Thursday, May 20, 2010

Pneumonia - Don't ever get it!

Thanks oh so much to all of you who have had me in your prayers.

I'm out of the hospital and home now, but still recuperating. Most of the coughing is gone, but still some fatigue and some shortness of breath. I'm not sure how long that will continue. But I have gotten out to do some walking the past two days.

Here is a short version that I wrote last Tuesday (slightly edited) of what I have experienced with my bout with pneumonia:

To make a long story short, I just got back from The VA Hospital in Minneapolis where I was admitted Friday evening (May 7) for pneumonia.

It slowly started last Tuesday (May 4) (when I thought it was flu for which I normally take sudafed, which normally does the job in a couple of days) and got progressively worse each day.

I went to the hospital to get an asthma inhaler (I have "stress induced asthma" and don't use the inhaler frequently. I seem to have lost my old one and expected to be gone only a couple of hours.

I made the decision to go to the hospital on Friday morning, and this is where a lot of mental confusion began to show up. My normal practice is "male pride" and I always drive to the hospital. But I decided to take a taxi. But believe it or not, I couldn't figure out how to get a number or call a cab company. I finally drove to the hospital about 7:00 or so.

It took a few hours but the emergency room ("urgent care) staff confirmed that it was pneumonia with x-rays showing lots of fluid in my lungs. They actually didn't get the lab tests back for a couple of days on the gunk/pflegm from the lungs that showed that it wasn't some rare strain but the most common kind. I'm no more contagious than people you might meet in an elevator or at a ball game. I could have caught it at the hospital when volunteering, or on the street.

The next day, not having a cellphone to look up the numbers of friends, I was pretty much out of communications. The situation was further worsened by the fact that occasionally pneumonia patients have the situation greatly worsened by having the thought processes jumbled a bit. So, just like my problems with getting a taxi, I couldn't figure a way to get hold of a telephone book. And for some reason, I didn't think of having my brother bring me his for a twenty minutes lookup or so.

One of the effects apparently is lack of oxygen to the brain (that's what I was told by somebody). When I did get hold of one needed number from a friend but I must have got written it wrong as there was never any answer or answering machine at the number I called. I wrote down my brother's work number incorrectly, too. By Sunday I had contacted a few people and I had a few visitors.

Monday night I finally got some sleep (pill assisted; constant coughing was the big problem) but as usual they wake you up every few hours to take "vitals." On one such visit, I was completely confused. I didn't know where I was or what was happening to me. I asked the strange nurse: "Who are you? Where am I? Why am I in a tent?" [I was in a four bed ward and they closed the curtains around me to shield me from light and noise. When I finally woke up for good about 4:00 a.m., it literally took me a half hour or so to figure out where I was and what was happening. Frankly, that was quite scary.]

Monday night they started me on a "nebulyzer" (sp?) to clear my lungs and by noon Tuesday most of the constant coughing was over (as long as I was sitting up). Lots of antibiotics were pumped into me day and night.

The nurses and doctors were great, but they have other duties so aren't always available to answer questions or clear up my confusion. But they take teasing well and respond in kind.

Since at that point they figured that bed rest and pills was the plan and that could be done at home rather than in the hospital, I got out about 2:00 Tuesday. But I discovered quite quickly that while I could walk 20 feet quite well, but anythiing much over that and I was back to wheezing. It literally took me almost three hours (with many stops to regain strength) to get to my car and drive the two miles home.

After about five days at home, the coughing began to dissipate and I was able to get out and move around a bit.

Thank you again for all of your for your prayers and best wishes.

Now I've got computer problems with my email program. So it still might be a while before I get Stella Borealis back into operating mode.

Ray Marshall


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