"Nobody wants to be that guy that loses a patient that came in for a tooth ache."
The love of my life and partner in crime, DW, had a tooth ache. We set an appointment for Dentist #1 who will forever be known as the worst dentist ever in the history of man.
Worst Dentist Ever said DW had an abscess. Great. Okay. Because Donald's jaw was too stiff to open we agreed that antibiotics and ibuprofen would help open his jaw so we could remove the wisdom teeth that were causing the problem. Take two pills and call me in the morning. Right.
Well, Worst Dentist Ever did not give my guy a written prescription. He said his assistants would call in the antibiotics to our local CVS. Five phone calls to the office and still no antibiotics. We called all of Thursday. No antibiotics. Thinking back, I might have gone back there on Wednesday to get his antibiotics if I knew the mantra I'm going to reveal below.
Now here's a tidbit I never heard until the C-Scan operator told us...
NEVER LET THE SUN SET ON AN ABSCESS.
Remember that boys and girls. Repeat it because it's so important.
NEVER LET THE SUN SET ON AN ABSCESS.
Commit that to memory. It will save your life. So not kidding. Not even a little bit. IT. WILL. SAVE. YOUR. LIFE.
Friday I said fuck it and took my guy to an emergency dentist that took us that day. Dentist #2, Dr. Farr, was a wonderful dentist. He knew what the hell he was looking at. He had the old style x-ray machine that took a picture of your whole jaw in a panoramic view so you could see everything. More radiation, yes, but remember my guy could not open his jaw. The abscess was a golf ball sized lump at his throat.
Dr. Farr instilled in me the fear that saved my guys life. He said, he won't be able to breath if this thing gets bigger. If it does, take him to the ER. Dr. Farr handed my guy two antibiotics, watched him swallow them and shoved a written prescription in my hand for some gnarly drugs that would get his infection under control. We made an appointment for teeth removal the following Monday. I got the impression Dr. Farr would pull those teeth out of DW's nose if he had to. Things were just that dangerous. He knew. Dr. Farr knew this was a serious condition and told me as much. It set me on edge.
It was a tooth ache. As Brian, the RN, said...how can you lose a guy who came in for a tooth ache?!
DW's last memory was going to Dr. Farr. You might be thinking this is not my story to tell. Well, he may have survived it but he doesn't remember it so yes, this is my story. It did not happen to me, but I'm the one who can put all the pieces together. I know what happened. There are some details I will not mention for DW's privacy but I will recount a story fraught with danger, life saving heroes and a love story that the CCU of Northridge won't soon forget.
There are no swords in this story unless you count scalpels. The heroes don't wear capes, they wear RN uniforms and white coats. And the love story is my own.
Sunday DW started breathing like a racehorse still running to win. I was worried, but he told me each time he was fine. He wasn't breathing. He was not fine. Finally, after giving him tons of water, giving him antibiotics and trying to get him to eat I called in reinforcements.
Papa arrived at the scene just before eight p.m., took a two-second glance at DW and hauled my guy up and into the car.
DW was admitted to Emergency within 15 minutes. Anyone whose gone to the ER knows every patient waits for a minimum of an hour. It doesn't matter what ER. Even in Pokanoe, Bum-fuck-Egypt patients with no one else in the waiting room, wait an hour. I waited for two hours when I cracked my skull and had a blood soaked diaper on my head. I terrified children and I think that's the only reason why I was lead to the back so quickly. Yes, two hours is quick. I'm just telling you this so you might understand the severity of the situation.
Anyway...DW got in. Got checked. And our ER-RN, Monica, worked ever so furiously. There were complications I'll leave out but the main focus was getting DW stable. After a C-Scan, DW was admitted to CCU (Critical Care Unit better known as ICU) at midnight. His airway was being closed, aggressively, by the infection. The call was made. Intubate.
They couldn't get the tube in through his mouth. They had to use a pediatric tube and went down his nose. He got stable. They were calling Doctors around from all over. Why? Because doctors that do oral surgery won't touch the throat. You have surgeons that will deal with the air way but won't do oral surgery.
Dr. Saad, his surgeon and President of the hospital, wanted to get to the infection from outside because we could not get inside. DW's jaw was still clamped shut from the swelling. His face was the size of a football. The infection pressed against the air tube like a bugger, but DW was safe. He had air. He was stable. The requirements of surgery were met with these two conditions and Dr. Saad made an incision the length of his jaw the very night DW was intubated.
The swelling did go down. But here's where things went sideways. My guy has been trained. Kendo, karate, krav magaw, and Classical English Sword. Bottom line...DW can cut through people and you'd never suspect this cute, cubby sweetheart would do any harm. Even half dead, DW is smarter and stronger than he lets on.
He also has a very high tolerance for Fentanyl and Profenal. They are sedatives and pain maintenance to keep people quiet. The 100 units and 35 units respectively they were giving him was not enough.
They took him to C-Scan. Now, I don't know if you know, but having a tube up your nose is uncomfortable on a good day. No human in their right mind would want a tube up their nose. Sedated, confused and hurting you'd want the tube out too. There's no helping it. They MUST tie you down. DW was no exception. But going from the CCU bed to C-Scan table DW felt it was his chance to escape the Iraqi hell hole he was in. I'm pretty sure that's what he thought was going on because...
He pulled a classic red herring. Information you need to know--DW is left handed.
With his right hand, DW went for his nose. Three men could hardly pin his right hand down. Yes, the weak hand. But while he had their full attention on his right hand, his left hand snaked in and he pulled the cord. That could have been all she wrote if the Doctors and nurses weren't quick.
CODE BLUE! CODE BLUE!
While I was having lunch with my niece at the fine make-shift Starbucks the hospital had, trusting everything was in hand, DW stopped breathing.
I like how Dr. Williams put it. "His heart got... tired."
So DW not breathing, heart not beating = DEAD. I don't know about you people but that's my equation of the situation. Am I wrong?
I can only imagine a scene of momma-san slapping his face and sending his ass back down to earth. Get back down there you scrappy mutt.
When a code blue is called the whole hospital runs forth. My niece and I missed it. But I saw the aftermath. I felt worse for our doctor. Last I saw, the surgeon went down with his patient, excited to see how much the swelling had gone down. When I got back from lunch the poor doctor was traumatized. The poor guy. After that Dr. Saad treated DW like a sapphire diamond as fragile as an egg.
What saved DW was re-intubation through his mouth. No C-Scan for him that day. He was given a few days to recover from DYING.
Friday they cranked up the sedatives and was given an armed transport down to C-Scan. I'm not really kidding. Four of the large, male RN's went down with him. I don't think they let him off the restraints even as they moved him from bed to C-Scan table. This time it went a-okay. I could breathe.
When the test came up to see how much the swelling went down, Dr. Surgeon was not happy with the result. To give him oral surgery, he needed to be able to open his mouth. But the infection was too deep. Too aggressive. Too BIG. And the offending tooth was still giving the infection roots to grow.
Steroids were given to reduce the swelling over the weekend. They worked. But now that there was a tube down his throat, oral surgery could not be done. No oral surgeon wants to contend with tubes in the mouth. He had to be trached, not only because of the space required for an oral surgeon but also because Dr. Surgeon was still nervous about the air way. The puss from the infection was relieved and being drawn out. But the infection itself was STILL GROWING. We were in a catch twenty-two. His tooth needed to be removed, but to remove his tooth he needed to breath and not have tubes down his throat.
Take in mind it's been a week now. He's been intubated. Twice. He's had the whole death complication. His air-way is STILL not clear. The infection is raging. Another tidbit...his blood sugar levels are up, down and sideways. They've got him on the highest levels of sedation to keep him calm. I'm watching his muscle deteriorate. I'm there 12 - 16 hours everyday just sitting there watching, answering questions, correcting or clarifying things for the RN's. Phlebotomists are taking his blood every hour.
Remaining chipper for the people trying to help him, praying they wouldn't send me out just because they wanted to change his sheets. Answering again and again and again the same questions. Keeping all the dots connected, keeping all the details in line for the people trying to help DW. I was his story teller. I've had to tell this story over and over making sure two doctors orders didn't conflict or telling the RN's what a wonderful job they were doing. I was making light of the situation so that I could stay by his side and not be shooed out of his room. I was steady. I even heard the nurses talking when they thought I was out.
Within one week, DW's antics made him notorious, and my calm presence inspired a certain amount of pride among the pool of nurses. Each RN knew and treated DW as precious as their own child. They knew this person was loved by a great many people. He was never alone. Papa, momma, my niece, my brother, my uncle, my aunt and friends of DW came to sit with him while he was sedated and tied.
Despite DW and I living together for almost a decade, when the time came to sign for the treache, I was not good enough. DW has no living relatives. I'm it. My family is it. But we aren't blood and we aren't married. So when the surgical assistant came to have me sign...being his life partner with no documentation was no good.
Not only was I worthless in all this, I was insignificant.
Apparently, a bio-ethics doctor could make the call for a treache better than me. I asked George, his RN for the day, if Dr. Bio-thics would refuse. George said "No way." He needed it, they just wanted someone with a degree to say yeah, he needs it. That was the night I went home, dragging my feet.
But he got his treache the next morning. They gave him a day to rest under sedation. It was a day of nothing but hell as I watched him choke in his sleep every time he coughed. And still, I remained steady.
The next day, Wednesday (a week from yesterday), Dr. Surgeon came in, did a pupil test, turned to the RN, pointed to the sedation and said, "Shut it down. Now."
The poor RN looked horrified and was going to piss her pants. "Now?"
I don't think that RN will ever backtalk Dr. Surgeon again.
DW was off sedation by 10:30 am. He was awake but fuzzy-headed. Dr. Oral Surgeon came, introduced himself and said he'd do the honors! Yay! We only had two nights and a day to endure. But "New treache's suck". Not my words -- but oh so true. DW coughed a lot. His throat so dry that he coughed too hard three times. Three times he almost asphyxiated because he barfed up the liquid tube feeding and couldn't breath. Each time the Respiratory therapist was there and used the "spitter" (it's a sucking hose) to clear his air way. Each time DW turned blue. I kept thinking about what Brain said. "Nobody wants to be that guy that loses the patient that came in for a tooth ache."
Brian's saying was a life line.
Some might have seen DW out of the minefield. I'm glad I did not. He remembers almost choking to death. It leaves an impression. My soothing reassurances weren't always working by this time. DW just wanted it all to end.
His teeth came out Friday morning. That's when his clear memories start. Saturday he was transferred out of the CCU. I can now say he's on the mend. He passed his swallow test and is allowed ice chips. Real food came Tuesday. And I can finally sleep without anxiety.
Unless the other two wisdom teeth get infected, DW will live. For now.
Me? I'll never be able to tell this story without a certain amount of anxiety. For a while, I'm going to just hand over this blog post when people ask. DW might have lived through all that, but I was the one who suffered through it all. Minus the surgeries.
Until next time.
♥ ~ Stephy