My mother, a smoker for 42 years whom we have suspected has had emphysema for many years, was taken to the ER Sunday after being sick for 2 days and very short of breath. Very high heart rate in A-fib, high BP and very low O2 in her blood. They got her back to normal sinus rhythm and stablized her other vitals by day 2. That night she asked for a sleeping pill to get some rest (night b4 she was given an anxiety pill which helped her rest w/o any side effects), but the Ambien made her strung out, confused and not able to focus on her breathing patterns while awake. She rapidly went downhill w/ her breathing and they moved her to the CVU on a gas machine. Within 20 minutes it was evident that this would not help her soon enough (she was breathing 42 x's/min) and the pulmonary doc said that if we didn't put her on a respirator she'd arrest and possibly expire within a day or two. what? I always knew this would be her end, but she was at work and same as always on Wednesday last week! She is only 60. She had said she did not want a tube in her throat when we were in the ER prior to being admitted, but it was put to her that if she couldn't control her breathing on her own, they's simply have to put a tube in her throat. They never presented her with the dilemma I faced w/ the pulmonary doc. So, I had her put on respirator, she'll be on it for 2 days and if she is stablized, they will wean her off.
My question is based on what my brother and I should expect for what will be her life from this point forward. Will she have a life or will she need care 24/7? Even though I am certain it would have destroyed me if I had made the decision to risk her dying by not putting her on the respirator, I feel like I may have condemned her to a life of very little quality. I was reassured by many docs and RNs that my decision was the right one and that she will be much better once she has gotten O2 to her lungs, heart and brain for a couple of days, but what is 'much better'? My bro and I live 1.5 hours away from her and she lives alone.
Medical ethics asks from doctors to do whatever is in their power no matter how desperate a patient's condition might be. Your mother's breathing was additionally compromised by giving her a sedative. The sedative probably disturbed the breathing center in the brain. In such cases assisted respiration is an absolute necessity.
I agree that she could have gotten better if there hadn't occurred brain damage caused by temporary hypoxia. You should know that her primary disease (emphysema) is a chronic and progressive disorder. Bearing in mind that her lung disorder is additionally complicated by cardio-vascular diseases (hypertension and heart failure), you can expect her quality of life to decrease gradually.