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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

Tags:  Karen Irving 

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