Friday, December 30, 2011

Never a dull moment...just got home from the ER

At approximately 6:00 tonight I got a phone call from some guy.  He asks me if my husband is a patient of Dr. M.  I tell him yes.  He says in a panicked voice, something about calling for Dr. M's office.  He proceeds to tell me that there was a problem with the blood labs Paul had drawn today (a Home Health nurse draws his blood twice a week because he is on TPN).

The guy tells me Paul's potassium level was extremely high and I needed to get him to the ER immediately! I asked him which hospital to take him to.  He said the closest one.  He said this is very serious because most people that have this high of numbers would probably be dead.  He then proceeded to tell me that he is not sure what they will do, but that Paul will probably need to be on dialysis.   I was really freaking out at this point...I ask the guy should I call 911 and have an ambulance take him.  He asks me, "Is he breathing"?  "Does he seem okay?"  At this point I felt like yelling at the guy, of course he is breathing you idiot,  he just finished some chicken noodle soup!  Seriously, if he wasn't breathing don't you think I would have called 911 before now?

Anyway, I look over at Paul who has this puzzled look on his face, like what is going on...I hang up the phone and proceed to tell Paul that we need to get him to the ER immediately!  He looks at me calmly and asks why?  I said, "This guy just told me that your potassium levels were way too high and you need immediate attention" (I didn't tell him about the dialysis part or that he should be dead).   

Paul says other than my heart has been racing a bit, I feel fine.  I was in panic mode and he could tell.  He told me to calm down that he really wasn't feeling too bad.  I called some friends to help out with the kids and told him to get in the car.  He told me he needed to go to the bathroom first.  I was thinking, how can you go pee at a time like this?   Didn't he know he was lucky to be alive at this moment?

Our friend came over and could see that I was in no shape to be driving my husband to the ER.  After all, I had just been told that my husband is lucky to be alive and in my mind he was a time bomb waiting to explode.  So, he drove us to the closest hospital.

We arrive at the ER and I started to tell them about the phone call.  They got Paul back quickly and started checking him immediately.  They hooked him up to an EKG, drew more blood to check his potassium levels, and monitored his blood pressure.  His heart rate was ranging from the high 90's to low 100's which is high for Paul.  He usually runs about 60's to 70's.  His blood pressure was a bit high as well.

I started to bawl.  This sweet nurse took me out and got me a drink.  She told me not to worry that everything would be okay.  All I could think was that my poor husband was going to have to have dialysis...

In the mean time, I had called my sister, who had had potassium issues in the past, to ask her what she thought.  She told me that it could have been an error because that had happened to her.  She said something about the blood cells opening and spilling extra potassium  (evidently there can be errors because of this on potassium levels-this can happen if the blood tube gets shaken up.)

Thankfully, my sister was right.  The nurse came in and told us the blood work had come back and his potassium levels were just fine.  She told us that they should not have panicked us and just done a retest on the levels.  Evidently, she said the same thing as my sister, this can happen with potassium levels.  We were so relieved!

The ER doctor came back in to tell us the same news.  He told us that since our doctor is out of town, he called the on-call doctor filling in to let him know the update on Paul.  He told him that Paul was at the ER because they had re-tested his potassium levels and they were fine.  This doctor did not even know there was an issue to begin with.  He knew nothing about Paul's potassium levels.   So the ER doctor was stumped as to who called us... so were we... I thought the guy had said he was the on-call doctor calling.

We asked the doctor why Paul's heart rate is running higher than normal.  He said he didn't know, but that he should be okay.  Could be all the sugar he is getting in the TPN. We will see our doctor on Tuesday.

So now, the mystery begins.  We don't know who called us.  The ER doctor was hoping they hadn't called the wrong patient...that doesn't sound too good.  What if some poor guy is out there with high potassium levels and doesn't even know it!

As for me, I am thinking it was someone calling from the lab or from Home Health... Whoever it was, they really need to learn how to tell people that they need to get their potassium levels checked.   Did this person not know that there can be errors?  How about just telling the person they need to go to the ER to have their potassium re-checked to make sure that it is okay, because it may be a little high.

Thanks to our friends who came to hang out with us at the ER.  It made it much more interesting!   I am sure you feel a lot more educated about potassium levels, as do we!

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