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When Outpatient Surgery Goes Wrong

Jan Chait

May 18, 2011

Just my luck. I go into the hospital for outpatient surgery and land in the hospital for five days. Three of them in the intensive care unit.

What happened? Darned if I know. I was asleep. Or almost in a coma, as they told me. A nurse who was there told me I was fine, then I wasn’t: My blood glucose dropped to 32 mg/dl and my blood pressure dropped, although she didn’t say to what. Another nurse kept telling me I had too much carbon dioxide in my blood. I should get a copy of my records for that evening. It could make for interesting reading.

The doctor had planned to put a stent in my kidney and try to get the kidney stone out. It turns out that the stone was larger than he thought and my kidney was infected as all get-out. So I was admitted to the hospital for the night.

I remember going to the room and seeing one of those triangle things on the ceiling so people who’ve had knee or hip replacement surgery can pull themselves up. I remember eating soup and a salad my husband brought me. That’s it. The next thing I know, it was two days later and I was in ICU hooked up to all kinds of stuff.

And I couldn’t keep my glucose up. Oh, great. I still can’t keep it up. I keep lowering the basal rates on my insulin pump, I don’t bolus for food, and I still end up in the 40s and 50s a couple of hours after I eat.

I’ve dropped my basals by something like 20 units a day in the past few days. Granted, as a Type 2 I use a lot more insulin than somebody with Type 1, but that’s still a lot of insulin. (Actually, in the last couple of months, I’ve lowered my basals by more than 40 units a day.)

That must have been — or must be — one heck of an infection! I went for nearly two years of bone infections and surgeries, including an amputation, and ran HbA1cs in the 6th percentile, except for one 7.2%. In December, my HbA1C was 5.9%. When I went to the endocrinologist a couple of weeks ago, it was 7.6%!

The funny thing was, when the nurse came in with the results, he was in the process of having me lower all of my basal rates because I kept going low. “Your A1C will probably be five percent,” he’d just finished saying. HA!

Maybe next time.

For the next week, I get to present myself at the hospital every day for a dose of IV antibiotics. I can hardly wait, especially since I’m hitting the bathroom every half hour. I’m told I’ll be doing that until I get the stent out next week. Oh, and I’ll have burning and back pain. Yay.

Oh, yeah. The kidney stone is still there. What the doctor is talking about is sending me to Indianapolis to have a surgical procedure to remove the stone. That will involve more hospital time and more recuperation time.

As of now, I’ve sent my endocrinologist a note telling him what my current basal rates are and what my glucose is running and asking for his help. And he can call me any time now (she says, tapping her fingernails on the desk).

And I’m fine. As nutsy as ever. I keep remembering what one of my (many) doctors said: “Not many people walk out of ICU.” And thank the powers that be that I am one who did, who got to come home last night, and who got to get up early this morning and greet the morning while I sat on the deck drinking my coffee.



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