Breathing Problems After TBI: Take My Breath Away
It was Saturday, June 4th, 2011 and I was in the stepdown unit at Elmhurst hospital in Queens, New York, almost one month after sustaining a severe TBI [traumatic brain injury] that left me comatose for 12 days. The emergency department was bustling with people struggling to survive gunshots, car accidents, violence, and overdoses, and through a restricted airway caused from prolonged intubation in the prior month, I couldn’t breathe.
The nurse kept calling for the attending physician to check on my situation, but the emergency department was so busy that he sent a resident to check on me. After the resident told me that all my vitals were fine and that I needed to calm down, he gave me an asthma treatment and some anti anxiety drugs, but it got worse.
I needed to be medically cleared for a Psych consult because my mom says that I was “going wild and was unconsolable.” The attending physician, Dr. Scott D Weingardt, finally showed up, saw my condition and immediately called the residents over.
“Why wasn’t I notified of this?!” He asked sternly. “What do you see here?” After a short pause he answered himself.
“He is using every single accessory muscle just to take a breath. So what are you doing for him?” He grabbed my chart and noticed that anti anxiety drugs were ordered.
“You’re throwing antianxiety drugs at a restricted airway?!?! You would be pretty anxious too, if you could not breathe! Take him to RICU and get him intubated immediately!”
Within 15 minutes I was sedated and taken up to the respiratory ICU where a tube was fed down my throat, past my pharynx and into my trachea.
Anxiety is always a symptom of a larger problem. Anti-anxiety drugs are like pain killers. They manage symptoms… that’s it. While pain killers and anti anxiety drugs have a place in managing symptoms, when I work with clients and anti-anxiety drugs or pain killers are in use, I help to uncover the underlying problem, consult my network of professionals to choose the best treatment, and we then get their medical team on board with whatever treatment we choose.
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