Welcome back! Last week we said goodbye to Dr. Ross and his series on healthy eating. We thank him from the bottom of our heart for standing in while Linda had her surgery.

This week, Linda returns. Here I am! It’s good to be back in the saddle again. I missed you all terribly.

Linda Tate

I think my surgery to reconnect my rotator cuff was a success, but I know many of you heard through the grapevine that there were “complications“, and rather than answer each query, I decided to go ahead and address what happened in this week’s blog. My story may be of interest to others and, if nothing else, knowledge is power.

Before my surgery, I was offered a nerve block to reduce post-op pain in my shoulder. I gladly accepted the risks in exchange for the outcome – fewer opiates. The procedure went smoothly and I was wheeled into surgery.

When I woke up in recovery, everything seemed fine, but once I sat up, I immediately said, “I can’t breathe“. The nurse told me I was experiencing anxiety, and going home would be the best treatment. I again insisted that I couldn’t breathe, and she pointed out that I was talking, therefore I was breathing. This made sense and I tried to focus on calming myself down. My heart was thumping in my chest like a mule kicking a barn door, so I worked at slowing that down and taking small, measured breaths.

My husband drove me home and got me settled, but I still felt uneasy. Like something really bad was going to happen. The more I moved around, the less air I could move in my lungs. We got out our pulse oximeter, and my oxygen saturation rate was 85%. I felt dizzy and my chest hurt on one side. My heart rate was over 120 beats a minute. After a frantic call to the advice nurse, and a directive from the ER doctor on call, EMS was activated and I went by ambulance to the ER.

The first thing they did was turn off my nerve block. Next came an x-ray. Then the news that I was being admitted for “Atelectasis (a partially collapsed lung; fairly normal following anesthesia), pulmonary edema (fluid in my lungs), and phrenic nerve palsy (causing elevation of one side of the diaphragm)”.

The nerve block had apparently caused my diaphragm to partially stop working and as a result, I couldn’t move enough air to get oxygen to my brain. I was experiencing tachycardia/Afib upon arrival. Even laying down I felt faint, and there was an annoying buzzing in my ears that made it very hard to understand what was being said to me.

It took approximately 18 hours for the nerve block to completely wear off, but with the administration of oxygen, I felt better in 12 hours and asked to go home. They were hesitant, but I gathered up my new handy dandy breathing machine to exercise my lungs, and off I went.

Once home, I continued to have odd symptoms. In recovery post-op, I had mentioned a horrible metal taste in my mouth. That wore off but was replaced with a lack of taste. After losing 11 lbs in 6 days (everything tasted like wax), they sent me back to the clinic where I was given an IV for dehydration and a COVID test “just to be sure“.

Stock photo

Again I headed for home, but the lack of taste bothered me. Did I pick up COVID in the ER? During surgery? Thankfully my test was negative, and it is unclear why my taste is still “off“.

As of this writing, I basically have three tastes: 1. waxy 2. soapy, and 3. something close but not quite accurate, for example, coke tastes like vanilla coke. Almost accurate but not quite. I continue to feel winded when walking or getting dressed, but have been assured this too will pass with time.

We are always warned about the possible side effects of medications, treatments, or procedures. I know I often sign away my life without even reading about the risks, because I need the surgery, so what choice do I really have, right? In this case, I should have paid more attention to the nerve block. While I’m told this is a very rare occurrence (1 to 2%), it was still my responsibility to review those potential side effects and decide if the risk was worth the potential payout. Next time I will take more time and read the fine details.

Thank you so much for those of you who checked in on us over the last few weeks. We deeply appreciate all of you.

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3 Comments

  1. Reading the fine details is a good plan…but many do not understand the medical jargon. You doctor had an obligation to at least discuss some of the possible complications with you so you could truly sign with “informed” consent.
    Glad you are recovering…another life experience to make you more resilient for the future!

  2. From your blog statement it is obvious that you did not receive any Osteopathic treatments…….. unfortunate and sad considering the group you hang out with.

    Post op atelectasis is common in surgery. Yours more difficult with the nerve block issue with the phrenic nerve. Also that no one listened to your lungs when you complained. Where was the doctor??

    With OMT pre and post op the pain can be managed quite well. And with Osteopathic care a second year Osteopathic student could palpate the “mischief” in your rib cage spelling danger… and with a few simple techniques could help mitigate your symptoms a lot faster. And with fewer visits to the ED and doctor for IV’s…..
    I always perform pre and post op Osteopathic treatments. The pain is much less with much less Opoids used….

    Has anyone offered to treat you yet……

    1. Author

      No, they haven’t and my PCP is a DO…I wasn’t even aware there was a treatment for this…

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