Injection Gone Wrong: Part Two

  1. 8

    This is part two of a story about a nurse who  received a flu shot in her left shoulder joint and the almost two year battle she has fought to get something done, and to heal.  Her name has been changed but her story is real.  Part three to follow...

    Injection Gone Wrong: Part Two

    I’m not crazy. I’m not the only one. Frozen with emotions, Susan shifted between relief in the acknowledgment that there were other people who had residual problems from the shots, meaning it wasn’t in her head, and fury that this brutality took place. Were credentials not checked beforehand? If flu shots are mandatory, shouldn’t that mean that it is expected that the person giving the shots are required to know what they are doing. We as nurses are held to a professional level of expertise, should we not expect that when our employer holds us just as precious as our patients?

    Shivering, Susan pulled her colorful scrub jacket closer around, and tucked her hands under her arms.

    “Susan, follow me.” Wrapped up in her own thoughts, Susan found herself back in the waiting room. The television droned on with talking heads. Numb, Susan glanced at the outdated magazines. Just as she reached for one, she remembered that she had read how germy magazines can be, she relented to staring at the wall.

    “I think they gave you the injection in your shoulder joint,” the doctor said. Their eyes met, Susan searching for something she wasn’t aware of yet. “Actually, it’s a good thing that the virus is dead, because if it had been a live virus, it would be growing in your joint.” “Continue with the ibuprofen, increase it if you need to, and use ice on your shoulder. Come see me in a week and we will see how you are doing.” With that, he turned his back and began writing on her chart. Pausing, Susan waited.

    “Doc, the ibuprofen is really bothering my stomach,” Susan said, one hand on the door knob. “Make sure you take it with food,” he said, standing and pushing past her to exit the room. Susan followed him out, her eyes fixed on his dirty jogging shoes.

    The following week, Susan sat in the doctor’s office again. “It feels the same. I have used ice and taken all the ibuprofen my stomach can handle, but it still hurts the same!”

    He ordered an MRI and aspercreme. Get freakin real, ASPERCREME?! Susan thought as she took the script for the MRI. He had offered a narcotic pain pill, but holding out hope that this would get better, she refused.

    Lying on the cold, metal MRI bed, Susan felt like she was getting some redemption. Finally, she would have a legitimate diagnosis. Tears pooled in her eyes and drifted down the side of her face.

    After the MRI, Susan talked to the tech who told her that the machine kept wanting to scan her right shoulder instead of the left. "I'm sure we got some good pictures." She reassured Susan. Her words left Susan with a sinking feeling.


    Wiping the residual salty tears from her face, she slowly walked out of the MRI department. Thinking over the past couple of weeks, Susan wanted to throw herself on the floor and have a full out temper tantrum.

    The MRI results came back as essentially normal, only reporting mild tendonitis. Susan knew that the test wasn’t accurate. How can it be normal when she cannot lie on her left side at night, or raise her left arm over her head. Driving home, she let out a sigh of frustration as she tried to use her left arm to turn out of the parking lot. Letting her left arm go limp in her lap, she shook her head and mumbled to herself. Any use of her left arm created pain in her left shoulder. She was told she would have to choose a workman’s comp orthopedic doctor and was given a list.

    Looking at the list of orthopedic doctors workmen's compensation sent her, she quickly made an assessment: that one does mostly knees and hips, that one she hadn’t heard of, so the third one was who she decided to see. Not able to see her personal orthopedic doctor left her uneasy.

    Sitting in the orthopedic doctor’s office, Susan fidgeted with her hands. Frowning, she gazed at the picture behind the doctor’s graying hair. She wanted to be in that picture, swimming in the bubbling brook under the shade of the spring foliage, she could almost smell the sweetness of the flowers. She forced herself to focus on his words. He acknowledged her pain while discounting the flu shot being the problem with her shoulder.

    “The MRI didn’t show anything.” he said, “I’m not sure what is causing the pain. I’m going to give you a script for an anti-inflammatory that I want you to take twice a day. I see that you have been doing physical therapy, so that is good! Come see in two weeks and we will evaluate at that time how you are.”

    It didn’t seem to matter when she protested, telling him that the problem started the moment she received that shot. Her words seemed to float randomly out of her mouth up to the ceiling, never landing on listening ears. Alone and defeated, Susan knew that this doctor was aware that she is a nurse, she had taken care of his patients. How could he not be more aggressive in finding out what her problem was? Just because he had not seen this happen to anyone else, how can he rule it out that it didn’t happen?

    The stomach problems Susan suffered from the NSAIDs forced her to stop them, but she did keep going to physical therapy. At her follow-up, Susan asked the doctor if he had read the MRI report or looked at the disc. He told her he had looked at the disc and agreed with the report. He wanted to try an injection, which Susan agreed to. He injected her left subacromial area, not directly into the joint. The only result from the injection was soreness and a huge bruise.

    “Look, Susan, I know you are in pain. I also know that you noticed it right around the time you got the flu shot. But I really think that there is something else. . .”

    “No! You look! I have done everything you have told me to do. I think the MRI was faulty, the scanner kept moving away from my left shoulder, how could it get a thorough picture if it wasn’t working correctly? I am not looking for drugs, in fact, I never filled any prescription given to me for pain medications. I need someone to listen to me! My problems started with the flu shot. Can I get another MRI? Maybe with contrast this time?”

    Her words started to falter as sobs rose up in her chest. All the built up pain and frustration bubbled out. When Susan was able to catch her breath, she blew her nose and inhaled deeply.

    He agreed to another MRI, and possibly another doctor for a joint injection.

    Stay tuned for the conclusion.

    To read the beginning of this story, go to Injection Gone Wrong - Part 1
    Last edit by tnbutterfly on Apr 26
    Do you like this Article? Click Like?

  2. Visit Brenda F. Johnson profile page

    About Brenda F. Johnson, BSN, RN

    Brenda F. Johnson has '23+' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Gastrointestinal Nursing'. From 'Ooltewah, Tn'; Joined Oct '14; Posts: 177; Likes: 601.

    Read My Articles

    28 Comments

  3. by   nerdgrl
    Thanks for part 2. I've been checking back, wanting to hear what happens. Thanks for building awareness of just how important it is to use proper technique to choose injection sites.
  4. by   wonderwhy
    God bless you. You may have a new perspective of what patients go through <3
  5. by   OrganizedChaos
    I love this series but I hate to see what she went through after a faulty flu shot. It will definitely make me more aware when I get mine.
  6. by   3ringnursing
    Poor woman. You know getting to the bottom of anything that isn't text book obvious is like trying to find chicken teeth. No provider listens if it doesn't fit snuggly into there own belief system.

    I developed SLE after getting saline filled breast implants in 1997 … it took five (5) years - FIVE YEARS to get a definitive diagnosis (just for the record, saline filled breast implants are themselves made from silicone which leach into the body, something I was unaware of prior to my procedure). Because nearly all providers are taught silicone is an inert substance no one even correlated the two events as a possible causative factor. Many will openly laugh if I talk about it.

    Three years after the implant surgery I had them removed - incorrectly. I only got sicker, and had no choice but to medically retire from nursing while waiting to die. Finally, 17 years after I had the procedure I found a plastic surgeon that had the same experience, and she assisted me in detoxing as much silicone out of my body as possible after such a long timeframe.

    I was able to return to nursing in 2014 after 10 years of medical retirement. I can only imagine how much better I would be if I had been able to receive treatment right away - or never had the procedure in the first place.

    Why do some women get sick after breast implants, and others don't? I have no clue, but getting anyone to listen to me for years was an uphill battle I had no choice but to fight - my life was on the line.

    It seems one has to be so very cautious if you are a nurse with a baffling medical condition due to possible damage to one's credibility. It was a frustrating, arduous battle and I feel for the woman highlighted in this article with all the empathy in the universe.

    It seems the patient's information is the last one given consideration, which is sad. Who else knows more about what is really happening anyway?
  7. by   amoLucia
    TY for the Part 2.

    It is a sad commentary on the healthcare industry when the pt just KNOWs something isn't right and then has such difficulty being believed and the treated appropriately.

    Awaiting Part 3.
  8. by   Brenda F. Johnson
    Quote from 3ringnursing
    Poor woman. You know getting to the bottom of anything that isn't text book obvious is like trying to find chicken teeth. No provider listens if it doesn't fit snuggly into there own belief system.

    I developed SLE after getting saline filled breast implants in 1997 … it took five (5) years - FIVE YEARS to get a definitive diagnosis (just for the record, saline filled breast implants are themselves made from silicone which leach into the body, something I was unaware of prior to my procedure). Because nearly all providers are taught silicone is an inert substance no one even correlated the two events as a possible causative factor. Many will openly laugh if I talk about it.

    Three years after the implant surgery I had them removed - incorrectly. I only got sicker, and had no choice but to medically retire from nursing while waiting to die. Finally, 17 years after I had the procedure I found a plastic surgeon that had the same experience, and she assisted me in detoxing as much silicone out of my body as possible after such a long timeframe.

    I was able to return to nursing in 2014 after 10 years of medical retirement. I can only imagine how much better I would be if I had been able to receive treatment right away - or never had the procedure in the first place.

    Why do some women get sick after breast implants, and others don't? I have no clue, but getting anyone to listen to me for years was an uphill battle I had no choice but to fight - my life was on the line.

    It seems one has to be so very cautious if you are a nurse with a baffling medical condition due to possible damage to one's credibility. It was a frustrating, arduous battle and I feel for the woman highlighted in this article with all the empathy in the universe.

    It seems the patient's information is the last one given consideration, which is sad. Who else knows more about what is really happening anyway?
    I am so sorry you had to lose 10 years! But I'm glad you found someone to listen to you. Thank you for your story, you never know who it may help!
  9. by   Oreotony
    Unfortunately I had the same thing happen to me after a required flu vaccine. I knew the minute I received the injection that it had been given in the wrong place. It had been injected into my rt shoulder joint. That night my arm was red, swollen and hot to the touch to my elbow. Next day couldn't raise my rt arm or use my arm without considerable pain. No one would believe me either that it was from the flu shot. Ended up receiving cortisone injections for 3 years every 6 months. Finally after 3 years I was pain free.
  10. by   amoLucia
    I actually remember pulling away from someone once as I was being 'alcohol prepped' before an injection. The selected site seemed too high so I made the nurse go lower.

    I'm a 'meaty' person so I had lots of room to select from.
  11. by   Double-Helix
    I’m sorry, but you’re starting to lose me with the clinical inaccuracies. MRI machines do not “move away” from the targeted area of the body. No visible part of the machine moves at all, and the patient in the MRI scanner would have no way of knowing what part of their body was being imaged. An MRI uses powerful magnets inside the bore of the machine to create magnetic fields and collect feedback that yields 3D images of the target area. It’s up to the MRI technologist operating the machine to define the field of view and the area being targeted, but this takes place outside of the scanner. Again, other than the table that positions the patient in the center of the bore, no part of the machine can “venture away” to another area of the body.
  12. by   michaelg510
    Sounds like a tough situation
  13. by   klone
    I don't understand this part of the story:

    Lying on the cold, metal MRI bed, Susan felt like she was getting some redemption. Finally, she would have a legitimate diagnosis. However, as the machine started to scan, she noticed that it kept trying to venture over to her right shoulder. It wasn’t getting good pictures of her left shoulder. Tears pooled in her eyes and drifted down the side of her face.

    After the MRI, Susan asked the technician about what had happened. The tech’s face told Susan what she already knew
    Why was the machine continuing to "venture over" to her right shoulder, when it was her left shoulder that has the injury? And couldn't she have just said "Dude, it keeps taking pictures of my right shoulder - it's the LEFT shoulder that's the problem!"

    What did the tech's face tell her that she already knew? That he knew the machine didn't take proper imaging? If that's the case, why didn't they redo it?
  14. by   Geosurfsup
    How did you detox the silicone out of your body?

close