Advocates for Patient and Saves Her Life

Jennifer Leaf, MD
Jennifer Leaf, MD
Anesthesiologist, St. James City, Fla.

Becky came to our hospital after being diagnosed with lymphoma so she could have an IV inserted in her neck for chemotherapy. The plan was to place the IV while she was under general anesthesia.

I very quickly realized we needed a new plan.

Becky was about 30 years old. When I first saw her I was struck by how distressed she looked. She sat bolt upright on the stretcher and looked very uncomfortable. She was having a bit of trouble breathing. I talked with her and reviewed her scans and realized that her tumor had progressed quite a bit, and she had become significantly worse in recent weeks.

I told the surgeon that general anesthesia was extremely dangerous and that if I used this type of anesthesia, Becky would stop breathing. And if she did, I didn’t think we could breathe for her because of the tumor pressing on her breathing tube. Instead, I suggested he place the IV in her groin using local anesthetic.

The surgeon disagreed with me. We debated for quite a while. I was adamant that I was not going to use general anesthesia for this patient. After about 30 minutes, he went and talked to one of my colleagues, another anesthesiologist, who agreed with me.

We decided that we would put the IV in her neck but we would use a local anesthetic and some sedation. We gave her just the tiniest amount of a sedative — the least amount possible — and she was wide awake the entire time, but within seconds the oxygen level in her blood dropped, and it took us 10 minutes to get it back to normal. The procedure was stopped and the surgeon put the IV in her groin.

I really know that I saved that young lady’s life. If Becky had general anesthesia, she would not have made it off the table.