Still a Single Road at Times

Aside

In 2013, my second post was very short.  It was entitled “As single road at times”.

My posts back then were very short.  They were a lot about how I was feeling, how we were learning to live with this condition strange new called Primary Adrenal Insufficiency (Addison’s Disease).

It was May 2013 that I began to Blog.  In the last 6 years a lot of things have changed.  But a lot have stayed the same, we have just learned to accept them and adjust to them.

Going to live performances, etc alone has become a new normal.  I buy 2 tickets, and find someone to join me if Derek isn’t up to it.  This could be a big show, or one that our children are performing in.  Adjusting things so that we can go together has also become a “thing”.  Whether that is by buying a matinée performance ticket instead of a night time one, or making sure he has a full day of rest, including a sleep, we will do what we need to, to keep going.

In May last year Derek had a set back.  It was serious but it wasn’t obvious.  A few blood tests went haywire for no obvious reason, he became a lot more tired than normal, and other subtle differences occurred.  Despite this we carried on with life.  We continued planning our big adventure overseas.

We did the trip.  It was extremely tiring on Derek.  We did a lot of walking with him using a walking stick constantly.  We would walk, stop for coffee, walk, stop for a cold drink, walk, stop for a few photos, walk, stop for an ice cream (they make great ice cream in Europe).  You get the picture.

Derek has been more tired than usual since getting home.  It’s now 6 months since the trip and he is still a lot more tired than he was before May last year.  So we have made more adjustments.

We have learned from that trip that you have to choose the fight.  So now, if we are going out and we know it will be stressful, or very tiring on Derek, we use a wheelchair for him.    After borrowing one for an evening we knew would be too hard on him without, he finally agreed that he really did need it.  But not all the time, just for the harder events.  It means that sometimes he can go out, and we can enjoy ourselves together.   I still go out on my own because he is not up to it.  Or we cancel our plans because I don’t want to go alone.

What we thought was just residual tired from the trip appears to not be that at all.  After having more “crazy blood tests” we began to wonder.  We have now looked at his bloods for the last 12 months, what ever is wrong, has been wrong since his various blood levels went haywire in April/May last year.  But that’s ok, there is nothing we can do except keep an eye on his levels so that is what we do.

The reason we know things have not be right since May is that we keep track of all his blood tests.  We don’t need to go the Doctor to ask, we can see.  We know the symptoms, we know the signs and we can see his “normal” is changing and not for the better.

Having said that, in the words of a good friend who writes an amazing blog, he is clearly alive and will remain so.

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The Half-life of Facts

Aside

I was watching QI this morning. It’s a show where the facts are “Quite Interesting”, and generally obscure.

This morning the episode said something I was so intrigued with, that I rewound it to.
It stated that “At medical college, they usually teach that half of what medical students will learn, will be considered untrue in 10-20 years. This is termed the “half-life of facts”. That is to say that you know that half of the information will be untrue, you just don’t know which half.”

I found that to be Quite Interesting. Enough so that I decided to look the fact up, and see if there was any truth to it.

Samuel Arbesman, a mathematician at Harvard, titled his new book “The Half-life of Facts”. When talking to the Economist, he stated:

For example, in the area of medical science dealing with hepatitis and cirrhosis, two liver diseases, researchers actually measured how long it takes for half of the knowledge in these fields to be overturned. They gave a whole bunch of research papers from fifty years ago to a panel of experts and asked them which were still regarded as true and which had been refuted or no longer considered interesting. They plotted this on a graph. What they found is that there is a nice, smooth rate of decay; you can predict that every 45 years, half of this particular sort of knowledge gets outdated.”

But why am I citing an article in the Economist. Because you probably know a Dr that is still using that 50% of knowledge that is now outdated. Yet they treat you based on that knowledge.

According to Dr. Michael Gold from the Medical University of South Carolina; To paraphrase:

The half-life of medical knowledge is seven years.”

If Dr’s are not keeping up to date, they may be treating you based on what is now outdated knowledge. We have found one such Dr in the guise of the Medical Advisor of one national Advocacy group

He trained 50 years ago. Based on the half-life of facts, if he finished his training in 1970, by 2010, almost 50% of what he learned is outdated. Some of that is “knowledge” is still stating as fact which is on the groups public webiste. When we recently questioned this knowledge (which we showed with research papers to be obsolete) we were told by the Advisor “I don’t care.” (words in writing).

This attitude by the “Medical Avisor” of a major Advocacy Group for a rare condition leads to several questions.

  1. Why is he holding the position? Is it just that it has some kudos?
  2. How does his obsolete knowledge help patients today to live a better life when other Doctor use that “knowledge” to treat the patient.

Knowledge is Power, but obsolete Knowledge is DANGEROUS!

Continuing education is key to good Doctoring. And that continuing education must include reading recent research on the conditions they are treating and accepting that just because it goes against what they have been taught, doesn’t mean it is wrong, or that the Dr researching and promoting the new information is doing it “for ulterior motives”.

Next time you speak to your Dr, ask him the date of the last Research Paper was that they read? If it is before 2000, then there is a better than even chance that half that knowledge is obsolete, or will be in the next couple of years. Ask them if they have heard the term Half-life Of Facts.

Some will agree, others will get upset because they will be reminded that they are not as up to date as they should be, and others will probably refute the statement, or get angry about it. Most likely the latter, are so well past their half-life with knowledge, that they should perhaps be ignored completely.

International Travel with a Chronic Illness

leaving-on-an-aircraft

Our Next Adventure Part 1

Having managed tripping up and down the North Island of New Zealand over the last 4 years, including flying, just to see how it would go, Derek and I want to venture a little further.

The Practice

To begin our preparation for an international flight, the first thing we did was try flying to Auckland.

It required a trip to the Airport, then flying to Auckland, and driving to Hamilton.

Derek took extra medication to fly.  He took extra hydrocortisone for the drive to Hamilton from Auckland.  He then lay down for a long rest when we got to Hamilton.  He also had to rest the next day, but that is normal when we travel any kind of distance.

On the whole, the trip was good.  We listened to others’ advice, had learned what Derek could manage, and when he needed to up dose.

Flying Further

This time we decided to go to Australia.  Originally our first trip overseas was going to be to Sydney or Melbourne for a weekend for a Show. After being offered a trip to Fiji earlier this year, and the realisation that a 2 day trip would be way too hard, we thought a longer trip would be better.  Because a friend with Addison’s was heading from Hong Kong to Brisbane for medical treatment, and we had friends in Brisbane, that was going to be our destination.

We are not the first to travel with chronic illness, and we won’t be the last.  When you look around the cue of people going to the flight, you don’t know who has a chronic illness, who has spent days and weeks preparing, and who has just grabbed a ticket and headed to the airport.

I asked my cousin, who’s husband has several serious medical issues, what they do to take a trip.

Trev just sorts all his medication and I just carry it…never had any problems, I think I have only been asked once and they were good about it. I never carry hospital documents but for you guys being a first since Derek has been sick, just get your GP to write a letter out lining the diagnosis and a list of the medications on the letter. Never really had problems with insurance just be up front about it all, you may not get full cover but shop around. We don`t stress about overseas travel, there is always a hospital where you go if things don`t go to plan. Just relax and enjoy the trip. We are probably not a good example…as we are pretty relaxed about it and just roll with it…lol…isn`t that naughty, but thats just us…great place we have just come back from there.

The trip they had returned from was a trip to celebrate 25 years since “Trev” had an organ transplant.  (By the way, I am totally in favour of organ transplants.  It saves lives, including that of my cousin’s husband so please think about donating organs if the unfortunate need should arise).

Booking the ticket.

We have made the decision to travel over to Australia.

Now What?

Do we need to get permission from the Dr?

We don’t believe so because we went to see her about going to Fiji with a work trip for Derek, and she said no, because of the risk of food poisoning, the possible need for INR while there, and the short time frame.

But she said that if we wanted to travel somewhere else, like Australia or England, then yes, she would make sure we could do it.

We bought the tickets. tickets

When I booked it, I also requested a wheelchair at both ends.  That meant an alert on the ticket booking, and I had to call a number, and speak to someone.

The flight is a Partner flight, which means we are booking through one airline, but the flight is provided through another, so there was a delay while the confirmed that the wheelchair was available.

We knew from experience going places with Derek he could not stand in line long.  He gets very fatigued just waiting at the supermarket, and if there are more than 2 in a line, he has to sit while we wait.

Then there is the timing of the flight.  We could fly out at 11am.  That would mean Derek could wake up as normal, and we could take our time.  But that also meant 9-12 hours flying as we would have to fly from Wellington to Auckland, wait for 2 or more hours, then fly to Brisbane.  We would arrive at night, and it would be a very long day.

That would take more out of him.

Alternatively we could fly out from Wellington at 7am.  And then fly for 4 hours, directly to Brisbane, and land at 8am Brisbane time.

This meant a lot less travel time, but a very early morning.  Derek normally wakes at 6am, takes his first round of HC, then goes back to sleep for an hour while he waits for his meds to kick in.

This trip would mean waking him at 4am to take his first round of HC, Drive to the airport, have breakfast, then check through Customs. (hopefully we haven’t got any fines that hold us back).

So next we book an appointment with the Dr.  We need:

  • A letter for treatment protocol (if he suffers an Adrenal Crisis)
  • A letter confirming he is able to fly (because of Antiphospholipid Syndrome and risk of DVT)
  • A list of medication (it needs to be declared at every port entry and exit).
  • Any meds he may run low on before he leaves, or soon after he gets back.
  • We also need to organise an INR when we land in Australia. This is the bit we are unsure of, but the essential bit to make sure it hasn’t dropped too low while flying, which could mean a blood clot.

Then there is Travel Insurance.

Normally you just buy it when you buy your tickets.  All you need for Australia is cover so if you get waylaid, you can get a change of ticket.  But if you have extra conditions, you need to tell them about them.  Then the cost goes way up.  It went up by $150 for Derek.

But we don’t know if we have declared everything as they didn’t have the ability to declare the catastrophic event he had.  And I hadn’t declared his prostate cancer.  Oh well, looks like a phone call.

I got two quotes.  So we needed to call both companies to see how things would change.

After a long phone call to each company, Derek’s insurance was going to cost $6 extra for the prostate cancer which is in remission.

Medication

Emergency Kit

The Take Every Where Kit

We would need a list to make sure we took everything.   It currently sat in multiple areas of the house.  We also needed to make sure it all had a proper prescription labels.

When my friend Wendy travelled from Hong Kong to Australia I told her to declare, declare, declare.  If she declared everything she would be fine.

I was going to work on the same principle.  But that is not the case for Derek as he takes DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone).  It is classed as an anabolic steroid, and therefore restricted.  Derek needs a licence to carry it into Australia, even as a prescription medication.

And one of his other medications needs authority to carry it out of New Zealand and then back into the country.

So, we have a Dr’s note x 2, we have an emergency letter, we have an application to take his medication into Australia.

We can only carry a month’s supply in and out of New Zealand but that’s fine because we are only away 6 days.

We have to wait to hear from the Dr regarding whether he needs 1 more medication for the trip, but otherwise, we have things ticked off that we need.

Getting all the advice is key to a successful trip.  So I went seeking advice.

Travel Advice from the Experts

The Addison’s Disease Self Help Group UK has some great advice:

  • Good general advice for long distance air travel includes:
  • Remember that air travel is dehydrating so you will need to drink more fluids than usual in the air. Drink alcohol, cola drinks, coffee and tea sparingly as these dehydrate the body further. If possible, carry a large bottle of water in your hand luggage. If you forget to bring your own water, be assertive about requesting extra refreshments from the cabin crew.
  • Walk around the plane as much as possible. Try to get up out of your seat every two hours to stretch your legs and keep the blood flowing.
  • Many chemist shops now stock knee-length support socks, which can help prevent the formation of blood clots that might lead to a deep-vein thrombosis (‘stroke’).
  • Adjust your watch to the time of your destination as the flight begins, and adjust your in-flight activities to that new time zone as well. Sleep through the in-flight meals, if necessary, to get attuned to the new time zone.
  • Try to book flights that allow you to arrive at your destination in the late afternoon or early evening local time, so that you get a night’s sleep at the end of your travelling. Flights which arrive in the early morning local time will leave you tired after travelling but having to stay up all the day before you get a proper night’s sleep.

So we missed the last one.

But we are going to stay at the house of an Addisonian, so they will know that Derek will be going to have a sleep when he arrives.

So everything we can think of is ticked off.  Now to wait.

Now to wait for the actual trip.

We are excited about the trip.  We have thought of all the possible issues, and taken care of everything we can.  Derek isn’t being wrapped in bubble wrap, but we are reducing the risk as much as possible without saying, “too hard, not going.”

Next Chapter – The trip.

I am hoping this will be a very dull chapter with just the excitement of having the Sunday lunch with other addisonian’s, and enjoying visiting somewhere I have never been.  I won’t apologise if my after trip post is boring, as that would be the best trip ever.

 

 

 

For Want of an Emergency Injection!

Some people wonder why I keep going on about Adrenal Insufficiency, and key trying to raise awareness. The reason is, knowledge can save lives.

Recently I wrote a booklet called “Did you really just say that”. It is a compilation of quotes from Medical professionals to Addison’s patients and was written because of a discussion in a closed forum about what Dr’s had said to various patients about Adrenal Insufficiency.

The reality of what has been said by medical professionals (some who should know a lot more about the condition) and why we all have a problem with it, has been hit home to us all in a way none of us thought possible.

On 4th of January a beautiful young lady called Katie (24) had a common virus. This was something any normal person would shake off. She had started to feel unwell so went to bed. At some point during the night she was found by her parent unconscious and not breathing after they heard her fall..

They called an ambulance. They could not give her an emergency injection at home as they didn’t have one. The Ambulance service could not give her an emergency injection, they didn’t carry one.

Her Dr had previously said:

“It’s not a big deal, you should just take your hydrocortisone and you should be fine, don’t be over dramatic with the injection, you live near ER’s it’s not that necessary.”

Derek was also told after diagnosis that in New Zealand we were never that far from a hospital, so would never need an emergency injection. We ignored the Endocrinologist that said that and always make sure he has his on him. And this proves us right to do so.

Those with adrenal insufficiency are always told “don’t take extra hydrocortisone unless you have a temperature, are vomiting or are injured.”

With Adrenal Insufficiency,
when you go down,
you can go down fast!
Really fast!!

Kate was a college junior. After struggling for a while, in 2015 she began to improve and was able to return to college and start “living” again.

Then one day at the beginning of this year her mother announced on her facebook page”

medical

“On Sunday Katie became just slightly nauseous, a possible stomach bug. She said she was managing, no vomiting yet. Sometime through the night she must have become very ill. With Addison’s Disease the electrolytes can plummet dangerously low very suddenly At 6:30am Dave and I heard a loud crash. She had collapsed in her bathroom. It took a minute, two? to get into her room as her door was locked. She was not breathing. Dave began CPR, EMT’s were summoned and arrived in 2 minutes. Thank God we live close to the station. Thank God we were home. She was rushed to the trauma unit, unresponsive, but stabilized medically. We were told she had suffered cardiac arrest and later informed of multiple strokes. She was moved to the critical care unit and placed on hypothermic cooling to save brain function.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday she remained on full life support. She is fighting. Yesterday she responded to me warming her feet and nodded her head when I asked if she wanted a warmed blanket. She was on so many means of support that her room had to be specially cooled due to the heat of the machines.

…… 36 days on:   “[we both felt] bullied by this pompous, arrogant man who has no right to be a Dr. So much for taking a life threatening disease seriously. And so this continued from one [hospital] Endo to the next. Not one ever treated this disease with the knowledge or respect or seriousness that it deserves. Katie was so under and over medicated that she was hospitalized more than 45 times the first 4 years after diagnosis.

For the past year she had it more under control without using an Endo, her GP was managing her better than anyone before.

So as I sat in our friend’s home yesterday, the three of us crying as [my daughter] lies in a subacute care home, we wondered; would she be our beautiful vivacious Katie right now had she not been undereducated and intimidated by her Dr’s?
For now I will have to speak up for [my daughter] and all of the Addison’s patients because she can’t speak and likely never will. Her time spent in a PVS condition has been painful, muscles contracting, infections, and unable to communicate or even swallow. We are in a cloudy state of day to day confusion with no real prediction of her future. We are for now, just day to day.”

 

For those that don’t know, a PVC condition is a Persistent Vegetative State. A coma like state that she is not likely to come out of. She suffered a heart attack and multiple strokes.

I was going to post this originally on Rare Disease Awareness Day which was 29 February. But that day we were notified of a 13 yr old boy who had Addison’s, who had also got a virus. He went into crisis before his parents realised what was happening. He too suffered irreparable brain and heart damage. He passed away 5 later.

Addison’s Disease Kills! And you never know when you may get a virus that will kill you, or how fast it will hit.

Quite often even though an Addisonian is admitted to hospital in Crisis, if they pass away, Crisis is not put down as the cause of death. It will be the heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, flu, or some other thing. Even if the Crisis caused the CVA/MI, or the pneumonia could have been survived if not for the AI. Hence many don’t realise that Addison’s Kills.

Am I angry/frustrated that this can happen in todays medical world? YES

Do I over react about the way Derek and others are treated by some in the medical profession regarding Adrenal Insufficiency? YES

Do I believe Wellington Hospital (CCDHB) should take more responsibility for their lack of communication that gave Derek this Life Threatening medical condition? ASBOLUTELY.

Do I believe that more medical staff need to be aware of this condition, and what to do? YES, especially ED staff.

Do Derek and I live in fear that he will again end up in hospital with multi-organ failure due to an Adrenal Crisis? OF COURSE. But we will not let that rule out lives and dictate what we do.

Having said that, we will take precautions against things like stomach bugs, the flu etc. So don’t be offended if you turn up on our door step with “only a common cold” or “just a little tummy upset” and expect to be welcomed with open arms. This little tummy upset that you are exposing my husband to could potentially kill him. That is not to say we will turn you away, but we will keep our distance.

Derek has gone into crisis in front of medical staff even after telling them we thought he would. When asked by his Endo later why he went into crisis, we thought about it. It was because we listened to his Endo about something we thought was an early sign of extremely low cortisol and impending crisis which the Endo was sure wasn’t. In fact, the Endo was adamant that it was not a sign of low cortisol. So Derek didn’t take extra cortisol until it was too late. He went from “just not feeling right, with this one symptom to crisis within an hour. Most of that time was spent in ED trying to get help.  We know better now.

The medical staff at the hospital ED department didn’t recognise the crisis when it happened. Why? Because a Crisis is never Text Book. Each Addisonian will react differently in crisis.  You will not get ALL the symptoms, only some of them. One of the key symptoms the medical staff look for is a decrease in BP to <90/50. The fact is, many AI sufferers have an Increase in BP to start because they have swallowed down so many steroids trying to avoid it. They will check your temperature but they won’t consider it high unless it is over 37.8 (Addison’s causes low body temp, many sitting around 36.0). They don’t tell you that in the medical books though. What medical staff look for is the signs and symptoms as written in the medical books. Unfortunately when you are that sick, you are being shipped off to ICU because you are in shock and your body is shutting down. Personally, I don’t want to see Derek like that again, and will therefore always insist he is treated before he gets to that point.

Two things help keep Derek and others stay out of hospital. One is self-education, and the other is a good support network.

Being told “just take these pills and you will live a normal life. Oh, and learn how to inject, but only after you have vomited 3 times” is not education. In fact, after you have vomited 2 times, you are probably verging on unconscious and incapable (unable to behave rationally or manage one’s affairs). You very seldom have the ability to give yourself an injection and very often don’t believe you need it because by then you brain is not telling you the truth. You are not going to be able to call an ambulance. You must be proactive and seek help before you get to that point. And those around you must make themselves aware of the symptoms so they can also help you.

We are lucky, we have the emergency injection, and have never needed it, although we almost had to use it in the emergency department, but they finally gave Derek the life saving injection he needed and were then shocked to see how quickly it worked.

But for the want of a US$10 injection Katie may not be in the PVC she is now in. Her family may not be sitting by her bed daily watching her in pain.  There is no knowing if giving this beautiful spirit her injection when she was “just feeling unwell” could have saved her from this. But it sure as hell would have given her a fighting chance!

Drs need to understand that what they say, can and does, have a big impact on their patients lives. Yet they never accept when they are wrong (or hardly ever).

 

aiunited

Enter a caption

For more on Katie and her battle, please read
http://aiunited.org/katies-story-adrenalcrisis/

 

Waiting for a Life Line

This blog was going to be about a thing called DHEA. That will come later.

This is more important because I am really annoyed, and need to get it out there. There are lots of others, not only in New Zealand, but all over the world, that suffer this problem.

It’s when you fall through the cracks.

We had it described to us that Derek is one of those people.

It’s like an apple sorting system. The tree grows an apple, that apple is picked. The really bad apples get taken out and put in the pigswill. The rest are then put through different tests/checks. As the apples go through the system, the low grade ones are gradually discarded or put aside for fruiting, juicing, discarding, until all you have left is export grade apples.

Every now and again an export grade apple gets thrown out with the bad ones. It falls through the sorting system and ends up in the pigswill instead of on the shop shelf.

Liken Derek to that apple. He goes through the first check point, and falls off the belt with the pigswill apples, but hey, they get re-checked just in case, so that’s ok. Someone will discover he is actually a good apple, and put him back on the right track.

NO!

He has AGAIN fallen through the system. And I am getting quite mad about it. I should not have to spend my life advocating for him, and fighting the Medical Fraternity to get things done. It’s not that they don’t want to do things, they just keep stuffing up.

2.5 years ago, he experienced a Medical Misadventure and suffered multiple organ failure. They didn’t notice (even though it was pointed out to them) that he suffered a brain injury at the time.

After 23 days in hospital (the first 5 fighting for his life) he was discharged from Wellington Hospital (CCDHB) and handed back to Hutt Valley Hospital (HVDHB). He then spent the next 12 weeks at home.

He was referred to a Rheumatologist for his Antiphospholipid Syndrome (APS), and consequent Catastrophic APS. He was referred to Endocrinology for his now trashed adrenal glands.

He SHOULD have also been referred to Occupational/Physiotherapy, for rehabilitation given that he suffered lung damage, transient heart damage and was laid up for 15 weeks trying to get some form of health back.

He wasn’t. He was examined by the Rheumy who said “keep taking warfarin, you look great, see you in a year”. He was seen by his Endo who said “decrease your HC to what the book says, oh, maybe you could also take fludro as well, see you in a year”.

We went back to both of these a year later. Same thing.

In the mean time, I am becoming more and more concerned about other things that are happening to Derek. Each visit to a medical “professional” I mention that he has difficulty swallowing. Each visit we are told, yes, we need to look at that. We will talk to/refer you to XYZ…

After changing General Practitioners in August 2014, we finally got a referral. On 18 Dec 2014 Derek went for a gastroscopy (read about that elsewhere, it’s a story all by itself). At the end of that visit we discussed with the Endoscopy Registrar the fact that the problem is at the top of his throat, between his mouth and his shoulder line. The Gastroscopy looks lower down.

The Registrar agreed that the Gastroscopy was not going to find the issue, and he needed to be referred to another department. Hang on. Haven’t I heard this somewhere before, MULTIPLE times? The question we were then asked, “did we want the her to do the referral, or our GP?”.

We definitely wanted the Registrar to do it, so we knew it would go to the right department in a good timeframe.

On 2nd Februaray we received a letter about an X-ray appointment. Yay, finally somebody that actually did as they promised, and sent the referral. Now they could do the correct X-ray to see why he couldn’t swallow properly.

WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This was a repeat X-ray 6 months post his last bout of Pneumonia. When we checked in for that x-ray, I asked about the other one. NO, not in the system, never referred, not happening. Best course of action is to go back to the Endoscopy Dept and ask them what happened.

While sitting in the waiting room for Derek to have his X-ray he received a txt message which I read. Hello. It’s a reminder for an appointment for Monday at Rheumatology. That’s great, but what is the apt for, and why are we receiving a reminder. We have never received a letter telling us about the apt. Oh, did I mention that today is Friday?

After the Xray, we trudge up to Level 6, and ask about the reminder, but no original letter telling us about the apt. “Oh, we send them out about a week out from the apt in case it has to be changed”. That’s fine but again, Today is FRIDAY ,and the appointment is for MONDAY. The snail mail has been delivered today, and there is no letter telling us of the apt.

After this discussion, we trudge down to the ground floor again, and along the corridor to Endoscopy. We are told that the notes say that our GP is to do the referral. “Actually, No. We clearly agreed that the Registrar would do it, so we knew it would happen”. The Receptionist asks us to wait while she goes out the back and tries to sort it.

The Manager of the Dept comes out, she has the referral in her hand, which has been sent to the right dept? We told her that it hadn’t been sent anywhere. There was no record of it on the system.

She asks us to wait while she goes to X-ray herself to sort it. She then comes back and promises she will sort it. We try to explain our frustration at the inability of the system to get it right with Derek EVER.

We leave the hospital with a promise from the Manger of that department, that she will get back to us today regarding the referral.

We have now had a phone call back to say that it has been put on to another department, she is waiting for it to be “triaged” which means some obscure little officious clerk, at some desk somewhere, will put it in the system as “non urgent”, which means they have 4 months to act on it.

While I was sitting in the Endoscopy department waiting for the Manager, I was listening to the booking clerk making a booking. There is no denying that when they get a referral there is a timeframe for which they must make a booking. They DELIBERATELY book you on the last possible date to fit the timeframe. I you are classed as semi urgent and must be seen in 3-4 weeks, they put you on the last day of week 4, even if there are spaces available on the first day of week 3! I actually heard her doing this.

We are due to have another phone call from HVDHB to confirm his booking on Monday. We have been promised (and I have the phone call recorded), that once the decision is made as to urgency, the Manager of Endoscopy will get back to the relevant department and tell them that they need to hurry up and make it urgent.

I then jokingly asked if they had a system in place to make sure that the booking didn’t clash with any other booking Derek might have (he gets lots). I was gobsmacked (absolutely shocked) to find that NO, there is no system in place for that! They have to manually check!   And we all know how many of the booking clerks would waste their time doing that!

So where does that leave us? In the hurry up and wait chair again.

We currently have a Formal Complaint being investigated by the Health and Disability Commissioner about his treatment at CCDHB. Once we have seen the report on that, I will be putting in a complaint about the HVDHB and their treatment of Derek.

Sometimes all the stars align and you sail through life with ease. Other times, all the mud pits align, and you end up sitting in pigswill for years until someone throws you a lifeline.

We are still waiting for our lifeline!

Medical mishap almost killed man

Quote

In my post “One Year On” I stated that we held Wellington Hospital CCDHB responsible Derek’s CAPS event, and that they could have taken measures to prevent it.

After months of investigating, in March 2014 we contacted the CCDHB to tell them our thoughts on what happened.

Several months ago we were told that there was to be a full investigation into the event to see if they could work out what happened.

That investigation is now complete and they have agreed with us that they failed Derek at every turn.

We received a copy of the report 2 weeks ago, but didn’t agree with what it said, and many of the assumptions they made. We went to a meeting with the writers of the report and as a result, they have re-written the report and accepted even more blame.

Under Findings it states:

The review team consider the root cause of the adverse event was communication failure. The final plan was neither communicated to the patient in full in a manner that ensured the patient had received and understood the final plan, nor was his understanding of the plan checked. It was not identified during the admission for surgery that the pan was not being followed as expected.

There is a system in place in all hospitals that, when an adverse event happens for whatever reason, it should be investigated.

Also under Findings:

The review team note that the reportable event was indicated but not entered when it was identified that the patient had developed CAPS and that the anticoagulation plan had not be fully implemented.

In the Cover Letter they acknowledge:

Due to the failures in communication of the plan to Derek, and the lack of detailed documentation in his clinical record, we did not recognise that the intended plan had not been completed until Derek wrote to the CCDHB in March 2014 with concerns.

Our goal in complaining, was to ensure there are processes in place to try and prevent this happening to anyone else. They now have to put in place, set procedures which must be followed.

Hopefully this will not happen again.

At the same time we asked that a very special Dr got mentioned. Her name is Dr Helen Myint, I may have named her before, but we firmly believe it was her diligence that saved Derek’s life.

The final part to their admission of errors, is the public report they must do.  As a result Derek ended up on the front page of the Dominion Post in Wellington.

Medial Mishap

MEDICAL MISHAP: Upper Hutt man Derek Edson developed a chronic illness when doctors failed to note his blood-clotting condition before cancer surgery.

MEDICAL MISHAP:

The medication Derek Edson needed to survive cancer surgery was waiting to be picked up from his local pharmacy – but no-one from Wellington Hospital told him about it.

As a result, the Silverstream resident nearly died, and will now have chronic exhaustion and ill-health for life.

The 56-year-old computer programmer brought a complaint against Capital & Coast District Health Board – one of 454 cases of medical misadventure recorded nationwide in the 2013-14 year.

Because of a pre-existing blood-clotting condition, he should have been taking a drug called Clexdane before his prostate cancer surgery in September 2012. The drug had been ordered and was waiting for him – but he didn’t know.

After surgery, his health went into a rapid tailspin, and his adrenal glands permanently died – a condition known as Addison’s disease. He suffered severe liver and kidney damage, pneumonia and fluid in the lungs. “I kept going downhill.”

On a good day, he crashes into bed at 8pm after a day of work. On a bad day, he is in the emergency department, facing a coma or death within 72 hours.

He said: “I don’t have the initial upset I used to have – I can’t afford to.”

When Will the Doctors Start to Listen

I have written several times, about what happened to Derek, and why. After getting all Derek’s medical records etc, we have now sent a letter to the hospital concerned to let them know what we found out. In all their investigations of why Derek got sick, we were never once asked 1 vital question. Did he use Low Weight Molecular Heparin when they stopped his warfarin for surgery? The answer is NO, because he didn’t know he had to, because nobody told him!

It shouldn’t have taken 18 months, and a letter from us, for someone to ask such a vital question. It should have been asked before he had surgery.

Finally, after getting our letter, we got a phone call from the Hospital, and they asked about it. We pointed out that he had never before been prescribed that drug when stopping Warfarin, only when going back on it, so why would he be this time.

We have since learned about a thing called Bridging. This means that if you have a coagulation condition such as Antiphospholipid Syndrome, then if your Dr, a specialist, or anyone else, wants to take you off your Warfarin, or other Vitamin K antagonists (drugs that reduce blood clotting by inhibiting vitamin K), then you MUST have cover with LWMH (e.g. Clexaine). Before you stop you warfarin for any reason, consult your rheumatologist. We didn’t. We didn’t even have a rheumatologist looking after Derek’s APS. We do now!

What I haven’t written a lot about is the anger I feel sometimes over not so much what happened (don’t get me wrong, I am angry about that) but the way we have been treated, both when it happened, and in the ensuing 18 months.

According to a Dr I spoke to a few weeks ago, Dr’s speak a different language to us mare mortals, and in fact think differently as well. This is not new information. We have all felt it. The interesting thing was that he admitted that they “make assumptions”. These assumptions can lead to death or, in Derek’s case, near death.

When a Dr writes a script for a patient, they assume the patients knows about the script, understands the importance of the script, and therefore will know what to do with the script. It is in the Doctors psyche that, because THEY know all about the script, therefore, so does the patient. It seems beyond their understanding to actually tell the patient the “what, when, why, how long” etc. It’s on the script in code, what does anyone else need to know the info for. What made it worse in Derek’s case was that he was never actually given the script himself.  It was faxed to our local pharmacy, with instructions for the pharmacy to contact us. The pharmacy didn’t have our contact details, and they assumed that we knew about the script being sent to them.

When you have one department giving advice on the need for the script, a second person in a different department writing the script, person 3 organising where to send the script, and person 4 (yet another department)  getting the special authority because of the type of script, it is assumed by ALL that somebody else has told the patient about the existence of the script. BAD ASSUMPTION!

That is not where the poor treatment ends.

When you see your Dr, they have a set routine list of questions they ask you to try and make a diagnosis.  Some of these questions rule out illness, some rule illnesses in.  But all to often the Doctors are tired, thinking about the last patient, or the queue of patients in the waiting room, and don’t have their full attention on you.  To cut down the time you have (normally 10 miutes)  the questions asked are close ended questions requiring a yes/no answer.

Do you have pain? Yes.
Rate your pain with a number? 8.
Where is the pain? My abdomen.

It’s not often that they actually allow the patient enough time for the patient to try and explain how that pain has been in more, or any other symptoms they have had at the same time.

If you have a temperature at home, but not when you get to the Medical person, then you don’t have a temperature.   Because you can walk into the clinic/ER etc under your own steam, you are obviously ok, and not dying.

When they do examine you, they make assumptions because when they are in Medical School they have it drummed into them that “If you hear hooves, look for horses”. That is great because a lot of symptoms are straight forward.

The problem is, what if the hooves they are hearing is one lonely Zebra, in amongst the herd of horses? If they don’t listen carefully to ALL the sounds around them, they may miss that crucial different sound.

For us, that different sound was in the guise of me.

I had been advised to record everything regarding Derek’s recovery from surgery so when we were asked about his history I would pull out my phone and go day by day, blow by blow, everything that had happened. I even offered to e-mail one Dr the details.

When I read the history in the medical notes later, I discovered that half of what we had told them, had not been recorded.  They recorded what THEY thought was important.  The big things, not the little things.  But it was the little things that were the clue to the CAPS and adrenal insufficiency.

For 2 weeks I kept telling people he was not well, it was not normal, and he was worse than he himself thought.

What neither of us realised at the time was that Derek had suffered a brain injury and his cognitive skills were shot.  He thought he had a headache because he was tired, but it turns out it was because he had difficulty thinking and assessing/analysing things.

For 2 weeks they kept asking Derek the same questions. And being a male, he would say he felt fine, yes there was pain, but it was more discomfort, yes he was tired, but he wasn’t well and not sleeping so great (because of the pain for goodness sake, but he didn’t say that) so no more than he would expect.

I on the other hand, was telling them he couldn’t walk 20mtrs without needing to lay down for an hour. He was drinking water, but barely, and then only sips. He was in pain all the time (not discomfort). He would groan in pain, but didn’t tell them that.  Each time I told them something, he would play it down. If they asked him a direct question, he would stop, think, then come up with some answer that was a simplistic personal analysis of how he felt, based on what HE thought they needed to know.  Because I was not the patient, they took more notice of him than me.

Each of the medical personal we spoke to (who didn’t know Derek) would pick another of the horses running around the room and say “Oh, that’s the one I can hear”. None of them seemed to be listening to me and putting the collective sounds together to see the zebra.

I don’t know how to get it through to the medical profession (and better women than me have tried) that when a patient is unwell, they are not the best judge of themselves. And the worse they are, the worse their judgement of their own health is. You need to ask the people that know them best because they are the ones that see the subtle changes.  It’s not just a mother’s instinct about her child.  Wives also have that instinct about their husbands.

Common questions were:

Have you eaten today?   Yes.
(Truth: actually, he took two bites of something and decided he had had enough)

Have you drunk much fluid?   Yes, I am drinking all the time.
(Truth: He is taking very small sips, and it takes him all day to drink a 750ml bottle of water)

Have you got pain?   Yes, it comes and goes.
(Truth: it was there constantly, but at times it was worse than other times.  The pain included a headache which was constant, leg aches, body aches, joint aches, but mainly the abdomen.)

Again, when he was in hospital I hit the same walls. Derek was barely conscious at times, could not hold a conversation, was not drinking water properly, could not stand without assistance, and could not think clearly. Yet still they insisted on asking HIM how he felt. At times he was disoriented and didn’t even know he was in hospital, but still they asked HIM.

At one point I asked a member of the medical staff (I believe it was a nurse) if there had been any brain involvement, and I was told NO, because there was nothing written down about it. Huh? Just because nobody else had noted it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist!

What makes me even angrier is that the person I asked didn’t even make a note of the query. I pointed out a “droop” that didn’t used to be on the left side of Derek’s face. No mention in notes about my concerns, so nobody investigated further. The question was brushed aside.

We now know that Derek did suffer a brain injury which still causes cognitive dysfunction at times, given we now know this, how the hell was he able to answer for himself when unwell.  I had to be his advocate, and I wasn’t being listened to.

It Happens everywhere.

According to one publication in the UK in recent years, some child deaths in UK could be prevented if the Dr’s listened to the child’s mother, the person that knows the child best. When a mother’s instinct says a child is seriously ill, they should be listened to. This should apply to the Partner/Spouse of a sick adult as well.

I have become very stroppy when dealing with Dr’s now. If I don’t get an answer I am happy with, I will keep pushing. I request copies of all reports, test results, letters from consultants.

I now keep a medical file, and check the results myself.

I have learned not to trust what the Doctors and other medical staff tell me.  I check everything for myself.

An example of this happening is when Derek had been in hospital for 2 weeks  they had finally worked out what had happened to him and they felt he was ready to be discharged.  They gave him the choice of being discharged home on the Friday and going to another hospital on the Monday for a CT of his Adrenal Glands, or stay as an inpatient  until Monday, but go home on a 4 hour visit on the Sunday.

I refused to let them discharge him and send him home. I said I didn’t want him going home until he had the CT on the Monday. I still wasn’t happy with how he was. I was concerned that his resting heart rate was still too high for my liking but when I questioned it, I was told that it was fine, “it’s because he has been sick!” He seemed to be breathless extremely easily, that he just wasn’t quite right still.

It was a good call. He had a large amount of fluid around his heart which could have killed him. Again, my instincts said leave him there, even though the medical staff were insistent that he was fine.  I was proven right and they were wrong again.

In all of this, we have had 1 Doctor that listened to me rather than Derek. That is  Dr called Helen Myint. She is the one who saved Derek’s life.  She literally went from his toes to his head examining him, but more importantly, she ask ME questions and I actually felt that she listened to me.  It was this Dr that picked up the CAPS, and Adrenal Insufficiency.  Two zebra’s in a room of horses.

I just wish I had asked her about the facial drooping as well, perhaps we might have had the brain injury found when it first happened.  I have since mentioned the droopy left side of the face (especially noticeable when tired), left arm weakness, bad left foot slap which took months of physio to correct to every Dr we have seen, but it took over a year for someone to listen, and accept that yes, there was a brain injury.  Again, the Doctors didn’t listen!

My best advice is, if you think there is something wrong with someone you know well, be it child or adult, don’t worry about pissing off the Doctors, make them listen, and don’t leave until they do.  And don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion.  You have every right, and any good doctor should value extra input.