Sunday, October 5, 2008

The "Inhalinguisher"

1800 hrs -- Telephone conversation:

"Hello... is this the hospice nurse?"

"Yes it is. How can I help you?"

"Well, we keep a little fire extinguisher by Marvin's chair because we're afraid that he'll forget to take off his oxygen when he smokes. He's so confused nowadays."


"Well, he just took a big puff off the extinguisher because he thought it was his inhaler."

"Oh, my God! How's he doing?"

"Well, he's rolling around on the floor right now."

"Ma'am, please call 911 right now! There's nothing that I can do for him. He needs to go to the hospital!"

"Well, he says he doesn't want to go to the hospital."

"Does he have his oxygen on?"

"Well, no."

"Get his oxygen back on and turn it up to six liters. I'm going to hang up now. Keep your phone line free because I'm going to call you back in less than ten minutes."

"Well, alright."

Lucky me... I just happen to have the phone number for our community's Poison Center on speed dial. The news isn't good. The knowledgeable woman on the other end of the line tells me that the effects of inhaling the contents of a fire extinguisher can be devastating even to much younger, healthier lungs. That's all I need to know. I immediately call Marvin's wife:

"I've just talked to the Poison Center. You've got to call 911 and get Marvin to the hospital now!"

"Well, okay."

The next day I call my supervisor to get report before the start of my shift. Marvin, I am told, is doing great. In fact, he hasn't felt this good in a very long time. My supervisor laughs and tells me that the hospice is considering issuing little fire extinguishers to all patients with respiratory problems. Well, well...


Jessica Knapp said...

Wow! What a story! You must have been so panicked when you got the call.

I love your blog. I love the hospice nurse as comic-book heroine. You got that right! I can hardly think of a profession that more deserves to be held on a pedestal.

Tim said...

Gosh, I want to know if this was a Class ABC inha--er, extinguisher. Just to make sure we issue the right kind to our patients................

Any hints on titrating dosage?