From Ellen, on the Cushing's Help Message Boards
I have a very good friend who has had more adrenal crises than anyone care to count (more than 20). She has tried hard to teach me some important things for the day I should ever have a crisis. Among them is the reality that (as before surgery) success of your care depends on YOU getting everything prepared for the worst as best you can. We can no more depend on the ER staff than any other doc out there who isn't a specialist in pituitary medicine. You all have already done much of preparing by having your medic alert bracelets on, your injectable Cortef (bring it with you in case they don't have it there) and your letter from Dr. F. But that isn't enough much of the time as you have painfully discovered.
1) Prevention is the key. You, Mary, are SO overdoing it, I don't know what to say. You shouldn't even be leaving your house right now, let alone taking on the care of small children. You need a good talking to, missy. Perhaps you can choose to do ONE easy task a day but overall-you should be bored out of your gourd sitting on your tuckus. The more you do, the more you risk events like this. The hardest part is understanding that recovery is not a linear improvement every day. You are going to have weeks or maybe months where you can do no more than you did the first week after surgery. This recovery takes a long time when surgery works. Each tiny task you accomplish depletes you in an additive way. It might not have seemed much at the time to unload the dishwasher but you better believe it counts when you add in each additional task you want to accomplish.
2) Everything is additive. It isn't just what you did today but also what you did the last three, four or five days. You may have felt good the first day but each successive day my guess is you could feel your body pushing a bit. I find I say things like, "If I could just get this ONE more job done, then I will rest" before I am off to the next job. Before I know it, it is too late. Think hard about the twinges you feel the days before this happened this time around, when you were tired. How do you feel in the evenings after a day of activity? Those are the signs to look for and treat early the next time. You are having to listen to your body in a whole new way. Learn your earliest signs.
3) Take more Cortef when you first get those twinges above--the days before a crisis might strike.
4) Everyone in your household needs to be trained to give you Cortef. Teach them that confusion on your part indicates a crisis coming on-if you aren't making sense they need to understand that YOU are not able to help yourself. In most cases the oral cortef will keep you out of the ER if someone else makes sure you take it. Don't hesitate, don't let yourself talk them out of helping you-just take it-it is better to err high than low with your history of crises right now.
5) Knowing that in spite of all of this you need ER care potentially, consider calling the liason in person and talking real-time about your needs for future visits-explaining how quickly things become life threatening. They need to have something about your history in the computer already-a copy of that letter from Dr. F plus their own notes that it is on the up and up along with the note to please page your doctor. Give them a recipe to follow that they have pre-approved and it will help greatly. Most ER doctors will never see an adrenal crisis patient in their ER. Doctors have limits on their abilities just as everyone else does. I can read English really well but if you handed me a book written by someone in 1610, I would likely take longer to get through it because I am not as familiar with the format...the 'wherefore art thous' are English but they sure slow you down. That is what happens in the ER to Addisonians...doctors eventually get there but it takes longer because it is unfamiliar. Help them out by giving them the Cliff-Notes before you ever get there.
5A) Also insist that for now they order and keep Solu-Cortef on the shelves for you. Many (most?) hospitals do NOT have it stocked, as my friend discovered over and over again when she went to the ER. It took hours for them to track some down and give it to her. In the meantime, she was getting sicker and sicker. She finally asked the liason to help be certain they had it for her, ready to go. Now, they have it ready for her, they know her and they know what to do. She is often out of there in about 3 hours.
6) If you are vomiting/collapsed clearly in serious trouble, by the time you head off to the ER, call 911/ambulance so you get taken in and cared for without waiting. Your life is at risk by that stage and you need immediate care. It is justified and potentially life-saving.
7) Always have a trained advocate with you, have several back ups in your life. My friend has her husband but she also has me ready to go-have the hospital list several people to call ahead of time in case you arrive on your own and they can't reach your primary person. Your advocates need to know what to do independently of you. They need to know what to say and how to push the ER staff to get things done on your behalf. We, as patients struggling with Cushing's, are used to having to push but most people are very intimidated by medical personnel and often hang back, figuring they must know what to do. Make sure they understand this just isn't the case sometimes and that your life may depend on what they say or get the staff to do. It is critical they contact your endocrinologist-have your advocate INSIST they do this. If they won't, have your advocate page the doctor for you. Be sure you go over a plan with your advocate periodically or answer their questions about what may happen. I went over much of my plan with my husband prior to my surgery but discovered that within days of surgery, he had forgotten most of what I said. He really wanted to help but just hadn't taken in the medical stuff because it was overwhelming and scary. Keep going over it until they are comfortable.
I really hope these are the last ER visits for you all. I have agonized each time my friend goes into another crisis. I know that in spite of everything you do (or don't do) to prevent a crisis, they still happen. Hopefully the next time around, everything will be in place for you all to have a smooth experience.
So, sit down, turn on that television and get comfy girls. TAKE IT EASY!!