Discussions By Condition: Medical Errors

Empyema. Very rare lung disorder. Not Emphysema

Posted In: Medical Errors 15 Replies
  • Posted By: Randy J Becker
  • May 5, 2008
  • 10:58 AM

Hi, I am a 41 year old male that up until 3+years ago lived and worked a normal life. It started approximitely in Mid April 2005 when I was leaving the casino in Ft.Lauderdale FL. and noticed that I had a small headache and slightly stiff neck.(for me this is a sign I am getting sick)By the next morning I had some shortness of breath and a fever of 102'degree's, I figured I had the flu because of the symptoms I had. So I started taking some tylenol, bed rest and change in diet. mostly more fluids. The fever didn't go down but up to 103'f and would not move from approximate 103'f so I went to see my doctor and was prescribed Biaxin for a week, after about 4day's with no change in my fever I went to my local urgent care center. There they did an chest xray and found an unusual rectangular shape in my left lower lobe and was told I had walking pneumonia and gave me Leviquin for 1 week. After 5 day's of the new med I was getting worse and went to the hospital and was taken in immediately. My 02sats were in the low 90's I had over an 103'fever. I was admitted with a diagnosis of pneumonia. I was seen by a pulmonary doc and an Internist. They started doing tests and after 2 day's came up with Empyema (pus in the chest wall or pneumonia on the outside of the lung) This diagnosis really screwed them up because there is less than 1% of the population that gets this and usually it's an elderly sick person or a very young toddler. so I was given ct scans, chest xrays, arterial blood gases, 2 lung biopsies with pieces of my lung and pleura removed. Meanwhile my fever remained and oxygen levels were dropping. They made there mistake by not putting in chest tubes to drain the pus from the chest wall. And diagnosing it a level 1 empyema and not a 3 which is the worst you can get. After 2weeks in the hospital and having over 20 IV's and about 8 different antibiotics their still was no improvement. I was seen by a thoracic surgeon after 3 days in hosp and was told he was going to use all different types of antibiotics. I was getting chest xray's daily and since I was in the medical field as a respiratory therapist I knew how to read a chest xray and noticed that my left lower lobe was gone because of the pus but the doctor didn't want to put in a chest tube to drain and re-inflate my left lung. After one week in the hosp I was still running a fever in the 103's and 02sat's were 90% on O2. my thoracic surgeon went on vacation for a week and left me in the hands of a retiring surgeon of 77yrs old that didn't do procedures because of his hands. When my doctor came back after 1 week he came and saw me still in the hospital but my whole left lung was collapsed and trachea had shifted to the right lung I was on 100% O2 and my sat's were 85% and my fever was 103.5'. I was rushed into the O.R. and for six hours he drained 4liters of pus and had to cut away the scar tissue that surrounded my lung and after re-inflating my lung he had removed the outer lining of my lung that keeps the lung from sticking to the chest wall. I woke up with 5 tubes coming out of my chest.(2 chest tubes, 2 draining tubes and 1 medication tube). I stayed another 2 weeks because my fever finally broke after 10days post op. I went home after 1 month in the hospital with about 10 medications and oxygen. my pulmonary tests come back as if I was an 80year old smoker with emphysema and to this day has not changed after 3yrs and I have chronic pain due to the lining of the removed. I am on disability because of sob and pain. All the doctor had to do was put in a chest tube on my 2nd day in the hospital and I would have been OK. But now I need a special surgery because of severe heartburn and a hiatal hernia and still to this day I get fevers about every 4 to 6 weeks and have been hospitalized over 15times since the operation. It's an on going nightmare. RB.

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  • I read your story and gosh. what can I say?May I ask has it always been the same hospital? Im a strong believer in 2nd opinions. As in my case doctors can get carried away once they get on a track wih a certain diagnosis. I advised someone last year to get a 2nd opinion last, they went to the same doctor and asked him again! Of course I didnt mean that, but was happy to hear the doctor rethought his original diagnosis.
    auntie_biotic 7 Replies Flag this Response
  • It sounded like you were suffering from second hand smoke--all the dangers from working in a casino--hope you get stronger and stronger. It's too late to see a lawyer, you have 1-2 years at the most. Hope you talked with a lawyer while you had a chance.
    Monsterlove 2921 Replies Flag this Response
  • I am on my 3rd hosp 2 in florida and 1 in north carolina and they still can'tcome to a decision in NC. the hospital is affiliated with a very well known University and have done the most lung transplants in the US. And have one of the most superior lung treatment centers around. And they don't know what to do except blame it on GERD and say I am aspirating that is causing the fevers every month the sob and swollen limbs. and keeps me on the 60mg prednisone, Qvar,Aerobid,Albuterol, morphine,methadone and elavil. they still really don't know what to do. They are planning to do a nissen fundiplication so I don't aspirate. Also I was not a smoker or around it because I worked in the hosp for 15+yrs. Most doctors have never seen this and just don't know what to do. It was like waking uo one day feeling fine and by the nighttime I felt like I've had and 3yrs later I am 75lb's overweight because of all the steroids. not being able to do 99% of the things I ws able to do before. I've must have seen at least 15 different doctors from pulmo's to infection disease doc's and oncologists. with no luck. So I keep trying and looking for that one doctor that get him or her interested enough that they go that extra step. For now I just live day by day and hope something happens or some doctor tells me he has found something. Thanks for your interest.Hope all is well. Randy B.
    Randy J Becker 5 Replies Flag this Response
  • Sir,I also had an empyema in 2005 similar to your case. I am a breast cancer survivor with many medical complications. At he time I was doing well and thought I had the flu. I went to the hospital and they sent me to ICU on a respirator. I ended up at the U of W Hospital in Seattle where a wonderful young Thorasic Surgeon saved my life. I don't remember his name but I think U of W is one of the top Thoracic Centers in the US and he is the only one who does lung transplants. You may want to give it a try. Good Luck.
    flower 1 Replies Flag this Response
  • Sir,I also had an empyema in 2005 similar to your case. I am a breast cancer survivor with many medical complications. At he time I was doing well and thought I had the flu. I went to the hospital and they sent me to ICU on a respirator. I ended up at the U of W Hospital in Seattle where a wonderful young Thorasic Surgeon saved my life. I don't remember his name but I think U of W is one of the top Thoracic Centers in the US and he is the only one who does lung transplants. You may want to give it a try. Good Luck.Hi, and thanks for the reply. I just moved to North Carolina from Florida so I can go to Duke University Medical Ctr. And so far no luck, I keep on getting bronchitis and pneumonia this is because the first thoracic surgeon screwed up by not doing the surgery asap. When I was in the hospital he waited 2 weeks and it got much worse and he had to take the lining off of my lung and thats been my problem ever since. Thanks and feel good. Randy
    Randy J Becker 5 Replies Flag this Response
  • HiMy name is Rachel and I was 37 when I was eventually diagnosed with an empyema in my lung. I am a fit and healthy mum of two children living in the UK. It started with what I though was flu 2 weeks before Christmas a couple of years ago. I tried to get lots of rest but my temperature was very high, my GP told me to drink lots and take paracetemol. I eventually collapsed in my house on Christmas morning and stayed in a chair all day not knowing what was wrong with me. During that night I could not breath properly and my husband took me to A&E, a junior doctor working on Boxing Day said I had probably bruised or cracked a rib in my fall and to go home and do breathing exercises. After 2 days of not being able to lie down or breath properly my husband called our GP out to the house. He said I had pneumonia and gave me some antibiotics and pain relief tablets. 2 weeks later nothing was getting better so he changed my medication and sent me for a chest x-ray. By now it was 21st Jan and i was sent to see a consultant, I just about made it from the car to the hospital room.He took one look at my x-ray and admitted me to hospital, they tried 3 times to drain the pus from my lung without success, and put me on an intravenous drip of antibiotics. If that did not work they were going to operate and remove it, luckily I did not need that. However I started to get better and after 5 days in hospital I was feeling much better.It took about 6 months for me to recuperate and get my muscles back to normal. 2 years down the line I know that the consultant saved my life and it was only after knowing what I had gone through that I realised how really ill I was. I am very healthy again however I do still get chest pains when I get a cold or get run down. I still worry that this could happen again or that there will be repercussions when I get older from it Every year I get a flu jab and I also had a pneumonia jab. I hope you recover as well as I did.
    Anonymous 42789 Replies Flag this Response
  • HiMy name is Rachel and I was 37 when I was eventually diagnosed with an empyema in my lung. I am a fit and healthy mum of two children living in the UK. It started with what I though was flu 2 weeks before Christmas a couple of years ago. I tried to get lots of rest but my temperature was very high, my GP told me to drink lots and take paracetemol. I eventually collapsed in my house on Christmas morning and stayed in a chair all day not knowing what was wrong with me. During that night I could not breath properly and my husband took me to A&E, a junior doctor working on Boxing Day said I had probably bruised or cracked a rib in my fall and to go home and do breathing exercises. After 2 days of not being able to lie down or breath properly my husband called our GP out to the house. He said I had pneumonia and gave me some antibiotics and pain relief tablets. 2 weeks later nothing was getting better so he changed my medication and sent me for a chest x-ray. By now it was 21st Jan and i was sent to see a consultant, I just about made it from the car to the hospital room.He took one look at my x-ray and admitted me to hospital, they tried 3 times to drain the pus from my lung without success, and put me on an intravenous drip of antibiotics. If that did not work they were going to operate and remove it, luckily I did not need that. However I started to get better and after 5 days in hospital I was feeling much better.It took about 6 months for me to recuperate and get my muscles back to normal. 2 years down the line I know that the consultant saved my life and it was only after knowing what I had gone through that I realised how really ill I was. I am very healthy again however I do still get chest pains when I get a cold or get run down. I still worry that this could happen again or that there will be repercussions when I get older from it Every year I get a flu jab and I also had a pneumonia jab. I hope you recover as well as I did.Hi Rachel, thanks for your post. You were really lucky. I was living in Fort Lauderdale Florida and went to a teaching hospital which was one of the best in the state but my surgeon did the same thing and put me on antibiotics for a week thru an IV and this is after 3 weeks of antibiotics by mouth at home. after the week at the hospital he went on vacation for a week and when he got back my lung had collapsed and they had to open my chest and remove the lining of the lung to re-inflate it since then I've been in the hospital 17 times with pleurisy and pneumonia. I moved to North Carolina to go to Duke medical center to see if they can do anything but so far no luck but I keep on hoping something will come along. Thanks for your message and I hope you stay well. Randy Becker
    Randy J Becker 5 Replies Flag this Response
  • Wow I am sorry you have suffered. Duke U is an excellent facility...have you considered trying acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to help get your condition under control? Chinese medicine is simply fantastic for lung conditions, especially if you can find a qualified nationally certified Chinese herbalist. Duke has an alternative program and you may be able to get treatments there - there are a lot of acupuncturists working in NC. Please give this a try - it may really help. With your history of massive antibiotic use I also suggest a good probiotic to take daily. To find qualified acupuncturists in your area, please visit www.acufinder.com or www.nccaom.org. Traditional Chinese Medicine is thousands of years old, and a very effective form of medicine! Best wishesDOM
    acuann 3080 Replies Flag this Response
  • Randy, I was diagnosed with a an empyema on 4-14-08, I'm only 26 y/o (25 at the time) and it was the hardest thing I've ever experienced. It all started with me getting the flu then, after 4 day's I went to the dr. b/c I was having severe stabbing pains in my chest with every breath I took. I thought I had a broken rib due to an aweful cough I had, I was diagnosed with pneumonia... after another week I was back in the hospital with my oxygen sat. in the 80's and the dr. did an x-ray and said it was pleurisy. After another week and 3 different antibiotics (levaquin being one), I went back to the hospital with low oxygen sat. and was put on breathing treatments and steroids. The hospital I went to is a very small one that didn't even have a ct scan machine so, they did another x-ray which showed alot of cloudiness in my lung and pleura but, they came to the same conclusion... pneumonia and pleurisy. The pain had gotten so bad that I couldn't lay down or my muscles would lock up and I couldn't breathe at all. I slept sitting up in a chair, my lips stayed blue, I couldn't raise my arms, and I couldn't even walk more than 10 steps without running out of breathe and hyperventilating. Finally after 1 month, I couldn't take it anymore and my husband took me to a larger hospital in Pueblo, Colorado. When I got there my oxygen plummeted just from walking from the triage to the e.r. room. Just from walking my oxygen went into the 60's-70's... they did a ct scan and found the empyema filled 3/4 of my lung and explained to me that an empyema cannot be detected on x-ray and also that the steroids I was given could have actually made it worse by lowering my immune system. The night before my surgery, I had to use the bathroom and as I was walking slowly and holding onto the bed my muscles locked up again and I couldn't breathe and definitely couldn't scream... I crawled to the nurse call button and they had to pick me up and put me in bed. It was the scariest thing ever, it feels like your muscles and lung are suddenly filled with concrete and you can't breathe, talk, or move.On 4-14=08 I was scheduled for a thoracentesis but, once the cardio-thoracic surgeon began the surgery he realized that they would have to do a thoracotomy. My surgeon was afraid to put me under completely and only lightly put me to sleep and also gave me versed. I woke up 2 days later, they had to keep me on a ventilator to keep my lung from collapsing. I found out that the pus had actually hardened and that part of my lower right lung had to be removed and they also had to scrape out my pleural cavity... the doctor said he even had to split my ribs far enough open that he stuck his hand in my chest ! I spent 2 1/2 weeks in the hospital and had to keep chest tubes in for 2 of those weeks. I now have an 8 inch scar, and 2 2 inch scars from my tubes that will always remind me of the most horrific experience of my life. It took me about 2 months to be able to pick up my 6 month old baby again, my other kids didn't understand why I had left them for so long, my 3 year old started having nightmares and regressed in his potty training, I had to stop nursing my baby... I went through the worst depression for 3 months after the surgery b/c I felt useless and was still in shock over why and how this could have happened to me. Now, I have a $90,000 + medical bill that my insurance has been giving me the run around on paying b/c they said that they didn't have proof at the time that I am my husbands legal wife... I don't mean to whine but, I've never had the chance to really talk about it with anyone b/c noone really understands it or has experienced it. This experience left me with alot of anger and has shaken my faith.Randy, do you still have rib and lung pain ? It's been 6 months and every morning when I wake up, my lung is tight and it hurts to breathe for about 30 minutes. Plus my ribs still feel sore and kind of seperated. When I lean forward my back (near the end of my scar on my back) starts tingling then I get shooting nerve pain. I also want to say that I am so glad to find others who have experienced this b/c, I'm honestly still very confused about it all and haven't gone to another dr. b/c I'm trying to wait until my health insurance is straightened out. Thankyou, Stacey Fontenotp.s. I know my punctuation and spelling are probably atrocious but, I typed this as fast as I could think of it.
    Anonymous 42789 Replies
    • October 18, 2008
    • 00:41 AM
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  • Very interesting.
    kicksfanscom 9 Replies
    • October 20, 2008
    • 04:17 AM
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  • I am completely shaken by your stories. I wish all doctors read them all. Your stories should be used in medical school. Thank you for sharing.
    Felsen 510 Replies
    • October 20, 2008
    • 05:29 PM
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  • On March 13th, exactly one month after entering the hospital, I too ended my battle with empyema. Mine started out with strep throat which lead to broncittus. I was experencing chest pain, and being a 17 year old with heart conditions I wasn't going to take any chances and went to the ER. They told me it was broncittus and plurisy, gave me anti-biotics and sent me home. The next week was pure ***l. I Couldn't sleep, the pain droped me to my knees, I could bairly breathe, and at times it caused me to shake so bad I couldn't hold a class of water. After a week of this I went back in to the ER where a CT scan showed 3 pockets of fluid which had completely collapsed my left lung. I was sent to ICU over night, and in the morning 2 chest tubes and a catheter were inserted to drain fluid. At 17 this was a big deal for me, but little did I know it would get MUCH worse...Life or death worse. They sent me to the surgical recovery floor where I stayed a week while they tried to drain the fluid. They were able to drain some fluid, but It kept comming back and I wasn't getting better. After a week they decided that another sugery was needed. They wheeled me into the OR where they drained the fluid, scraped the lining of my whole lung and then inserted 4 chest tubes. I had 6 units of blood transfered during this. I was put back in ICU where i was on a ventalator and was kept sedated. Here is were it gets bad. Since I had no lining on my lung, air leaked out and built up under my skin. I looked as if I weighed 350 Lbs. Then the worst possible thing happened. A blood clot 8 inches long by 6 inches wide by 2 inches deep developed on top of my lung collapsing it again. Living in a small town in the middle of North Dakota, they wanted to fly me by medical support plane to Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, but I was to unstable. If they didn't do the sugery to remove the clot I wouldn't of lived into the night, but if they did the sugery, they were unsure if they could pull me out of the anaesthesia. They gave me a 5-15% chance of suvival. After the sugery which lasted only 4 hours, but put both family and friends through 4 hours of ***l I was amazingly still alive. I was put back in ICU with many anti-biotics, a stedy morphine drip, and a cocktail of sedatives to keep me sedated. The only problem was that the amount of drugs to keep me under was getting to deadly amounts so they woke me up after only 3 days. They wanted me out for at least a week. I spent the next week and a half awake, straped down in my ICU bed with a ventalator tube. I had never been more terrified in my life. Unable to talk, I did my best to communicate, but became very frustrated when people didn't understand me. With all the chest tubes and from what they drained in sugery, over 3 gallons of fluid was removed. It seemed like no matter what it always came back. The anti-biotics and sugerys finally cleared the infection though and I started to make progress. They had to keep the vent tube in because i couldn't breath on my own, but they atached a pressure bag and had me up walking around the ICU. After many tests they finally took the tube out (THANK GOD!!!). I was sent to the Peds. floor and had my chest tubes removed. I had my staples removed. After 1 month (Friday, Feb. 13 2009 - Friday, Mar. 13 2009), 17 units of blood, and after losing 50 pounds, I found out how weak I was when I pulled myself up into our Chevy suburban. I'm left with a phneumothorax (large pocket of air) in my chest, and my left lung is half collapsed from all the trama. The doctors say that this will always be there. It has been almost a week at home now and I am very grateful just to be able to tell my story, insted of family telling in with a very different ending.
    andrew2010 2 Replies Flag this Response
  • did you ever work around asbestos. mesothelioma is fluid that builds up in the lung lining, later starts to thickened and calcifies to the lung. pain in the lung area, night sweats, fever. ect. if you continue to have problems. you may suggest this to your dr. mesothelioma is very hard to dx though. when they removed the lining. it should of been checked.
    rasquel 6 Replies Flag this Response
  • I am recovering from a very similar experience. I had the flu for 2 wks, then was dianosed with pneumonia and I still had chills and fever. I finally ended up calling the ambulance for myself after I woke up and could not breathe and I was in so much pain I could barely move. I had never heard of an empyema. It took several days in the hospital before the diagnosed me, they were just treating me for pneumonia and I continued to get worse. They tried to drain fluid from my lung but it was already a thick substance according to my doctor, so they had to do surgery. They took about 3 liters off my lungs. I couldn't breathe on my own, so I was on a respirator in ICU for several days. I went home with a PICC line and gave myself antibiotics for 2 wks. It's been about a month since I've been home and I still am exhausted and feel pain. My doctor said he had never had anyone where this came back. Thank God! Now, I too, am looking at $90K worth of medical bills and not sure what my insurance will pay. It's nice to hear someone else's story. I can so identify with you all. I wish you the best.Julie
    Anonymous 42789 Replies
    • November 20, 2009
    • 01:21 AM
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  • After reading everyone else's posts, I count myself very lucky. It took me nearly a month to get to the hospital, but I was diagnosed the first day correctly. The hospital had about 4 lung doctors and I was in surgery 4 days later. It's been about 3 weeks and I'm recovering well. I tire easily and I would like to resume all previous activities soon. Like the rest of you I wonder, why me? and I don't think there is a good answer to that question. I'm 54, eat very healthfully, exercise a lot. I only had the fever of 102 for two days and then it just went away. I went back to work and it was a few weeks later that they had to call 911 because I couldn't get a breath because of all the coughing (dry). Ironically, I had been to my doctor twice between the fever days and the 911 call and he listened to me breath and didn't hear it. I don't fault him. I think it is rare and difficult to hear. The lung specialist barely heard it when he was listening for it. It's funny that everyone has to have a theory of why we got this when there doesn't seem to be any rational explanation!Suzanne
    SuzBanks 1 Replies Flag this Response
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