Over these few months, the patient suffered repeated hospitalization and functional decline with a corresponding decrease in her overall sense of satisfaction with her life.
She was able to stay out of the hospital for a few months, but continued to have poor functional status and the above medical issues compromising her quality of life.
In November, the patient had minor trauma caused by sitting down abruptly on the commode. This resulted in excruciating low back pain the following day. She was hospitalized for pain control, and no new fractures were found. She was discharged to rehab on 11/24.
The week of Thanksgiving marked the beginning of an important change in her living situation. Initially, her goals of care centered on returning home to live independently.
November 2003 – January 2004
Unfortunately, her functional status steadily worsened along with her pain, and she was considered for minimally invasive spinal surgery (vertebroplasty). She experienced delirium and respiratory depression on morphine. A fentanyl PCA/patch was tried with some relief. She was taken to the interventional radiology suite for vertebroplasty but after extensive discussion with the radiologist, it was decided that the risk of sedation outweighed the potential benefit of the procedure and she received an epidural steroid injection instead. While her pain improved, no functional benefits were noted.
January 2004-December 2004
She was unable to realize her goal of returning home and after several weeks of unsuccessful attempts at physical rehabilitation, she was discharged to the nursing home, where she had continued medical issues (vaginal bleeding, CHF exacerbations) but was able to avoid hospitalization for almost a year.
On 12/10/04, she reported pain in her vulvar/labial region. Blood work was done: WBC 26K, INR 10.8. Her code status was revised and she was sent to the emergency department and on to the CICU. She was hypotensive (77/36; HR 73) and her condition declined despite antibiotics and pressors. Upon the patient and family’s request, the pressors were withdrawn on 12/13. She died hours later.