Dad visited the doctor a few days back and had 2 liters of fluid drained from his belly. The doctor pointed toward liver problems as the likely source, prescribed some medications (3 pills), and scheduled some diagnostic procedures and a follow-up appointment for next week.
Last night (after having taken his first dose of the medications) Mom called me around 11pm, telling me that Dad wasn’t doing so well and wanted to go to the emergency room.
For those of you familiar with my Dad you know this is bad — really bad. Dad hates doctors and he hates hospitals even more. The last time he was in the ER was when he cut his arm with a chainsaw 20-some years ago. He’s been very vocal about wanting to “die at home”, not in some hospital surrounded by strangers. For him to be asking to go to the ER is almost beyond comprehension.
Dad has always avoided imposing on anyone for anything — and he doesn’t like people to see him when he’s sick. For Dad to have Mom call me — 20+ minutes away — and ask for my help to take him to the hospital… well, yeah, you can see what I mean.
When I arrived he wasn’t breathing well, was dizzy, nauseated, and had been vomiting. He couldn’t stand by himself, let alone walk anywhere, not even to the restroom.
Mom and I helped him get his coat on and to his feet, then had him hold on to me, piggy-back style to provide balance and support while we walked down the stairs and to the car. He threw up twice in that short trip — not a lot, but it was still concerning.
We got him and Mom in the car and made it to the ER. Once there we were triaged and admitted quickly. The ER doctor that helped us Dr. Bass, a Southern Gentleman originally from Louisiana.
They gave him a shot for the nausea, then a pill for the dizziness. They took some blood work, ran an EKG, and listened to his heart and found an abnormal heartbeat (aortal fibrillation). This could be contributing to the dizziness and possibly to the water build-up. A referral to a cardiologist was provided.
They ran a CT scan and found no blockages, stroke, or bleeds — all good. Dad commented that he didn’t think they’d find any “cats with they scanned” him. His dry humor returning was a good sign.
Within 30 minutes he was feeling much better. No longer nauseated and dizziness returning to his “normal” levels. Blood work came back clear. It was actually better than the tests they’d run the day (or so) prior.
As soon as a urine sample could be provided and tested it came back okay, too.
Dad started complaining of a pain in his right ear. The doctor looked and didn’t find any problems, but looking with the scope caused Dad significant pain. Turns out it was the joint where the jaw connects to right by the ear — probably caused by “sleeping on it wrong”. Another half-hour after he changed positions to lay on his back the pain in the ear was all but gone.
After having researched the three medications Dad had just started taking, a couple of them have side-effects that include dizziness, tiredness, shortness of breath, even feinting. With no other obvious culprits showing up in the tests, that was the most likely cause. Any change we can get the pharmaceutical company to pay for the ER visit because of the side-effects of their medication?
During the adventure Dad’s mood improved, he smiled at jokes, and he even found time to sing some of those sappy old country-western songs like he’s been known to do.
Almost ready to discharge him, the doctor wanted to check his blood pressure first. 85/59. Too low.
They hooked him up to a saline IV and tried again. Same thing.
They hooked him up to another saline IV and tried again. Same thing.
The doctor tried to get a second opinion from the hospital’s admitting doctor to see if he should be admitted, or sent home.
Finally, they took a manual pressure reading, this time it was 90-something over 60-something. Still low, but no longer in the danger zone. The doctor asked what we wanted to do. I recapped:
- No longer vomiting
- No longer nauseated
- Able to stand on his own
- Ear-ache is all but gone
- Dizziness has returned to “normal” levels
- Blood-pressure has been stable for the last several hours — though lower than we’d like
- Tests all came back clear
- Medication that had been started the day before the onset of symptoms included side-effects including the presenting symptoms
Dad piped up: “I think I can go home”. Good enough.
They prepped the discharge papers and Dad was back home, in bed around 6:30am. Mom said he slept until 10 or 11am — which is really good for Dad. He was doing pretty well this morning when I talked to him.
I advised them to call the Doctor that prescribed the 3 medications to see if they should adjust the dosage, change it, or stop taking one or more of them.
So, there you have it. Now I won’t have to tell the story every time someone in the family asks. 🙂