Just when routine and complacency settle in, chaos asserts itself.
I visited Kaiser for my 6th Herceptin only treatment last week, expecting to zip in, stay an hour or so, and then zip back out to take care of some errands. Alas, after having already had 12 combined Taxol-Herceptin treatments followed by 5 Herceptin appointments, my body finally jolted awake and sounded the alarm. I was having an allergic reaction.
At around 5 minutes after the start of a 30-minute Herceptin infusion, I started to cough sporadically.
By 20 minutes, I became intensely aware of an increasing tightness in my chest, difficulty breathing, and a more persistent cough.
My nurse immediately pulled the Herceptin and began to periodically monitor blood pressure (normal), oxygen (low), and temperature (normal). After consulting with the oncology pharmacist on site, she administered Benadryl + Solumedrol (a steroid) via IV, albuteral through an inhaler, and oxygen via a mask. After around 30 minutes, I was back to breathing easily and no longer coughing.
At that point, the pharmacist and my oncologist, Dr. Semien, both gave the go-ahead to finish out the day’s Herceptin. What should have been an hour appointment took 3 hours. Next time, we will premedicate with Zyrtec (a non-drowsy antihistamine), Benadryl, and Solumedrol. Unfortunately, if that combination fails to hold the allergic reactions at bay, Dr. Semien will terminate the Herceptin.
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