Pat Archer is an oncology nurse - she had the wherewithal to read the report, but it didn't 'click' until much later. "I wasn't sure that Trasylol was the cause of renal failure until I saw a warning on television two years later," she says.
Her husband, Charles, had no kidney problems, nor did anyone in his family. Pat was suspicious. "Right after surgery Chuck became more and more lethargic; although he was back on the ward from ICU he wasn't getting better," she says. "His fluids were restricted and they knew he was in renal failure because his BUN count (blood urea nitrogen test used to measure liver function and indirectly to assess renal function) shot through the roof. Chuck was sleepy all the time and had no ambition to get up and walk - although he didn't want to be in bed."
He had no urinary output and it made him short of breath - his body was storing fluid. At that time, we talked about the fact that he didn't want to go back to ICU and be intubated. 'Don't ever let them do that to me again,' Chuck told me when he woke from surgery.
"I didn't want him to undergo surgery in the first place but the doctor intimidated him into it. Chuck was afraid not to have surgery. On Sunday afternoon (this was a few days after his surgery and I had already seen Chuck that morning) I called before I left home and asked if he wanted anything. He wasn't in his room -- I knew he didn't get up and walk away. I found him in ICU and they were getting ready to intubate him but I had to intervene -- Chuck had decided before his surgery that he didn't wish to be incubated.
When I came into his room, he was fighting with the nurses, trying to push them away. I told them to stand back and let me talk to him. I said, Chuck, if they don't intubate you, you will die. He shook his head -- no. I called our minister and he came and sat with us until Chuck died - three hours later. He was only 64.
In 2004 there was no controversy about Trasylol and it never occurred to me that a drug could have caused renal failure and ultimately, my husband's death. But you know how you look at a strange word and it sticks in your mind? I first saw the warning about Trasylol on television and I realized this was the drug mentioned in Chuck's surgical report - which I read about a month after he died. The name stuck with me because I wasn't familiar with this drug - thank God it did.
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I was mortified, I was angry. I went on the Internet and looked for a lawyer. We are entitled to more protection than that; we shouldn't find out two years after a drug is on the market that it is bad."
I asked Pat Archer what she would say if she could meet the manufacturers of Trasylol face to face. "That wouldn't be a good idea. I wouldn't be very nice to them, to put it mildly," she replied. "They are playing with people's lives. We have seven grandchildren and they miss Chuck a lot.
"If Chuck didn't have this surgery and subsequent renal failure, he would be alive today.
"I don't talk about it that much, I try to keep my head together. It is very sad for me to talk about..."