Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Holy Frickin Fecal Matter!

Ay yi yi! Check out this delightfully squicky medical horror story over at Kevin M.D.'s blog, a cautionary tale of Guide Wires Gone Wild.

A 40-year-old man with Crohn's disease underwent an uncomplicated operation involving lysis of adhesions that were causing intestinal obstruction. After surgery, a cardiologist inserted a central venous catheter through the left subclavian vein. No problems with catheterization were noted. Three weeks later, after discharge, mild pain and edema developed in the patient's right lower leg. He was treated with antibiotics for 1 week, and his symptoms diminished. Six months after the operation, the patient presented with posterior cervical pain. A guide wire, presumably lost during the insertion of the central venous catheter, was protruding from the back of his neck...[!!!]

Creepy guide wire stories always hold a special intrigue for me. Do y'all remember back when my chemo port was implanted, a piece of one of the guide wires broke off during surgery? A high-speed chase ensued, with a crack team of radiologists in hot pursuit of the fugitive wire as it galloped amok through my veins. In my case the hotshot docs located it and pulled it out through a hole in my groin. (What exactly is the difference between a groin and a loin anyway?) But nobody bothered to remove the broken guide wire from this poor man, and six months later the damn thing poked right out through the back of his neck:

I tell you what, it's a damn good thing I don't have any hair right now or it would have stood itself straight up on end and burst into flames just from looking at that photo.

Incidentally, I got the bill for my port surgery in the mail the other day. The anesthesiologist who administered the twilight charged me $520; the prepubescent resident who performed the port installation and broke the guide wire charged $54; and the crack team of radiologists called in to remove the renegade wire charged a whopping $2,241. I was going to complain about this exorbitant wire removal fee, but now I'm suddenly inclined to send them flowers instead.


Blogger Christina said...

They charged you for that?? Their mistake and they're charging you? And they're charing you nearly four times the amount of the procedure they were supposed to get right? What in the hell is going on down there?


9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Christina: it's a frickin' outrage that you're charged for the very expensive dudes that have to swan in and sort out the mistake.

Anyway, re the guide wire and the man's neck. Ick. that's awful. I'm trying to imagine the thought going through the poor guy's mind as he graspd the wire for the first time, and I just can't.

9:50 PM  
Blogger Ya Looblue said...

holy crap! i guess it was lucky that it didn't puncture something on the way...?

9:54 PM  
Blogger okie said...

My wife and I have a very small now vacant rental house with ajoining rose garden. It is available if you would consider relocating to a small town in Oklahoma for a very affordable rental rate.
The rose garden has 50 or so mature plants with automatic watering. The roses are in 200' of slightly raised beds with no grass and little room for expansion. The garden shed is the same size as the house and partially airconditioned. The roses need pruning and have suffered more neglect than imaginable. The first conditon in the rental agreement would a promise not to report me to the A.S.P.C.R.
I can send pics of the roses if you are interested. email for more info.
Keep your chin up and keep on smiling, make the world wonder what you have been up to.

10:04 PM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

I guess the reason they charged me was because it was an elective surgery: they did give me the option of leaving the wire in my body. Anyway, somebody has to pay. If I'd had insurance, I wouldn't even have been aware of the various fees.

Okie: Thanks for the kind offer! Is there any dancing in your town? I've been toying with the idea of relocating to Texas and taking up polka, becoming a devotee of the Brave Combo cult. But I've heard the TX public hospital system makes Our Lady of the Damned look like a cross between the Mayo Clinic and the Taj Mahal.

10:11 PM  
Blogger bmom said...

I don't know about Tx public health care. My aunt went through a later stage breast cancer (ignored the lump for over a year because of no insurance). She had a radical mastectomy, radiation, chemotherapy, reconstruction surgery (took fat from her tummy and tunnelled it up to match her new size DD (reduced during surgery from F) cup. I'm almost certain she paid nothing. This was at Parkland in Dallas. Of course this was in '83 (she is still a BC survivor BTW) so things may have changed. She was at Zale Lipshy which is the same hospital my wealthy father-in-law did his cancer treatment!

9:18 AM  
Blogger okie said...

They have SR. dances here a few times a week. The some dances are free, some are $1.00 or bring bring a covered dish for dinner. You are too young to attend, but I doubt that anyone would protest or ask for an ID. I am sure you would be the Belle of the Ball.
It is darkest just before the dawn, keep looking for the light.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Optimist said...

Hey There -

I just discovered your blog last night - (through Urban Cowgirls - I would love to move to NZ! - especially since I live in Houston!) Anyway, enough about me!

I have an uninsured friend who recently went through the "system" at MD Anderson. The paperwork took a couple of months - but she did get approval to be treated there. If you would like, I can find out for you what residency requirements there might be etc...
Cause Brave Combo is worth it!

I work at MDA (as a pharma rep) and your stories of your chemo side effects really anger me. (I'm sorry to dump here but damn!) My husband says that my mission in life is to "conquer vomit one patient at a time" - and I hate hearing stories like yours. I know you are at the end of your chemo sessions (yeah!)but my company has a free drug program for uninsured patients, and I will be happy to point you in that direction as well. You can email me at if you are interested.

You are a wonderful writer. I love your fiery prose and your fabulous snarky attitude.

Cheers -

An Optimist

11:36 AM  
Blogger Mrs Pretzel said...

I'm new to your blog, but I had to let you know I was here. I've had several famiy members battle cancer. Your stories have been amazing. I might not comment all the time, but know that I will be checking for new YOU everyday!


12:05 PM  
Blogger Calabama said...

Found this blog (via Twisty) a bit ago and finally figured out how to start up on Blogger so I can leave a comment.

You're so wow. What heart! What wit! And what an elegant bald noggin!

So sorry to read about your recent housing debacle, but if Texas or Hawaii don't suit your fancy, I suspect something else will. And if I read your archives right, today is your last chemo session. Congrats! I hope you get to gorge on all the forbiddens.

Keep on keeping on, and big thanks for all the wicked wisdom from a newly enthralled reader.


P.S. Re: intracorporeal wanderings: Ten years ago, my partner stepped on a nail that pierced his foot through the shoe; the wound was clean and apparently healed well and quickly, with no swelling or redness. Six months later, a strange red lump appeared on the TOP of the foot. It was cultured and no foreign object found. Finally, after 3 years of these intermittent infections battened down with Keflex, an infinitesimal piece of sock emerged, and he hasn't had a problem since.

And a neurosurgeon friend told me of a man he saw who was complaining of leg pain. He had been shot in the shoulder years before. The bullet had apparently passed through the heart and slid down the femoral artery, and finally lodged somewhere in the lower calf.

These bodies of ours are the stuff of sci-fi.

6:20 PM  
Blogger Roxy Doublefist said...

I had knee surgery a couple of years ago to repair a torn ACL and when I went in for follow up x-rays to make sure the screws were holding. Looking at the x-rays I could see a wierd piece of metal in my femur sticking out at a different angle than all the screws. I asked my surgeon what that was and he just blew it off and said "oh that's a guide wire that broke off in your femur, happens to a lot of young people because their bones are so strong. Anyway, it'd cause more damage if we tried to fish it out so we just left it." After reading the horror story you just posted now I'm pretty nervous!

9:49 AM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

After reading the horror story you just posted now I'm pretty nervous!

Yup, and I bet anything a whole gaggle of doctors who just finisihed reading the latest issue of NEJM (where that story ran) are feeling pretty damn nervous now too.

11:29 AM  
Blogger L. said...

I`m so glad you finally posted on your blog -- I really feared that, "I'm totally devastated right now, and I have no idea where I'll live or what will become of me" would be the last words of yours I would ever read.

I mean, I was worried you would stop blogging -- or start a whole new blog somewhere, and not let "non-insiders" like me know where to find it.

I can`t tell you how happy I was to read your latest post -- even if it did totally gross me out, and make me worried that all sorts of lost surgical stuff could be floating around in side me, like junk in space.

4:31 PM  

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