Staff and I were sitting at the tracking board when a new patient popped up, that I signed up for. The chief complaint was 'allergic reaction'.
"That should worry you," he said. "You'll get all these people with rashes and minor stuff and you might get cavalier, and then you'll get one that's true anaphylaxis, or true angioedema, and from then on that chief complaint will cause a lot of sphincter tone." We walk to the room.
He draws back the curtain and the lady's lips are HUGE, both of them. He turns and says to the nurse, benadryl, cimetidine, and solumedrol, please...no audible stridor but she is uncomfortable, worried.
0.4 mg of epinephrine, 1:1000, IM, is given. The language phone reveals nothing--no known allergies, no medications, no recent changes. Her hands are swollen, as well, and she has hives on her chest. No wheezing. Still no stridor. At the end of the phone call with the translator, through which she has said nothing as her cousin translates because she can't talk, she says, 'my throat feels tight'.
She is wheeled back to the trauma bay, where we do all our airways and lines, nurses hurrying, which is often a great predictor of how sick someone is. Surgery is there with three other traumas but the trauma chief is very intent on this lady. Another predictor of how sick someone is.
I am tempted to ask if this is a 'learner airway', but it's assumed that I will take it. I've seen her posterior pharynx, it's not swollen, she's young, it should be easy, but the impact of lips the thickness of two fingers across each is daunting. The trauma chief has the cric kit and is gowned.
Etomidate, sux, and I walk the mac blade down the center of the tongue, posterior pharynx, epiglottis, and a grade I view of the cords at which point I know she's safe because if I can't get it someone will, then the tube is passed gently, and she's truly safe. All over but the sedation, and the workup. No labs ever drawn. Under it all, she was an easy airway--which means we did it at the right time.
These are rare. I remember those prophetic words--you'll get cavalier, and then you'll have one...