By Christopher Green
At least for now.
Over the years, I guess I have had pleurisy about 10-15 times. It usually presents itself as a deep pain somewhere in my chest or back, but sometimes it settles in just under my shoulder blades. There have been occasions where the pleurisy developed into pneumonia, but I called my doctor quickly so I am not overly concerned about that now.
It is not lost on me that almost a year ago I was in the hospital after catching a combination of bugs. The only good thing that came from that harrowing experience was that the posting I did on Democratic Underground evolved into this blog.
If you have had pleurisy, you know just how painful it can be. It is not as life threatening, I guess, as pneumonia, but it can pack a wallop, cut you down and put you to bed for up to a week.
Here is a link to explain the disease in better detail. http://www.webmd.com/lung/understanding-pleurisy-basics
Anyway, all the commotion from last weekend had settled down and I was just getting my strength back when I started to cough on Tuesday night. Violently. I felt a twinge that did not seem right. It was up under my right shoulder blade, the one spot I cannot bang on.
I know this sounds crude and perhaps a bit sadistic, but if the pleurisy settles in an open area of my back or side, I can bang on it with a rubber mallet. I know this sounds as if I am practicing Fred Flintstone Stone Age home remedies, but pounding on the infected area helps loosen the infection, so that the antibiotic has a better and quicker chance of working.
Well, that is my theory. I do not know if it psychosomatic or not, but it seems to work for me. Anyway, where the pain is, under a shoulder blade, the mallet does not work. But the thumper vest does. So I strapped in on tighter than I normally do and let her rip for four different times each day.
I am also taking Levoquin, an antibiotic that seems to work on my particular pleurisy, for the next ten days. That is what taking care about your care does for you. When you know your illness well and have a good, trusting relationship with you doctors, it makes the whole process much more efficient.
My heads up action seems to have caught the infection. After only three days, the pain has already started to subside. It usually takes between seven and ten days to ease up. I still have shots of excruciating pain, especially if I move too quickly, running about my back, but the intensity is fading.
The problem with pleurisy is that it makes it really hard to sleep. Sleeping is, as we all should know, one of the best natural medicines. Being unable to sleep only makes matters worse as your body’s natural defenses break down.
Pleurisy also makes it hard to take a deep breath and, to top it all off, makes it hard to move around. It is very annoying, kind of like pneumonia lite. Pneumonia kicks my ass and almost every time I have landed up in the hospital, pneumonia was the root cause. If it had been pneumonia, I would be in the hospital by now.
Tonight, I slept almost six straight hours (It’s Friday night, Saturday morning right now). That is a long time for me even when nothing major is happening to or in my body.
The reason I am bringing all this up is that I have slowly come to a place where I can have some control over my situation. Being in the dark is the worst thing that can happen to me. Knowledge of my condition is a must. How else can I explain my situation to the doctor? That is why it is so important to have a doctor who you trust and, perhaps more important, trusts you.
Because we were getting ready for a garage sale, trying to find out what stuff was worth, the house was in a near state of chaos. Boxes everywhere, cats exploring, treasures discovered, junk identified. As my pleurisy presented itself more as the week went on, I was left on the sidelines, feeling a little useless.
So, I went out to Costco to do the weekly provision run. While I was out there, I picked up one of those automatic Blood Pressure cuffs. I now can monitor my temperature, blood oxygen level, pulse and blood pressure in the comfort of my own home.
Since I, like most chronically ill people probably feel, become aware that something is wrong after it is usually too late to nip it in the bud, so to speak, the monitoring of my vitals helps me determine what is a blip and what could be a problem.
It is a way to, at least, seem to be more in control as the body spins out of control. It is like all the technology aimed at predicting hurricanes. Because of all the up to the minute weather info collected each and every day, people have a chance to make better decisions. And that is what good health care is all about, making informed decisions about your body.
Last week, before I got sick, I wanted to write about how I feel like a hypochondriac with all my fretting over the slightest change in my health. I feel that this fear can sometimes take over and push reason to the sidelines. That I am almost too cautious. It can be paralyzing, this fretting over everything. I cannot go to say a concert or a party without thinking that someone is going to sneeze and I will catch a cold and end up back in the hospital.
It all reminds me of the very first Sopranos episode, when Jackie was dying of Cancer and he was obsessed with his taking his temperature. Even when Tony and the gang brought a couple of strippers into the room, the attention was on squeezing one last moment of life out of his cancer riddled body. He could care less about what was going on around him.
It is funny that when I think of the Sopranos, that scene comes to mind. It was not the murders and the mayhem, just that one little peek into someone’s personal tragedy is what made the series real to me. I do not know if it was Jackie’s despair and desperation or if it was how hard his gumbas were trying to make it look as if nothing was wrong, but it drew me into the show because I could relate somewhat to Jackie’s fight.
I can surely relate. But I have discovered that there is a fine line separating obsession and diligence.
But now, with the pulse ox and the more accurate temperature readings, I have something beyond my fear to help me make the proper choices about what I can do and what I should not do.
It is liberating, in a sense. It does not bother me so much having this diminished physical condition. If someone thinks I am a whus, so be it. I refuse to let some false bravado stand in my way of making a rational decision.
I still take even the slightest deviation from my ever-changing norm seriously. But now, I can live with all of that. Now when I sneeze or get congested, I can better tell, with the help of my home monitoring, if I should take it easy, call the doctor or just be careful.
And that takes a huge weight off my shoulders.