The holidays were not without incident at our house this year. Illness reared its head as it usually does when excitement builds and holiday events and preparations keep us too busy to get adequate rest and eat right. This year, however, it was my husband who was down-and-out, not one of our kids.
He had a cough for about a week and was fatigued, but, despite my clinical judgment that he should rest, I “encouraged” him to help out with all that still needed to be done before Christmas. On Christmas day, he really wasn’t looking so well – high fever, chills, productive cough that seemed constant. He spent the evening in bed taking ibuprofen around the clock to help alleviate his symptoms.
By late morning the next day, we called our primary care office and found that they were closed for the holiday. We ended up heading over to the emergency department (ED) at our local hospital. In triage, he was found to be febrile, tachycardic, and hypoxic. He got a stat dose of albuterol and was quickly taken back to a room in the ED. As we went through his medical and surgical history with the ED nurse, we both paused and looked at each other when he told her that he had a splenectomy when he was younger.
Oops – did we forget the implications of being without a spleen and the need to seek care quickly when he gets sick? And hadn’t I just read something about the risks associated with splenectomy?
Shortly after, labs came back and his white blood cell count was 43,000. So, he spent 4 days in the hospital on I.V. antibiotics. His diagnosis? Pneumococcal pneumonia.
Yes, I had read “something” recently and even put in on our recommended reading list a few weeks prior. Needless to say, I did go back and read this one again: A close up view of Pneumococcal disease.
“Risk factors for acquisition of the disease are alcohol abuse, splenectomy, immunocompromised status, smoking, and asthma.”
All is well now. And next time, I’ll ease up on my “encouragement” and do a better job with my assessment!