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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Random acts of illness

Yes. I have pneumonia. Recovering, actually. Enough to have the strength to sit up and write this.

Oh, I've been sick before. Back stuff, mostly. And, some very bad colds - maybe even the flu, once - where you just feel more miserable than actually sick-unto-death.

I have never had pneumonia. I wouldn't recommend it. Ever.

See that symptom chart above? I had every single one of those symptoms.

Every. Single. One.

The high temps are the worst. 102.2. Feeling so cold on the inside and yet burning up on the outside causing your whole body to have a bad case of the shivery-shakes.  And then, in the middle of the night, when the fever breaks, you wake up in a cold pool of your own sweat.

Lovely. Um, not.

It's the worst - exceeded only by the fear that, as you listen to yourself wheeze and feel like an elephant is sitting on your chest, you are going to die. And then, you're afraid you won't die.

No, no. Wait. The worst is feeling like your arms have turned to stuffed sausage and every joint in your body - from your jaw to your elbows to your knees and feet - hurt.  Which makes you nauseous.

No, no. Wait. The worst is feeling all of this and hearing your doctor say, "You have to drink 8 glasses of water a day. You can't let the mucous get caught in your lungs or it will turn to cement."

And so, sick as you are, and as difficult as it is to breathe, as difficult as it is to remember the count (Was that the fourth or fifth?), you "push fluids". And, run to the bathroom every 20 minutes.

Despite my allergies, I have a pretty strong immune system. I take a daily multi-vitamin, plus supplemental Vitamin B, C and D as well as Calcium. I get regular exercise, good amounts of sleep and I eat quite well, thank you very much.

My doc says that I probably picked something up on the non-stop airplane trip I made to LA to see one of our daughters a week ago. That clearly wasn't helped by my allergies which went into overdrive with all the Easter lilies on the altar last Sunday.

So, here's the thing - the point of this blog post:  I know people who have had pneumonia. I know it used to kill people. Still does, in some places in the world. Today? In this country? Why, all you need is a good antibiotic, maybe some steroids, an inhaler, and, oh, yeah, lots of fluid.

I've been pretty blase about pneumonia. I mean, it's a very treatable illness with an extraordinarily high recovery rate. I am so sorry if I have been dismissive of those of you who have suffered with pneumonia in the passt.

I never knew that even the relatively short time from diagnosis to treatment to recovery could be so miserable. And, sometimes the parts of the treatment seem worse than the disease.

Oh, you probably never felt dismissed. At least, I hope not. I know how to be empathic. I've discovered that sympathy is better than empathy. Much better. I mean, empathy is a good thing, truly, but there's nothing like someone who has gone through what you're going through to really hear you and understand and communicate that understanding.

And, now, I can be even more authentic as I sit with you when have pneumonia. Which I hope never happens, but if it does, I'm your girl.

Maybe that's the point of this whole episode in my life. And, it must have a point. I mean, it couldn't just be a random thing, right? Like, I just happened to be sitting on a plane in the very seat where the person before me was harboring pneumonia, or breathing in the recycled air where someone on the plane was coughing and sneezing and I just happened to get it for absolutely no reason at all.

Look, I "do" randomness. I love randomness. I think randomness enhances life, if we are open to it and let it in. Yes, even the bad stuff.

I just don't believe randomness doesn't have a point or a lesson. That, in fact, is the best thing about randomness. It's like a pop quiz the universe hands you - except when the universe gives you a pop quiz, the only "right answer" is the lesson you learn from the experience.

So, that's why I wrote this post.

Oh, and because I got to complain and whine for a few minutes.

It's annoying, I know, but I'll tell you what: It's just as effective but feels much better than having to drink 8 glasses of water a day.

Random acts of illness. Just one of the universe's 'pop quizzes' where the only way to fail is to not learn the lesson it brought you. 

I thought that up all by myself. 

Which just goes to show what weird thoughts can flow through a water-logged brain after drinking 8 glasses of water a day.

Oh, and insufferable boredom.


John F Copeland said...

"Random acts of illness. Just one of the universe's 'pop quizzes' where the only way to fail is to not learn the lesson it brought you." ... which brings us nicely to pneumatology! Well done, Coughing Kaeton, well done. Love, John, M

RENZ said...

I'm glad you are recovering. A h.s. classmate just went through having her otherwise healthy, jock husband of 50 spend a few days in ICU and couldn't accept that all he had was pneumonia. I tried to explain to her that we have gotten very blase about pneumonia, forgetting that it still is a very serious business that kills many in this country. I do thing doctors use the term too often and this contributes to our misconceptions. Anyway, drink your fluids and cough it out.

Sextant said...

My wife and I had together for a couple of weeks in the early 90s. One day we are fine the next we can barely get out of a chair. What amazed me was what a crime against humanity doing absolutely anything was. Just to get up get a glass of water took all the energy in the universe.

The only thing that was good was drinking tea and chicken soup. I think consumed gallons of it.

Hope you stay on the mend. A good sign you are getting better is that you get cranky. Crank away, you deserve it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

John, you know, I was going to make that point and then I thought I'd just get a huge groan. Thanks for taking the hit for me.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Reno - I'm drinking. I'm coughing. I also actually washed the sheets. I will have to wait for Ms. Conroy to help me make the bed, but at least I had the energy to do armload of laundry. Slowly, slowly, slowly.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sorry - that was for RENZ

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Sextant - a friend just brought over some Chicken Noodle soup. It's amazing. One cup and already not feeling so cranky.

JCF said...

Lizbeth, HEAL!!! (and take it easy, until you do---I trust Ms Conroy does your nursing prima?)

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Nurse Jane Fuzzy-Wuzzy (Ms. Conroy) hovers appropriately. I'm healing. Energy slowly returning. Learning to accept help - and soup - from friends. It's all been pretty amazing - and, humbling.

howdidIgethere said...

For future reference, there's a pneumonia vaccine. You may want to consider it along with your annual flu vaccine. My young healthy daughter got pneumonia during her freshman year at college. "Health Center" was about zip help, too weak to go to the doctor. I was so glad she was only a couple of hours away so I could visit her and, ultimately she could come home for a few days' recuperation. Take it easy afterward, too! It was MONTHS before she could climb 3 flights of stairs in her dorm!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks. Now that the acute symptoms are subsiding, it's the energy level - or lack thereof - that's troublesome. I know it will come back. I just need time to heal. And, drink more water

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Hot baths are pretty good, especially if you have some pungent bath salts or minerals. Also, don't get discouraged if the chest X-rays don't clear up right away.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

My doctor recommended hot steamy showers which are remarkably helpful. I'm not wheezing but my cough is still pretty tight. I can see this is going to take a while from which to recover. Good news is that I actually have my appetite back. I had two spring rolls, four shrimp and some rice last night for dinner. I could actually taste it. Woo hoo.

June Butler said...

Elizabeth, sorry I'm so very late, but I'm pleased that you're recovering from your illness. Prayers that you're soon up, up, and away to being your energetic, normal self.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Mimi. Feeling better. Going to take some time for the energy level to come back up to normal

janinsanfran said...

So sorry to read about your pneumonia. I've had two adult episodes and then my usually excellent HMO realized I should have the vaccine. I had been "too young."

What they usually don't or can't tell you is how very long it can take to feel you have your right energy. Months ... even a year. Oh sure, you'll be able to go about daily life, but getting over pneumonia can rob you of any spring in your step.

But it does pass!!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

janinsanfran - My predecessor as Hospice Chaplain told me she had pneumonia last year and it took her a month to recover. I had a flu shot this year but not a pneumonia shot. Next year. Fer sure.