Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Bad Medicine

My friend, hospitalized the previous Monday morning for a supposedly standard procedure to remove his appendix was admitted into the intensive care unit following the appendectomy. I was told that his vital signs destabilized after the operation and he had to be hooked on to the life-support system as he was having trouble breathing on his own.

Inexorably, dread and fear for the worst occupied my wits ever since I got the news in the evening. In my mind, the whole thing should’ve been safely over by that time. I had even sent a get-well SMS to his cellphone, cracking a silly joke about the appendicitis; expecting him to be up and about reading the message and having a laugh over the matter. I mean, people have their appendix removed every day, it’s almost like having a wisdom tooth taken out or something like that; to be over and done with in a couple of hours. You are not supposed to go to the ICU for appendicitis, right?

Cy finally regained his consciousness around 4 a.m. the next day, then was taken off the ventilator and transferred to the High Dependency Unit a few hours later as his condition stabilized. I arrived at the hospital after work still unsure on what to expect as I pass by the other patients in the Unit with all sorts of tubes and wires about their person; the hiss and beeps of the various machines like living creatures on their own were the only sounds that could be heard. After all that, it was certainly a delight to be greeted by the sight of him propped on the standard issue pillows, beaming that familiar smile of his, lighting up the sombre mood. Still got that oxygen line and several other lines strapped on him, plus he had to pause occasionally to catch his breath but otherwise he looked almost his usual self, jokes and sarcastic remarks included. He certainly was the healthiest-looking patient there, the only one able to talk I think, too able perhaps that it warranted a warning from the nurse on duty.
"Tau tak awak tu sakit, mana boleh bercakap banyak-banyak, kalau dah pindah wad biasa nanti barulah boleh nak layan kawan ramai-ramai, bukan sekarang".
("Don’t you realize you are sick? You’re not supposed to talk that much, when you’re transferred to the normal ward then you can have many visitors, but not now.")

Apparently the condition was caused by a bad reaction to the anesthetic administered during the procedure, an allergy or something that the medical team failed to foresee.
"Mana aku nak tau ada alergi ke apa ke, bukan aku pernah kena operate!"
("How was I supposed to know I have anything like that, I’ve never been in for an operation before!")

Any medically-inclined reader or two in the house? Doc? I’ve read of bad reactions like this before and I wonder whether it is a case that could have been prevented and whether it was the odd occurrence or something that happens recurrently. Do things usually turn out okay for such cases?

Cy is expected to recover in a few days, but still, it was quite a scare for all of us. It really was.

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