Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Thanksgiving to Remember

On Tuesday I started to feel sick. I never get sick - but, I wasn't too surprised that my immune system might have been a little compromised from JFK. It started out as head congestion and a sore throat - so, I did all those things you're supposed to do at the first sign of a cold - gargle with warm salt water - take vitamin C etc.
The congestion started to make it into my chest on Wednesday, but I didn't feel too bad. Early Thursday though was a different story. I woke up around 4am with a bad cough and some significant wheezing. I took a theraflu - but, it didn't help too much. I finally took a few puffs from my wife's inhaler. It helped a little bit - I was at least able to go to sleep, but I knew I'd need to see the doctor.
Around 9:30am we got out the door to the urgent care to figure out what was going on - I was having even more difficulty breathing. It was not good. Having difficulty breathing is a really horrible feeling - and the emotional aspect of it makes it worse. As you feel more anxious things seem to close up even more. I had some episodes like this in the past, but much less serious. Because they seemed to happen just as I was going to bed I was diagnosed with acid reflux - basically as I lay flat the acid would get into my airway and cause me to cough and wheeze. I had taken some medication for it on and off for the last few years and I had actually just started back on it a week ago.
At the urgent care they gave me a chest x-ray to make sure it wasn't pneumonia. They also gave me a nebulizer treatment - it's basically a liquid which vaporizes into a plastic pipe thing that you breath in to your lungs. It's basically a more powerful version of an inhaler. Little did I know that I would need 4 more of these treatments over the next 24 hours.
They didn't see any proof of pneumonia in the chest x-rays - the doctor thought it might be some kind of asthmatic reaction caused by an infection. So, I got a prescription for antibiotics, an abuterol inhaler, and prednisone - an oral steroid to reduce inflammation in my lungs.
A few hours after we got home things got worse. I had a nasty coughing attack - I just couldn't stop. Kendra went out to get me something for my cough, but on the way she called the urgent care - they said I should go to the ER right away. So, she came back and we made the thankfully short drive two blocks to Mercy hospital.
I felt a little better just being at the hospital. What most worried me were a few stories I had heard lately about people who had respiratory issues (usually related to pneumonia) and ended up in serious trouble. Apparently once a problem gets advanced enough in your lungs you're pretty much screwed.
The first few hours were pretty much a repeat of the urgent care. A nebulizer treatment, chest x-ray - tons of questions. All this time my parents were on their way from Michigan for a planned trip to Baltimore. Of course we updated them as things got worse. By the time they got there I was hooked up to an IV and had oxygen tubes coming out of my nose. Seeing their 32 year old son in such a state was probably not what they had planned on for their Thanksgiving trip - but, we all tried to stay positive.
The doctor came in and told us that it was most likely something asthma related, which seemed odd to me since I had just run a 50 miler race less than a week ago. But, I guess there are a lot of different kinds of asthma - and mine might not be related to exercise, but rather could be triggered by allergies - or acid reflux - or something else. They were still worried because my oxygen levels in my blood were lower than normal (normal is 95% and above - I was 90-93% without oxygen). So, not only would they keep me until that was normalized, but they were also going to give me a CAT scan to make sure I didn't have a blood clot in my lungs.
The CAT scan was interesting. First - the two girls who wheeled me to the scanning room were entertaining - they felt the need to complain about how they weren't too happy about pushing people around and couldn't wait until they got their nursing degree. The scan itself was odd - to find blood clots they have to pump in iodine intravenously. They give you a lot of warnings of what can happen. Luckily I only had the regular reaction -which is an odd warming sensation that flows through your body. The worst is when it hits your nether region, it feels like you might have peed yourself.
So, after a few hours they said I didn't have a blood clot -but, I do have some kind of "node", which could be nothing - but, I need another CAT scan in six months to make sure it hasn't grown. Great. The oxygen levels still weren't doing too well - so, they decided I had to stay the night. This is the first time I have ever stayed overnight at a hospital since I was born - so, it was a little weird.
After a new doc scared Kendra and me with a few other rare but potentially serious diseases I might have, I got up to a more comfortable hospital bed on the seventh floor around midnight. In order to rule out all these rare issues I might have they had to draw a bunch of blood. Throughout the night they drew blood three separate times - along with two more nebulizer treatments and checking my vitals every once in awhile I didn't get much sleep.
Three more doctors checked in with me the next morning (the final total was six doctors and seven nurses). They seemed to agree that there was some chronic asthma issue going on along with the acid reflux. Finally around 11am they tested my oxygen levels while I was walking around the hall. I passed. Around 2pm they finally let me out - of course along with a few more prescriptions.
The plan is for me to get a pulmonary test in a few weeks to confirm that I have asthma - and then figure some kind of long term plan from there. I'm definitely feeling better -but, I still have a cough and my breathing isn't great. The good thing is that they didn't limit my activity at all - so, I'll probably be back to running by Monday. Obviously I'll be taking it easy for awhile - but, things could be worse.

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