By Christopher Green
It seems there is always a tradeoff when it comes to my health, especially with the drug part of my overall therapy.
I guess that should be expected now that I am taking about 15 different drugs. These include different heart pills, lung meds (including inhaled and oral), a highly suggested dietary supplement and over the counter remedies in different combinations throughout the course of a normal week.
The heart meds are mostly precautionary since, as you all know from high school biology: the heart has such an impact on the pulmonary body system. The two systems are intricately intertwined.
I wrote about my heart catheterization in a post from last summer. There is a slight blockage that would have been addressed with aspirin if I had been healthier. But because of my lung problems, they had to put me on drugs to make sure it didn’t get serious.
During my last visit to the Cleveland Clinic, they did an ultrasound and my heart was between strong and true. They also did an EKG and that came in at the top of the charts, so to speak. No real problems with the heart. BTW, they also check out the heart for any potential lung transplant patient to make sure the heart is healthy enough to support the lungs.
So back to the matter at hand or rather, that sword of Solomon.
The cough medicine I take is Hydromet, which is an opiate derivative that suppresses the part of the brain that controls coughing. But it can also affect the respiratory system which, as you might guess, is problematic for me.
Here is a link if you care to know more.
Now it’s time to back up a little here.
When I was first diagnosed with lung problems, way back in the late 80’s, I could go for months without having a coughing episode. What usually happened was I would aspirate something into my lungs and the coughing
would get so violent, so gut retching that people would become really
concerned. A lot of people also would back off as it was scary to watch, I
I remember one time, out with my soon to be mother-in-law, Betty, and my soon to be brother-in-law, Ron. We were at a pizza place and all of a sudden I started in on one of my episodes. I rushed to the bathroom after seeing the look of horror and deep concern on Betty’s face. I knew it would pass, but I also knew it wasn’t comforting to watch that her daughter fell for a man with serious health problems.
For a while there, I avoided going out and if I did, I only ordered stuff that wouldn’t cause me to cough. I felt like a person secluded from “polite society” in an old time tuberculosis sanatorium. No more baked garlic bread, for instance. To many crumbs that could “go down the wrong pipe” as my dad use to say.
Speaking of my dad, well my grandma, to be more exact, she had some terrible problems with her breathing. It wasn’t hereditary since my grandma’s problems stemmed from a radiation treatment on her thyroid gland, what they use to call a goiter, that went horribly wrong. She would get these awful coughing fits as bits and pieces of food would get stuck in the damaged part of her esophagus.
When she would have any problems we would all yell out for her to raise her hands, raise her hands. as if she would forget. Grandma would disappear into the kitchen and probably cough up some food. She never stayed in front of us, trying to minimize the shock to our little systems. It didn’t happen all that often, but enough to make a real impact on me and I guess my brother and sister.
The reason I bring this up is that I probably modeled my quick departures when I started in on one of my coughing fits after watching how my grandma dealt with her fits. I couldn’t help it. There was a deep sense of embarrassment, a feeling that I was calling attention to myself for all the
wrong reasons whenever one of these fits took hold.
So now I am finally getting back to that Solomon like decision, my cough medicine.
One more thing, though; even when I don’t have a new bug in my lungs, I cough a lot, so often that my chest hurts pretty much all the time.
Back to the dilemma at hand. As I stated above, Hydromet suppresses the part of my brain that triggers coughing. When I am taking Hydromet,
I still hack quite a bit, but it serves to level out the reflex to expel crud
from my lungs. The Vest I do at least twice a day gets the crud moving and easier for me to get it out.
So between the Hydromet and the Vest, I have struck a pretty good balance, so that I get some relief from the violent coughs that use to wrack me from here to Sunday, but still get most of the crud moving out of my lungs.
As I mentioned before, one of the side effects of Hydromet is that it can have an effect on your respiratory system. I didn’t realize just how much this cough syrup could repress my pulmonary functions until this turn with the crud presented itself about a two week ago.
Up until then, I was taking one dose in the afternoon and one before going to bed. No side effect at all. But as soon as I started taking it as prescribed, one dose every four hours, I noticed that I was having a little problem catching my breath. So, I scaled back the Hydromet back to just two times a day, that pulmonary effect was no longer a factor.
So you see, I had to make that choice between stopping a wracking cough that was hurting clear through my chest all the way to my back with stops at all points in between, or suppress my pulmonary functions.
The comedian Eddie Izzard has this bit that really sums it all up for me, in a very twisted way.
More because it is funny and it kind of spells it all out….