Just Another Bump In The Road
Yesterday did not go as planned, or as I expected when I wake up in the morning. The fact is, as was pointed out to me, I had not been “looking” right for at least a couple of days.
If you have been reading my blog, you already know that my health history is kind of complicated. One of my issues, is my breathing. A complication of the extreme radiation therapy (amount and method no longer used), I have what is called “restrictive lung disease”. By its simplest description, my lower left lung lobe is completely useless. Pulmonary function testing puts my capacity at somewhere around 75%.
There are two things that will aggravate my breathing, physical exertion and the weather. By physical exertion, it is hit or miss what will cause labored breathing. Walking a slight incline or climbing steps can bring on an attack, usually not too severe because once it hits, it has my attention and I pretty much stop in my tracks to let my lungs catch up. The weather affects me three ways; humidity, cold air, and wind. These flares are a bit tougher to control, because when they come on, I have nowhere to go. If I am walking from the parking garage at work to my building, I am lucky to get half-way there before it hits, and cannot turn around, must not stop to rest because that does not get me out of the environment causing the flare, I can only go forward. This will usually take anywhere from a half hour to forty-five minutes to settle my lungs down. With the wind I can usually get away with some sort of face covering which reduces the incidence or severity.
So yesterday, I had my ski neck/face covering on, and my breathing was no different than most other days, but instead of my lungs easing up, the breathing got harder, more labored. I am afforded breaks throughout my work day, so at my first break, I did all I could do get this episode to resolve. But it did not. In fact, it only got worse. By eleven o’clock, my legs began to feel like lead weights, and my feet were now dragging. Unfortunately, I am a stubborn ass and was still convinced that I could get this under control, and now my lunch period was here.
Through lunch, no resolve and I returned to work. The heavy feeling in my legs turned to a burning in my thighs. And then the heaviness spread to my left arm. I made the call.
“Wendy, listen to me. Call your dad. He HAS to pick the kids up. You are taking me to the hospital. See you in five minutes.” A co-worker had already called the hospital ahead of time and told me of my arrival. One thing that I get ridiculed fairly often by friends, co-workers, employer, insurance company, and occasionally family, is why, WHY do I travel all the way to New York City or Allentown for my care, when there are so many other hospitals and doctors around where I live? I am going to tell you.
Unlike the last two Emergency Room visits (this is my third in less than a year), for the first time, when I warn the ER doctor about my complicated health history, he took it so seriously. I told him to take the phone number and name off of the medic alert bracelet and call it. His diagnostic plan and treatment options depending on his willingness to be open-minded for what I call a “trainwreck” that he was going to be dealing with.
When he came back to the room, he told me, “I can understand why you deal with them. Your doctor is one of the nicest practitioners that I have ever spoken with, and so willing to tell me everything I needed to know. In fact, he sent your medical file immediately. I am so impressed.” Finally, I was going to have a caregiver besides my family practitioner and obviously my long term survivor doctors.
That was the easy part. The most stressful part for me (read U.R. Sharpe in “Pages”), are needles. I had a total of seven people trying to get blood from me. Only two were successful, the others were forced to give up because of my stress level. That also resulted in having to try an alternate test for blood clots, instead of contrast through IV, I underwent a Nuclear Lung Scan. Sounds scary right? Not when you have had as much radiation as I have. And instead of drinking it, I had to inhale it, to get into my lungs. But you see, I do what I have to, my life depends on it.
There were diagnosis that he was suspecting based on my health history, and could get right to them with the information that he had already in his hands. Blood clot, eliminated by way of blood work, and heart attack eliminated via blood work and EKG. Other workups cancelled out pneumonia (things come in threes do they not) or infection.
So the doctor’s opinion was either that my restrictive lung disease is getting worse or perhaps it is one of the underlying cardiac issues that I am aware of that are being followed. Because I am so critical with my care, I do not have a local cardiologist, which the ER doc was more than convincing in his argument, that with New York City being a two hour drive away, it might just be a good idea to have someone local. This hospital network just so happens to have one of the highest rated cardiac reputations in the area. And because of the way this doctor approached me from the beginning, instead of being defensive, I am now focused on what needs to be done.
This morning the appointment with my new cardiologist has been made, and I am finally taking it easy. Man do I hate doing that, and it will be another mandatory day tomorrow.
So the lesson you have hopefully learned, do not wait until your body is 3/4 of the way affected to get to the emergency room. You should not need that much convincing that something is wrong. This is not my first time, and I am positive it will not be the last. But it is the shortest stay I have had. And it is because I reacted sooner. Yes I said that.