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Karen Irving

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Scary Experience - Karen's Story

In 1971, a routine tonsillectomy in Knoxville, TN was performed as an out-patient surgery. During the surgery the patient experienced cardiac and respiratory distress accompanied by a rising temperature and muscle contracture. The patient, Karen Irving, was 21 years old and would experience another such episode two years later during a surgery to repair a broken arm. The first hospital stay lasted six days with the second stay lasted seven days. The doctors had no explanation for either occurrence and the patient ran a fever of 104 – 105 for four days.

To say I was lucky is putting it mildly. I remember reading in the early 1980’s about a young football player in the Knoxville area having surgery on a shoulder and dying from malignant hyperthermia. This was the first time I heard of the disorder. In 1984, an oral surgeon planned to remove my wisdom teeth in the hospital. In the planning process, I informed him of my fears because of my two previous experiences. He was concerned and surprised that I had survived the previous surgeries. His plan included an investigation of what he thought may be happening prior to my surgery.

The day of the surgery, I entered the surgery prep area and was connected to heart and respiratory monitors and an IV pump. The surgeon’s plan was to perform a blind test of a couple of anesthesia medications to see my reaction. The first anesthesia given showed no change in my vital signs. When the second anesthesia, succinylcholine, was administered a rapid change occurred in my heart and lung vitals and I remember alarms sounding and people scurrying around me. Later he remarked, “You were very calm during all this”.  I was treated with Dantrolene and then he used a non-triggering anesthesia for my surgery. I’m quite sure that if this occurred in 2016, he would send me for a muscle biopsy first, which I later received. His investigation may well have saved my life.

After joining MHAUS, I have had bilateral knee replacement and a hysterectomy without further incident. MHAUS and dedicated Anesthesiologists need to be credited with providing information and care to patients suffering from Malignant Hyperthermia. 


As told by Karen Irving

Views and opinions expressed on this page are only those of the individual telling their story. MHAUS has not clinically vetted the content. 

Tags:  Karen Irving 

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