This is difficult for me to write. My husband,
JC or Castwell, is ill and it will be some time
before he is back to normal. The worse of it,
it didn't have to happen.
About a month and a half ago, our family doctor
changed the cholesterol drug he was taking. He
had been on Provacol and the local clinic where
our doctor is was out of it. So the medicine was
changed to Niacin-release Lovastatin.
Because of my various allergies I always check out
any new drug prescribed to me on google.com. I did
not check out the Lovastatin. Part of the reason
is the words Niacin-release do not appear on the
JC is intolerant of niacine and has severe reactions
including face flushing, edema (swelling) and severe
stomach cramps and diarrhea. He had a very mild
reaction at first, which continued to get worse.
Off to the doctors office. Doctor put JC on 'water
pills' and told him he would probably have to take
them for the rest of his life.
Although he was still very active, (up on the roof
of our home trimming tree branches and spending a day
on the ocean on a charter fishing for Pacific salmon,)
he began feeling weaker. His feet and ankles were
Back to the doctor. Changed to a different water pill.
Abdomen is now swelling. Doctor advised him to drink
The Thursday before our scheduled Idaho-Fish-In, I
called an old friend who had been associated with
the same clinic a while back. She is a ARNP now
with her own practice. I explained JC's symptoms
and she said she would be at our house in half an
hour. She was.
One of her questions was had any of JC's medications
been changed recently. She did a thorough exam and was
also very concerned. She ordered blood tests, liver
scan, and chest x-ray for the next morning. When she
got home she researched the new med, as did I here.
She told JC not to take any more of the medicine and
the consensus was JC had toxic hepatitis, poisoning
caused by the med, which then ended up with the liver
Fast forward a few days, the Fish-In was rapidly coming
up and JC wanted to go. He wasn't improving, but since
the bad med had taken a month to get him in serious
trouble, it would take some time to get the med out
of his system.
Betty gave me a written list of things to watch out
for, and if any of them appeared we were to head for
We went on Monday morning, delaying our departure by
a couple of days. Bad decision. The Fish-In is a
10 hour drive east from Seattle, and we live an hour
west of Seattle. No good emergency service in Lowell
Idaho, and the next 'big' town is either Lewiston Id,
or Missoula, Montana. Something we should have really
JC continues to get weaker.
One of the people at the Fish-In was Dana Sorenson
from Colorado, an old friend of "Z's." Dana is also
a PA with his own practice. He volunteered to take
a look at JC. He wasn't happy with what he saw either,
and said if he wasn't much better by Wednesday morning
to bug out.
By morning the edema was pushing up into the chest
and JC was having difficulty breathing. Dana said
go; I packed up and we left.
I rarely drive, so now it's a 10 hour drive back and
into traffic in gridlock Seattle. And once close to
the hospital I get lost. I stopped at two gas
stations in Bellevue asking for directions.
Unfortunately none of the employees spoke English
well enough to be of help. I headed in what I thought
was the right direction and when a cop passed me I
flashed my headlights and flagged him down. He
couldn't leave his jurisdiction to get me to the
hospital, but he wrote down directions I was able
We had called the hospital in advance and JC's heart
doctor at the UW and told emergency we were coming,
as had Betty.
Once there he was admitted into emergency with
congestive heart failure.
There was some reticence on the part of the emergency
doctors to believe the whole thing was triggered by
the med, but finally they accepted it because nothing
else made sense.
The next afternoon, Thursday, JC was moved out of
emergency to the Cardiac ICU. They had him wired
for everything. His blood work was out of sight,
carbon dioxide levels off the chart and one of the
doctors told me if he made it through I would be
taking him home to die. There was another arrogant
resident who tried to tell me I should have seen
this coming for some time, after all it was full
congestive heart failure. He didn't believe me
when I told him JC had been fine, and how active
he was. He changed his tune when Betty talked
Of course they ran all the tests they could think
of, and the liver is now fine, no permanent damage,
the heart actually preformed extremely well or he
would have been dead. The lungs are not in wonderful
shape, but in a couple of weeks JC will be on a
physical rehab program which will also help his
overall physical strength.
The edema is not totally gone, although he lost
about twenty pounds of fluids. The stress that
put on both his lungs and heart was huge.
He IS going to recover, he is on oxygen
day and night here at home.
The reason I write this is not to have you feel
badly for JC; I do it in hopes of alerting you
to things that can and do happen. Pay attention!
One of the things we wives fear is having a husband
who doesn't like going to doctors. (Not that our
family doctor helped - and by the way, he retired
from his practice on Oct. 1) But if something isn't
working, get another opinion! Don't kid yourself
with the "I'll see how I feel in a couple of days."
JC wasn't totally honest with me on how he felt - but
I should have been more alert too.
Old Rupe a couple of years ago gave me a lecture on
taking charge of our own medical care. I recall him
saying "This isn't the 1950's and doctors just don't
keep track of their patients and give that kind of
care." Well, I dropped the ball.
Besides the physical toll this all took on JC (and
me too) it is an expensive lesson. We do have insurance,
but trust me, it will not cover the whole bill. Heck,
we probably blew nice fishing trips to some of those
far-off exotic places.
I hope you can benefit from our mistakes. Don't let
it happen to you. ~ DLB
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