Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Sunday, 18 December 2016

My experience of something like walking pneumonia - hospital admission and recovery

Homeopathy enthusiast Laurie J Willberg implies, rather overconfidently, that no-one has ever written a blog post about a pharma drug curing them.

Here's one.

Certainly there are plenty of others. I encourage anyone who feels like doing so to write up a brief report of any medication they've taken that's solved any illness they've ever had. The nice thing is that homeopaths accept anecdotal evidence so a simple report of the nature of the illness and the medication taken will suffice ;)

Then let's have a blog carnival (not heard that term in years! Perhaps this is why.) and I'll link any posts I hear about below. Probably we can't include conditions like Type 1 diabetes and insulin treatment though because insulin doesn't cure someone of diabetes (they still have the condition) but it does allow people to stay alive in a way that they really might not have in the time before insulin injections were available. But 'cure' has a very specific and pedantic meaning, so... anyway here's the tale of my pharma-based recovery.

For balance I recommend reading Ben Goldacre's Big Pharma book which is critical of some of the systems and pressures that affect the way medicine works, including problems with trial design and reporting.

Jo's anecdotal report of being cured by pharma drugs

I didn't receive a formal diagnosis of whatever it was that made me ill but it seems quite possible that it was something very similar to 'walking pneumonia' which appeared to have both a viral and bacterial component (or possibly sequentially). I was really not well but I fully recovered in a few days with paracetamol, antibiotics (pharmacology), fluids (sort of pharmacology) and monitoring (good care) so here's my post explaining how paracetamol, clarithromycin and amoxicillin cured me of a chest infection helped along by nutrients like glucose and saline and measuring blood pressure, pulse and temperature to see how things were going.

That time I was a bit ill in January 2016On Thursday 7 January 2016 I woke up at 5am with a nasty cough which kept me awake on and off until 10am (at the time I didn't work on Thursdays so it was a day off anyway) and was annoying but no more than any other cough / chest infection.

I had breakfast and checked emails etc and pottered around for a bit but noticed that I felt a bit spacy and not quite right, and then I noticed my heart rate - it was 100. My resting pulse varies between 62 and 72 but I wouldn't have minded even 80 or 90, but 100 seemed a bit much. I went to sleep for a couple of hours to see if that helped but woke up and felt worse and pulse was up to 120. A shower didn't help either and I realised that it was getting faster, to the point that it was difficult to count the beats. Plus I felt not at all well and had found the exertion of getting in and out of the shower quite hard, normally it's not exerting at all.

By the time I'd got a taxi sorted to take me to A&E (it wasn't quite a blue-light ambulance situation, though in retrospect perhaps it should have been) I was quite breathless and finding it difficult to talk. Once I got to A&E I felt quite panicky, a sort of dawning realisation that I can't be very well if I'm in A&E and began to get tingling in my arms and hands (not legs or feet though). Things moved very quickly after I was triaged by a lovely person who tried to relax me, despite telling me I was in 'high AF' (atrial fibrillation where the heart rhythm goes awry and the sequence of events that brings blood into the heart and pumps it out again gets out of sequence, my heart was going so fast it was kind of missing steps out!) and I was put on an ECG machine and hooked up to blood pressure (184/something or other so very high - it went up to over 200 before dropping later). I didn't have any chest or left-arm pain - they asked, and I said my chest felt a bit exhausted, but no crushing or burning sensations.

Lovely nurse and doctor came and had a chat and asked me lots of questions about my medical history (uncomplicated picture of health) and I noticed that everyone seemed to perk up a bit when I said I'd never smoked. I had been put on fluids and must have been feeling better because at that point I asked the doctor about that - it seemed counterintuitive to me that if my pressure was high, then introducing more fluids into the situation seemed like a bad idea. It apparently doesn't work like that and he said I was quite dehydrated, which surprised me no end as I'd had a pint of milk and a 500ml bottle of water earlier in the day. But when you're fighting an infection your fluid requirements might be a bit higher than normal and to be honest I'd probably panted quite a lot out trying to breathe / cool down!

Possibly my use of the word 'tachycardia' rather than fast heart-rate prompted the doctor to ask if I had a medical background. I explained that I didn't but had worked in the area so understood a fair bit (though I'm obviously not medically trained). This made things quite interesting as I got to hear a bit more about the tests they were doing, and the worst one was coming up.

If you are ever told you'll be having blood drawn from the artery in your wrist (an ABG [arterial blood gases] test) and they offer you a local anaesthetic, accept that anaesthetic. I thought having a line for a drip put in the vein my front elbow (is there a word for that, medical or otherwise... crook?) was uncomfortable. My veins are quite deep so it was quite an effort for people to get bloods out of me for the morning tests, and to get fluids in. I was a pin cushion of bruises.

Anyway after a bit of jabbing they got some blood out of the artery but unfortunately the machine stopped working so they had to do it again. I insisted they give the other wrist a go to let the first recover (by this time is was after 9pm so I'd been there for four hours) and didn't have anaesthetic there either. At one point the needle contacted my radial nerve and I must have let out a bit of a yelp as that was a pretty acute and unpleasant experience - it felt as if molten lava was flowing across my hand. For a week afterwards every time I put on a jumper and stretched out my arm I got a shooting pain along the nerve but thankfully nerves recover and that went quite quickly.

The test lets them infer what any bacteria might be doing, presumably I might have been at risk of having bacteria in the blood (or worse, bacteria in the blood that weren't responding to medication) but the results were only a little higher than normal and not a cause for alarm, at least that's my understanding of it. The doctor also mentioned that I'd been cyanotic when I arrived (blue around the edges, not a good sign if it comes on suddenly - I'd not noticed it) but by now I was 'back in sinus rhythm' which is good news in my book.

Two days later everything had returned to 'higher than normal' rather than 'blimey, high' and being out of danger I was allowed to go home and continue getting things back to normal myself, with the medication highlighted above. I set myself up a list with timings and the medications I should take at times throughout the day and followed it religiously, also monitoring my temperature which remained normal. I didn't overexert myself (another doctor cautioned against treating myself as if I was much better before I really was, to avoid some sort of post-viral fatigue thing - I don't know much about that but cheerfully followed the advice to chill out).

Without a formal diagnosis I can't prove what I had, or how seriously ill I was. For example I don't think I had sepsis but perhaps if I'd not gone to hospital promptly things might have headed in that direction. If you're a doctor reading and can clarify anything I've misunderstood I'm happy to hear about it. I was relieved to recover and am happy to write this, and indeed any, post highlighting that homeopathy is a load of twaddle and won't cure anyone of anything.

Blog carnival placemarker for others' anecdotal cures
• your blog post here...

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Comment policy: I enthusiastically welcome corrections and I entertain polite disagreement ;) Because of the nature of this blog it attracts a LOT - 5 a day at the moment - of spam comments (I write about spam practices,misleading marketing and unevidenced quackery) and so I'm more likely to post a pasted version of your comment, removing any hyperlinks.

Comments written in ALL CAPS LOCK will be deleted and I won't publish any pro-homeopathy comments, that ship has sailed I'm afraid (it's nonsense).