Sunday, February 21, 2010

Allergic Reaction

My father recently collapsed. At the hospital, my mother and I were bombarded by human and mechanical communication as doctors reported test results and machines whirred or beeped.

Eventually my father was diagnosed with a whopping case of pneumonia and the doctor admitted him so IV antibiotics could be administered.  Within moments of the drug being added to the IV, my father's arm began to itch.  As it turned bright red, I ran for the nurse.

The nurse hurried to my father.  She was joined by another caregiver who said a reaction happens frequently with that particular medicine.  My obvious thought – then why give it?  What this woman said was a concern – not because my father had hives - but because of all the things that were implied in her statement. 

What I heard was:  we should have expected this, we should have remained in the treatment cubicle to be sure it didn’t happen, why does the doctor prescribe something that is a known allergen, these allergic reactions require time that could be spent on other needs or patients.  She was clearly exasperated and I could tell it had nothing to do with my father as a patient.

My father’s chart is no longer void of medications to which he is allergic.  We found one.  I am grateful that the allergic response was confined to hives and it occurred in a setting where medical intervention was readily available.  I am sure that some patients have a stronger and more dangerous reaction.

I wonder if any of this is communicated back to the drug companies or the FDA?  I doubt it.  I’ll also bet that the drug to which my father reacted is more expensive than the one that he was ultimately given.

Am I being too cynical?