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Valarie, Nurse (RN)
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 1228
Experience:  36+ yrs exprience medical, surgical, wound/skin care, nutrition, geriatrics, rehab, management
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My mom passed away this Dec 16 of pneumonia however she had

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my mom passed away this Dec 16 of pneumonia however she had no lung or breathing problems whatsoever - the hospital explained this to me and i want to know if this is correct or true. Mom had 10 infected top teeth pulled on Nov 7 - at the same time, she had infected & blocked sinuses. An ENT doctor once told us that is the infected teeth were pulled, then the sinuses should drain on their own. Three weeks after the teeth were pulled, mom started coughing up phelm, lots of it. We thought this was good, that her sinuses were draining. Mom was admitted to the hospital on Dec 9 with a cough and low sodium/potassium levels. The chest xray showed a mass of bacteria (?) in her lower left lung - they started an IV immediately with a strong dose of antibiotics. They also found that mom was severely anemic and gave her two blood transfusions the 2nd day. On the 3rd & 4th days, mom's cough was no better. At the same time, her heart raced up to 200 pts but with medication went down to 100 pts. They also stated that her heart rhythm was off. Long story short, mom got worse each day, and died on day 7 of pneumonia. The doctor is saying that mom probably aspirated the bacteria in the teeth/gums and phelm and that this type of bacteria was difficult to treat if not impossible with antibotics. I still don't understand, is this possible ? pneumonia is not a rare condition or disease, its treated all the time. Why on earth did the antibiotics not work ? if they were not working, wasn't there anything else that could have been done like draining the lungs ? if that is even possible ? confused & heartbroken, Patty
Hello. Thank you for coming to JustAnswer with your question, and welcome.
I am assuming that the age you listed is the age of your mother. Elderly people often have a compromised immune system, so it is certainly possible that the bacteria that caused her pneumonia came from her infected teeth and/or sinuses. It is now well known that bad/infected teeth can cause heart and lung problems/infections.
It also did not help that she was anemic, which would also make if easier for an infection to take over. Anemia is also a very common disorder of the elderly.
The bacteria that caused her infection may have been resistant to antibiotics ("difficult to treat if not impossible"), which is also becoming more common, especially with elders.
Yes, pneumonia is treated all the time. However, as a person ages, and especially with the very old as your mother was, the immune system does not function as well. Also, given her anemia, she most likely did not have the strength to fight this infection. It would not have been possible to "drain" her lungs without causing further damage, and would have done nothing to cure the infection.
Pnuemonia is actually a common cause of death in the very old. I am very sorry for your loss. I hope and pray that you will find comfort and peace in the fact that your mother lived a long life, and you were obviously a devoted and loving daughter to her.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
thank you for your informative & thoughtful answers to my mother's passing - but again on the so-called "draining" of the lungs - how is that done ? is it surgery ? if her lungs were drained, why would that not help the infection to clear up with help of the antibiotics ? ... also, the doctor said that if someone has to die, the pneumonia is a good way to die ... the increase of carbon dioxide (?) increases & the oxygen decreases & basically puts you to sleep, the the brain stem tells the brain to stop working or something like that ? sorry, i feel like i am still in shock that mom died this way and its all so confusing & hard to understand ... even if the doctors tell me something, i maybe understand at the time, but then later can't recall exactly what they explained to me ...
You're certainly welcome, and it is perfectly understandable that you are still in shock, upset and confused by your Mother's passing.
With severe cases of pneumonia, there can sometimes be a collection of fluid between the lungs and the membrane surrounding the lungs, or within an abscess (pocket of fluid caused by the infection) within the lung. These types of things can be drained with the use of chest tubes, or by inserting a needle into the fluid and aspirating it out. However, this may not have happened in your mother's case. If the fluid was within the small air sacs and small bronchioles themselves (versus a large collection), which is usually the case---the doctors would not have been able to drain it out. The fluid is caused by the infection itself (an inflammatory process), so if the antibiotics were not working, the fluid would have build up again even if it was possible to drain it.
I don't know that pneumonia is any better than any other disease process as a cause of death. But, it is gradual and very often not painful. I have cared for many elders with pneumonia and have witnessed most people gradually slip away as oxygen levels fall. If the nursing staff and doctors were diligent in providing comfort care during this process (oxygen, repositioning, pain and anxiety medication if needed)....then likely her death was very peaceful. What the medical staff told you is correct.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
thank you so very very much - i am going to print out your answers & read them over & over again until they are clear in my mind - my brain just keeps going round & round and i am so glad that i wrote to JustAnswer to that you especially answered my questions. I plan to accept answer at this time but i hope that i will be able to reach you should more questions come to mind in the days ahead ... ? Patty
You are very welcome. I'm glad I could help.
You can post a new question addressed to me specifically if you wish. Or, anyone here can help you as well. You can also follow-up with this question.
I wish you peace. :)
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
i would like Valarie to answer, if possible ... i mentioned in my previous emails that mom's infected teeth were pulled which the doctors think created a certain kind of bacteria that she aspirated into her lungs by swallowing incorrectly or choking and swallowing (she did have difficulties swallowing beforehand) .. her bad teeth were pulled Nov 7 and she was admitted into the hospital on Dec 9 with the coughing & low sodium/potassium levels and it was determined that she was severely anemic. Question: could the bacteria actually get to her lungs and multiply that fast to cause this terrible infection in the lungs and die in 39 days of pneumonia or were the infected teeth which were in her mouth for approximately 3 yrs could have caused the infection? i am torn about this because it was myself that insisted she have her teeth pulled ... and if that ultimately caused her death ... it just keeps going round and round in my head. Also, she took antibiotics for 10 days after the teeth were pulled, could she have taken the antibiotics for 20 days or more to avoid this "bacteria" from going from her gums to her lungs ... and why did the dentist not warn us this might happen - i had never heard of this until mom's physician explained to me why she believed mom got the infection in the lungs or between the membranes and lungs and died.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
did Just Answer receive my Jan 27 9pm question ? Patty
Hello, Patty.
I'm sorry no one else responded to your question sooner....I have not had internet access for a few days, and just saw that you had posted a follow-up question.
It is certainly possible that a long term problem with infected teeth could have caused your mother to acquire pneumonia. If she had an ongoing infection in her mouth, along with a swallowing problem she would have had a risk of aspirating bacteria laden material that could ultimately cause pneumonia.
I cannot "expertly" tell you whether it would have made a difference if her teeth were not extracted. However, common sense tells me that you did the right thing for your mother. If her teeth were a problem, it would have improved her condition to have them extracted. It is also possible that she already had a brewing infection in her mouth that may have gotten worse even though she took antibiotics after the extraction....and this could have ultimately resulted in an aspiration pneumonia.
There is also the likelihood that the pneumonia could have been caused by aspiration of other material which had nothing to do with her teeth. I have cared for many patients that acquired pneumonia from aspirating food that they could not swallow properly. And depending on age and other illnesses going on, antibiotics do not always help. Remember in your mother's case, she had anemia and a low sodium and potassium (which suggests that she had some other chronic problems going on as well).
We can all second guess what might have been if things were done differently. But, you did the very best you could for her. You need to remember that.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

the computer system did ask if i wanted someone else to answer but i said no .. so not to worry about the delay in the response...

so can pneumonia develop that quickly and build enough to cause death in 39 days ?

if mom had taken antibiotics for say 20-30 days rather than 10 days, would that have helped not developing the pneumonia ? mom had a follow up appt with the dentist maybe 25 days after her bad teeth were pulled because her gums were swollen - the dentist determined that she had "bone slivers" in her gums and pulled them out with twezzers ... but it seemed he should have given her more antibiotics at that time between her gums were swollen ...sorry for asking probably the same question in different directions - it just keeps bothering me that "if only" i hadn't insisted that these bad teeth be pulled, that she would not have developed pneumonia and lived maybe another year or so ....i am actually going to a "grief counselor" tomorrow afternoon because i just can't seem to "get a gripp" .. as my brother has told me to do. - Patty

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Valarie - did you get my reply of Jan 30 ?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Valarie - did you get my questions of Jan 30 ?
Hi Patty,
Pneumonia can develop much faster than 39 days, as with any bacterial or viral can develop and cause severe illness in a matter of a few days.
Since you have not given any information about what specific organism caused your mother's pneumonia, and where it came from.....anything I tell you would be pure guesswork. Which is not going to help you. From what I understood you to say, her doctor(s) are making an educated guess as to the source of the infection.
I think at this point you need to follow through with the grief counseling. I know a huge part of grieving is needing to know exactly why and how your mother died. But, at this point there is no way to determine what the actual cause of her infection was, whether more antibiotics would have would all be pure speculation.
I am very sorry for your loss. And even more for the difficulty you are having trying to accept it. It is very difficult to lose a parent...most of us go through this sometime during our lives. And most people go through a similar emotional process no matter how hard we tried, or how much we cared. Please take care of yourself now. Your mother is at peace. And I am sure if she were her to tell you, she would not want you to be suffering so.
I hope you are talking about your feelings fully in your counseling sessions.
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