Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breathing is Underrated

So this is not actually a picture of
ME, but I wanted something that
somewhat illustrated how I felt.
Pneumonia sucks.

How many times have you hear about someone going to the doctor because they have a cough that won't go away and the doctor diagnoses bronchitis or walking pneumonia, prescribes some antibiotics and maybe some cough syrup, and that person improves in a day or two?

Apparently "Double Pneumonia" is a totally different thing than "Walking Pneumonia."  Who knew? Walking Pneumonia is a mild infection.  Antibiotics are usually all you need to treat it and you can continue going to school or walk once you have 24 hours worth of antibiotics in your system.  Double Pneumonia can be quite extreme.  It can come on very fast, infects both lungs, and often requires hospitalization for IV antibiotics.

One day, about four weeks ago, I noticed that walking upstairs left me slightly winded. 
Huh.  Wonder what that's about?  Better push myself to get to the gym more often - clearly I'm out of shape if just walking up the stairs is causing me to get out of breath.

About a week later, I started coughing.  It was a dry cough, happening only every once in a while, and didn't seem like it was a big deal.

As that week went on, the cough increased slightly, gradually.  While I could still participate in my water aerobics classes, I was becoming winded by running small distances.  It wasn't too bad, but I definitely noticed a difference.  Huh.  That's weird.

By the end of that week, my cough got worse.  It was still definitely a dry cough, but I was now having coughing spells lasting a few minutes at a time.  I finally agreed with DH (who likes to go to the doctor at the first sign of a cold/illness) that I should go to the doctor.  Since I have my doctorate from Google based on all the research I did to find out more information in an attempt to understand and diagnose DH's bizarre neurological mysteries, I determined that I had viral bronchitis and the doctor would give me cough medicine and an inhaler. 

Side note:  I just discovered I never wrote about the fact that we have a diagnosis for him now, preventative medication, medication to take at the onset of symptoms, and his three year long medical mystery has been solved!  Guess that will be a post for another day.

I am always disappointed to discover
the real ER is NOTHING like this ER.
Lo and behold, I was correct, and after taking my medicine and inhaler, I went to sleep sitting up on the couch, resting my forehead on the back of the couch because coughing was making my head hurt.  I woke up around three in the morning coughing and gasping for air.  I walked upstairs to get my medicine but the sound of me trying to breath woke DH, who insisted we head to the ER.  He called his parents to come over and stay with the kids, and as soon as they got here, we took off. 

Within the first thirty minutes in the ER, I was rushed to get a chest X-Ray, which clearly showed pneumonia in both lungs.  My pulse ox was low, so they got me set up with oxygen.  Then they was hooked me up to I.V. antibiotics.  Even though I am no longer as needle-phobic as I used to be, I still HATE getting I.V.s.  Just to add to how miserable I was feeling, it took the nurses FOUR separate tries until they could finally successfully insert the I.V.  Each time they saw a great vein, thought they had it, and were then fooled as the vein collapsed.  But at least each nurse that tried was very persistent, not willing to give up the vein that had just looked so promising, so they moved the needle back and forth to try to get that vein to cooperate.  OWWWW!  Then they needed a blood sample from a different spot (are you KIDDING me?!!) which they took from the back of my hand - OWWW!!  Apparently the blood test results indicated I might also have a Pulmonary Embolism, so they needed to quickly take me to get a CAT scan with and without contrast, which, or course, needed to be given to me WITH A NEW I.V. IN A NEW I.V. SITE! 

Luckily they CAT scan showed that I did not have anything more than pretty bad pneumonia, so they told me I would be admitted and would go upstairs to a room as soon as a bed was available.

So we waited.
And waited.
And waited.

FIFTEEN HOURS later I was finally brought upstairs to a hospital room, where I stayed for the next four days.  I was only allowed to go home if I promised to continue resting for the next five days or so.

So I'm home, recovering.  In the beginning I had to stop three times to walk up our one flight of stairs, gasping for air by the time I got upstairs.  I can now go up and down the stairs slowly, but without having to pause to catch my breath.  I finally convinced DH to go back to school (he had stayed by my side, on leave from school, since I first went to the hospital) today, so this is my first day on my own.  I truly cannot believe how long it is taking for my lungs to get back to normal.

Therefore I feel I can state with certainty:
Pneumonia Sucks!

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