Sunday, February 2, 2014


"I don't feel well this morning.  I feel the way you feel before you get really, really sick.  My chest is heavy."  It was very early in the work day and I was speaking to a fellow supervisor who replied that, she too, did not feel "good at all".  The morning droned on, as typical work days tend to do.

I had some errands to run at lunch and was at my local grocery store when the pain came.  It was a weight on my chest like I had never felt before.  I felt light-headed and weak and my breathing was labored.  I left my cart (something I would normally never, ever do) and shuffled to my car.  As bad as I felt, I went back to work to sign out and tell my supervisor that I was heading to the Emergency Room.  Yes, I was that scared.  The pain was great, but the fear was greater.  I had never felt this way before and was convinced that I had to be experiencing a heart attack.  I checked myself into the ER and was quickly taken to a room.  Things moved a bit slower after that.  I must have gotten a "newbie" tech because she tried for over an hour to draw blood.  Every time the doctor or nurse stopped in to see how I was doing, they were surprised that she had been unable to get blood, yet not until significant time had passed, did a different nurse offer to poke and prod at my non-cooperative veins.  The blood work looked good and my blood pressure came down.  A bit of nitroglycerin was applied to my chest, but I was given Ativan at almost the same time and I couldn't be sure which had helped to relieve the pressure.  A friend arrived to sit with me and I felt much better just knowing someone was there to call my son, should there be a major development.  When initially examining me, the ER doctor told me that a chest x-ray would be taken.  I remember a technician coming in to perform it, but the nurse was still working on getting blood and told him to come back later.  Later never happened.  Also, when a nurse listened to my chest and told me to take deep breaths, she admonished me "Not THAT deep of a're wheezing!"  At one point I asked a nurse if she thought I needed a breathing treatment and was summarily dismissed.  After a stay of several hours, I was released, but told to take it easy (no work) and see my cardiologist a few days later.

When I saw my cardiologist on Monday, he performed a couple of tests and decreed that he saw no problems, but he wanted to perform a stress test just to be on the safe side.  He also listened to my chest, but to be fair, he was listening to my heart and not my lungs.  I was to have the stress test the following morning.  However, I began feeling worse and worse upon arriving home and called to cancel.  I was finally starting to figure out that I was very, very sick.  I wasn't sure in what way, but I knew that I couldn't get on a treadmill.  It seemed I was growing weaker by the hour.

I called my general practitioner the following morning and was able to be seen right away.  I explained everything to him and told him that I honestly did not even want to come to his office; I just wanted to go to bed and sleep.  He listened to my lungs and promptly diagnosed me with pneumonia.  I was a bit shocked, but at the same time I felt vindicated to know that I wasn't imagining how terribly bad I felt.  I was prescribed a hefty antibiotic and cough medicine, along with instructions to rest, rest, rest, and not return to work until the following Monday.  I asked him if he thought a breathing treatment would help and he replied that was "a good idea".  However, his nurses had gone to lunch so I was to return for it the following day.

Back at home, I quickly set up a "sick bay" in my small living room.  I had just bought a new Crock-Pot and the box became my trash can.  Cough drops, tissues, my inhaler, lip balm, and hand lotion littered my coffee table.  I slept and slept and rested and rested and slept some more.  Friends delivered fresh bread, juice, casseroles, and soup.  I attempted to sound normal when called to answer work-related questions, but in truth, I was so wiped out, I probably didn't make a whole lot of sense.  As the days wore on, I could tell I was recovering, but I was still physically exhausted.

On the Monday that I was to return to work, I instead went back to my doctor.  I explained that I had zero energy and did not feel anywhere near up to par.  He spent several minutes detailing a link between pneumonia and depression, something I REALLY, REALLY didn't want to hear at that point.  Finally, he decided that blood work, a lung function test, and chest x-ray were in order.  I was to return the following morning for the lung function test and was to go to the hospital for the x-ray.  The following morning I reported to the doctor's office for my lung function test.  It did not go well and it turns out that my x-ray didn't look so hot, either.  I was told that my diagnosis was downgraded from pneumonia to bronchitis, but that I was still very sick, complete with inflamed, fluid filled lungs, and decreased oxygen levels.  The doctor said that I needed ANOTHER week off work and more rest.  Again, I felt a bit vindicated because I KNEW I was far from feeling 100 percent well.

This is far from a humorous blog post and the main reason I took the time to write it was to remind my readers that we HAVE to be advocates for our health.  I knew the hospital forgot to take a chest x-ray when I was in the ER, but I failed to speak up.  It may have saved me several days of recovery, had I reminded them.  I SHOULD have known something was amiss when the nurse told me to "Stop taking such deep breaths, you're wheezing!"  Even my primary care doctor, who finally determined I had pneumonia, thought it was a "good idea" when I asked for a breathing treatment and was ready to dismiss my claim that I did not feel healed with a diagnosis of depression.

So please, please...take a stand for your health.  You may be just one of a parade of patients to a doctor, but you are everything to many.  You are loved, valuable, and needed.  Listen to your inner voice, speak up, and ask questions.  Your very life may depend on it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

BUH BYE 2013!

2013 has come and gone and if the posts on my Facebook feed are any indication of what people are feeling, good riddance, don't let the door hit you in the...well, you get the idea.

2013 brought the best of times and the worst of times for me.  My Mom had open heart surgery in September and took my family on a journey to hell and back, but she is here today, just as feisty as ever.  I spent almost three weeks with her and will never regret it.  Many have told me that she would not have pulled through, had I not made the trip.  I'm not sure if that is true, but sometimes it takes a family member in the room 24/7 to make certain things progress the way they should, not to mention reminding the patient that she is loved and still needed in the outside world.  Mom is currently residing in a nursing home and her old spark has finally returned.  It is a joy to talk with her every evening and to send her goodie bags, etc.  She waits to open them until I am on the phone and "oooohs and aaaahs" with the delight of a child at the simplest of pleasures (a new "designer" nail polish or a magazine "that I will read until the cows come home").  The entire experience, though taxing to the limit, has brought us closer than we have ever been and she calls me her "angel".  Who knew that could happen with a fifty-something stuck-in-her-ways singleton and a crotchety, stubborn as a mule (to put it lightly), older woman?  Yes, miracles occurred in the year of our Lord, two thousand and thirteen!

Another profound event was the graduation of my son, Ethan, from North Carolina State University, with degrees in both Computer and Electrical Engineering.  Ethan is the first college graduate on either side of his family and to say that I was proud doesn't do the word justice!  He pursued and was offered the job he wanted and is happily employed by a firm with offices right on the campus of NC State.

The most devastating event of the year was the loss of our beloved cat, Callie Darla LaMaster, on August 12.  I still miss her every day of my life.  I truly hope that there is a home for pets in heaven because I want to see her again someday.  I hang onto the hope that my Grandma is crocheting with Callie at her feet or that she is napping on her daddy Brian's ample belly.

For 2014, I wish for all of my friends and family to be happy and to fulfill dreams they never thought possible.  Life is so very short and the time is NOW to be exceedingly, over the moon happy and not just content with the status quo.  Let's make it happen!

I also want Washington to get their act together this year.  No more government shutdowns, etc.  It is time for every American citizen to DEMAND accountability and responsibility from our leaders.  How many of us would still be employed had we used the tactics our elected officials did during the shutdown?  It was shameful and embarrassing to our country.  It is time to stop talking about bipartisanship and LIVE it.  There needs to be some MAJOR reaching across the aisle of BOTH PARTIES this year.  I will be watching closely and if I see petulant behavior on the part of any elected leader, I will be shouting it from the rooftop.  It's time for real and dramatic change.  I want to hear no more talk without actions to back it up.  Who's with me?

Also, let's let go of things, OK?  And supposed signs of status?  Our life is a blip so why do we let ourselves care so much about trivial "stuff"?  It's fine to admire items of beauty, but the coveting has to stop.  And if you can't afford the "real" thing, stop buying the knock-offs.  No one is going to buy the fact that it's real and isn't that against the law anyway?  I see more fake Coach bags than I care to see EVERY DAY.  Just STOP.

One last wish for 2014...more Pope Francis and less Miley.  Pretty please?