my response to these same allergens in the blood allergy tests all came back negative except for Johnson grass, whatever the hell is( false negatives?)
Ah, but leave it to this asthmatic to have a odd reaction to something. Nothing weird happened while they were doing the skin tests, but 12 hours after receiving the amoxicillin my whole body broke out in the hives. 5 days later I still had them, but was able to control the itching with Zrytec and Benedryl. A delayed allergic reaction to the Amoxicillin? Who know, but at least hives can be treated, and I can still the penicillin if I need to in a pinch.
Per my Immunologist…..” Dear Steve, Hmm, it does sound like it could be a delayed reaction to the skin testing although I’m not sure why it’s coming back for several days. The itching may be worsening as the prednisone wears off. Sometimes allergic reactions are a combination of all of the factors that affect the allergic threshold – the allergens we tested, the stress on your body from the hospitalizations, the extra medications you were on, etc. So, it may be the combination of things causing your itching and rash. Let me know if isn’t better with the zyrtec, cortisone cream, and benadryl!”
Ive now been out of the hospital for a full week, am breathing better and slowly weaning off the oral steroids. Ive also started to do some of the exercises that the Physical Therapist developed for me while in the hospital to strengthen my upper body and arms. In the next few days I hope to start ramping up my walking for a race Im doing in Nevada just 3 weeks from now. We’ll see how it goes.