Last winter, my brother Tom, a 68-year-old kidney transplant recipient, traveled from New York to Virginia to visit his new grandson. Within a week of his arrival, he developed a fever with nausea and vomiting and was admitted to the local medical center for possible sepsis. His wife called a few days later to reassure me he was improving, the cultures were negative, and the doctors thought he had a viral illness.
On the evening before discharge, Tom complained that he could not breathe. When I arrived the following day, he was sedated, on a ventilator, and receiving broad-spectrum antibiotics and intravenous fluids. An extensive work-up revealed no pulmonary embolus, infection, or lung infiltrates. The physician who made the decision to intubate Tom the night before told me the blood gas showed adequate oxygenation, but he was worried that my brother couldn’t keep up the work of breathing. “Could he have been having an anxiety attack?” I asked. “Maybe,” he acknowledged.
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Buckley LM. What About Recovery. JAMA. 2019;321(13):1253–1254. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.2134
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