On December 18, 2009, “Simon Jones” called 9-1-1 and summoned emergency medical services (EMS) to his residence after developing a significant difficulty in breathing over the last few days. Mr. Jones is an elderly male who lives alone after his wife passed away three years ago. His two adult children live out of state. As EMS arrived, they found Mr. Jones to be in moderate distress with difficulty breathing, a low-grade fever, pale and cool skin, and general complaints of weakness. Mr. Jones stated a significant past medical history, including coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension, angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mr. Jones was treated by EMS with intravenous fluids, provided a breathing treatment, and transported to the local community hospital’s emergency department (ED).
Upon arrival at the local hospital, Mr. Jones was registered as a patient during turn-over from EMS to the nurse and attending physician who initially prescribed antibiotics and continual oxygen by nasal cannula. Within an hour, Mr. Jones spiked a high fever, became severely short of breath, and his blood pressure dropped precipitously indicating systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), or sepsis. The attending physician quickly ordered IV fluids run wide open with vasoactive medications added to support the patient’s blood pressure. Mr. Jones was unable to breathe effectively, however, and required intubation and was subsequently placed on a ventilator. The attending physician consulted with the University Hospital “One Call” physician who recommended transferring Mr. Jones to the intensive care unit (ICU) at University Hospital. A critical care transport (CCT) unit, staffed by two critical care paramedics and an emergency medical technician driver, was called for the transfer.
Mr. Jones was transferred to University Hospital without issue. Upon arrival, the intensivist accepted patient care from the CCT crew and began formulating a team to care for Mr. Jones, specifically mindful of his complicating medical history. Mr. Jones still had a low blood pressure and required ventilatory support, but his core temperature began dropping below normal. After a few days of using medication to attempt to correct the infection and hemodynamics (blood pressure, et al.), the patient developed acute renal failure (ARF). Mr. Jones, however, did not develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), which was a concern from being on the ventilator with SIRS. Mr. Jones received continuous bedside hemodialysis for added kidney support.
After eight more days in the ICU, Mr. Jones’s hemodynamics began to self-regulate, and he seemed to be improving quite well. After three more days, Mr. Jones’ kidney function began to improve and hemodialysis was discontinued. Four days later, Mr. Jones was extubated, removed from the ventilator, and transferred to a medical/surgical bed. After a short stay, Mr. Jones was discharged to a skilled nursing rehabilitation center for improvement of his activities of daily living (ADLs). Mr. Jones soon returned home with no lasting effects from the medical confinement. He continues to follow up with his primary care physician.