Goodpastures Syndrome

Too close for comfort - a near-fatal encounter, told by the patient

12. Emergency - a close call

(This is a true account of my experience with Goodpastures Syndrome, but a few people’s names have been changed, indicated by *.  My aim in writing this is threefold; first, that victims and families of people suffering from Goodpastures Syndrome can have some knowledge of what to expect in a serious event but also to show that Goodpastures is survivable, even in a case like mine; second, it would do no harm for physicians treating Goodpastures Syndrome or other devastating diseases, not to mention GP’s prescribing medication to patients, to read this as there are lessons here for some of them; lastly I am trying to exorcise the psychological after-effects of my experience with Goodpastures Syndrome).

On this day at 17:45 is an entry in my file to the effect that I had said “I’m scared and I feel weak”. It is the only mention before or after of being scared and in the light of what followed is rather strange.

My recollection of that evening is of waking up from, as I thought, a sleep and seeing Alan Stott and Mr Portelli standing at the foot of my bed, dressed very smartly in civilian clothes. I had the impression for some reason or other that they had been there some time and I ungratefully wondered why they had not bothered to wake me up if they wanted to talk to me.

It turned out that they had both been attending a function in an official capacity when Mr Portelli received a paging call from the Radio Control of the Traffic Department. (After hours the department's phone lines are switched through to Radio Control.) Upon contacting them, he was told that they had received a call from the hospital to say that I was dying whereupon he and Alan Stott both quit the reception and came to the hospital.

According to them, finding me in a coma, they had spoken between themselves and to me as if I could hear them until I eventually “woke up”.

The file states: “20:45, Noodinskrywing. Terwyl ons pasiënt gemaklik gemaak het… het pasiënt skielik sy bewusyn verloor… pols spoed volgens monitor 120-124/min. Ek het ‘n nr 3 lugweg in gesit en… pasiënt gesuig. P2 se verpleeg staf was gekontak om te verneem of daar ‘n dokter teenwoordig is by hulle om na pasiënt te kom. Daar was geen dokter (daar) nie en ek het gevra dat die noodspan uitgestuur word.

(20:45, Emergency entry. While we were making the patient comfortable… he suddenly lost consciousness… according to the monitor his pulse was 120-124/min. I inserted a No 3 airway and… ventilated the patient. P2’s nursing staff was contacted to ascertain if there was a doctor available there to come to the patient. There was no doctor (there) and I asked that the emergency team be despatched.”

“21:40, Pasiënt nog steeds nie bewus van omgewing nie… beweeg sy arms spontaan. Pupille reageer baie traag. 21:50, Pasiënt maak sy oë oop en begin praat”.

("21:40, Patient still unconscious of surroundings... moves his arms spontaneously. Very retarded pupil reaction. 21:50, Patient opens his eyes and starts talking.")

Until Mr Portelli told me that there had been an emergency I had no idea at all that I had been anything but asleep.


Alain Portelli, Chief Traffic Officer of Port Elizabeth in 1990


Emergency - a close call             copyright 2011 Richard Binstead Goodpasture's Syndrome

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