A shout out to Italian medicine

04/01/2010 at 5:40 AM Leave a comment

A friend of mine and his expecting wife were on a Italian holiday  a few months before the expected delivery. He then became deathly sick, even more deathly than he ever imagined. Over th previous few months he had been having some vague subtle problems that were easy to dismiss, slight weight loss without being able to put it back on, decreased interest in food, some subtle skin color changes. But it was during this Idillic trip to the land of the Romans that he started vomiting without any relief, and eventually began seizing. He was taken to an urgent clinic where three prompt doses of valium ( good anti seizure medicine) did not help and was then transfered to the local hospital.

There the doctors took quick and decisive and (as it turned out) life saving treatments. There was a language problem but nevertheless they sprung into action and started resuscitation measures even before it was clear what the problem was. There were no delays or concerns about insurance or citizenship. His blood sodium level came back at critical life threatening levels. The wife was informed that it was very serious. They managed to raise his sodium level appropriately (too fast is a huge problem) and he felt somewhat better. Then they treated him with cortisol and he began recovering almost immediately. They checked for a variety of causes, infections, medicines, drugs, tumors and properly determined that he had an adrenal crisis and was diagnosed with Addison’s disease.

This disease is relatively rare, with symptoms that are not specific, so the diagnosis is always a bit hard to make. In many cases the person does not come in so close to death. So I give those nameless doctors in a town far away a great shout out for doing the job superbly and saving the life of my friend.

Apparently great medicine can be had with a nationalized system.


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