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.