Once again, I’m going to step outside the RV narrative timeline for this post. Once again, I need to address friends and family in real-time, before we resume our reports from the road. In the RV narrative timeline, we’ve been to St. Louis for the funeral of Nan’s mother, returned to Boise to be reunited with the Edmund and McGregor, arrived in Bend Oregon and have spent several weeks there getting to know Bend, the Beaver guys, and the Oregon coast. As before, we’ll resume that narrative in the next post.
But in the real world—now—after we’d been in Bend for several weeks, I had a medical misadventure.
So, here’s what happened (skipping over everything between May 15th and June 7th). Those who’ve seen Nan’s early Facebook postings know much of this. Those who haven’t may not even be aware of this medical mini-drama.
When we returned from our vacation to the Oregon Coast—details to follow in the next post—the Edmund’s new floor wasn’t finished so we trundled off to a nearby motel. That night I complained to Nan that I thought the motel room air conditioner was making it difficult for me to breathe. Bend was undergoing a motel room shortage due to rodeos and graduations, so we spent the next four nights in four different motel rooms. During the days I didn’t notice anything unusual but each night I had more trouble sleeping; I just couldn’t seem to catch my breath. Wednesday morning was some sort of watershed moment; I couldn’t walk across the room without getting winded. We decided it was time to seek medical advice.
We settled on Bend Memorial Clinic Urgent Care. We thought about a “Doc-in-a-box” as Nan calls them, but based on prior experiences we figured they’ed refer us to the emergency room at a hospital anyway. By this point I was convinced I was either having a panic attack or a heart attack.
When we got to the Urgent Care Clinic I looked so pathetic my vitals were immediately taken. My blood oxygen levels were in the low eighties. My blood pressure was over 190/something, which according to my friends at Wikipedia is sufficient to put me in the category of hypertensive emergency. We were whisked to a curtained alcove where I was hooked up to oxygen and given an EKG.
The EKG didn’t show any indication of a heart attack. I had an x-ray and a CAT scan, both of which showed cloudy areas in my lungs—presumed to be fluids. Urgent Care Doc 1 thought it was a possibility that an anti-inflammatory (indomethacin) I had started to use regularly a few weeks before might be interfering with my blood pressure medication (lisinopril). He told me to stop taking the anti-inflammatory, to increase my blood pressure dosage for a while, and to monitor weight changes closely. I was pumped full of a diuretic intravenously, given a prescription for a oral diuretic and oxygen and sent home with a 3-hour oxygen tank and the phone number of a respiratory care company. We were also told we would be called by the Cardiology Department to set up an appointment with a cardiologist ASAP. I had to check back in Friday AM for a blood test to make sure the intravenous contrast agent used during the CAT scan hadn’t damaged my kidneys before I could start taking one of my diabetes meds again.
We returned to our motel room where we had the worst cell coverage we’ve had in Oregon though we could send and receive texts. Erin had called while we were still at Urgent Care after seeing Nan’s Facebook post from that morning so she had some idea of what was going on. We were able to connect with the respiratory care company but were not able to complete cell calls with anyone else. The respiratory mobile unit arrived and before I knew it, I had a new 3-hour tank on wheels for emergencies, four little backpack tanks for wearing to Walmart, and an R2D2-sized oxygen concentrator with a 50 foot hose that marked the limits of tank-free freedom.
I spent the rest of the day and the next tethered to R2D2O2, feeling miserable. I couldn’t lay down for more than a minute or so, even with the oxygen, and had to sleep sitting at a desk with my head on a pillow for a few nights—not recommended for a restful sleep. The cannula smelled like plastic, dried out my sinuses and killed my appetite. I felt pathetic when I went anywhere with a tank attached. This was the most depressing period of my life so far. At some point in this time period Leah had a WTF moment during a text message exchange with me; I assumed she knew what was going on, either via Facebook or Erin. She was on the road with Darren so she didn’t. I was making what I thought were amusing references to my air tether when she figured out I was on oxygen. Sorry Leah!
By Friday we still hadn’t heard from the cardiologist but it was time for me to get my post-CAT scan contrast agent blood test, so I hooked up to an oxygen tank and we headed back to Bend Memorial. On arrival we mentioned not hearing back from the Cardiac Department and there was much tearing of hair and waiving of arms. A young woman went up to cardiology and slapped an appointment out of them for first thing Monday. In the meantime Urgent Care put us in another curtained alcove and hooked me up to their oxygen system. I was then subjected to an additional x-ray and more blood tests and hauled upstairs for an echo-cardiogram. By the time we got out of the clinic it was 8:30 pm and Urgent Care Doc 2 had decided based on the echo-cardiogram (which looked OK) that I didn’t need to see a cardiologist, I needed a pulmonologist. We were told to cancel the Monday AM appointment with heart guy and make an appointment with lung guy. He also agreed with Urgent Care Doc 1 that my use of the anti-inflammatory had probably reacted badly with my blood pressure medication. He instructed us to get a good home blood pressure kit and record the results in both arms three times a day.
The guys at the Beaver Service center had been working like, well, beavers to get us into the Edmund by Friday night. They did it and it was good to be home, even with my oxygen tethers. The service coordinator and shop foreman both stopped by on Saturday to make sure we were OK. These Beaver guys all go the extra mile; more about them when I fill in the narrative blanks later.
I spent most of the weekend hooked up to R2D2O2 and hating the cannula. By then the diuretic had started to kick in big time—it took a while to work for me even with the initial IV delivery. I was able to sleep laying down Friday night. By Sunday I was starting to wean myself from the oxygen though I kept it nearby.
Monday morning Nan cancelled the cardiology appointment and tried to get one with the pulmonologist. She wasn’t able to get one until Tuesday morning but I was feeling markedly better so we weren’t too upset by this. I had started to weigh myself daily when we were still in the motel and as the diuretic began to work, the weight was dropping off multiple pounds per day. As the weight dropped off, breathing became easier. Since fat doesn’t melt away that fast, I had to be dumping water and the only likely place for most of the water to be coming from was my lungs. By the morning of June 18, I’d dropped 19.6 pounds in six days.
Tuesday morning the pulmonologist confirmed this. My blood oxygen levels were normal even though I hadn’t been on oxygen since Sunday afternoon. A fresh Tuesday morning x-ray showed my lungs were free of the fluid shown in the Friday night x-ray. He agreed that the culprit was most likely the anti-inflammatory interfering with the blood pressure medication, had a nurse run me up and down the halls for a while with a portable oxygen level monitor attached to me—blood/oxygen levels remained in the high 90s throughout. He gave me a portable oxygen monitor to wear overnight to get my oxygen levels while I was asleep and referred me back to Cardiology to close the loop.
The story is almost over. I saw the cardiologist Friday morning (June 21st) and was given pretty much a clean bill of health. He confirmed that I was a poster boy for indomethacin/lisinopril conflict, noted that my BP had been coming down since I stopped taking the indomethacin and that my blood oxygen levels were normal without being on tank air for almost a week. He had no further tests to recommend. I was free to go with the caution that I continue to monitor my blood pressure.
Today (Saturday) I still feel fine. Thanks to Nan, the folks at Bend Memorial Clinic, and our new friends at Beaver Coach Sales and Service things are back on track.