Friday, September 4, 2009

Knocked on My Can by a Ton of Bricks

I am seldom sick. When I am, it’s more of a nuisance than anything else. Toward the end of August I got a bit of a taste of what it’s like to be really sick. I was completely knocked on my can for at least 10 days, and I’m still not quite 100%.

It all started in the beginning of the month when my youngest mysteriously came down with some cold-like thing including general misery and a barking cough. Instead of coming out of it in a few days, as is usual, it hung around for her for almost 2 weeks. So after 2 weeks of barking and spewing, it was no wonder when the oldest also was stricken. Not quite as much misery, but lots of coughing. I bugged out for 4 days, heading to Denver on a business trip. I returned home on a Thursday and kept working through Friday afternoon, although in retrospect, I could feel something coming on.

Friday afternoon it dropped on me like a ton of bricks. My fever spiked up to almost 104. I was racked with pain in every muscle in my body, and a remarkable number of places that aren’t muscles. This kept up all through the weekend, with a brief respite Sunday morning, and then slammed me to the mat again late Sunday afternoon. I was taking all the usual over the counter medicines but nothing made a dent. Then in desperation – exhausted from lack of sleep and in amazing pain, I took some hydrocodone (Tylenol with codeine) that I had left over from a minor surgical procedure some time ago. For the surgery, I didn’t really need it. Now, ironically, I most certainly did. I gotta tell you, I LOVE that stuff. When you really need it, the right medicine is the best thing in the world.

I could literally feel the pain ebbing away, and my body relaxing. Suddenly the fever broke and I started sweating profusely. I mean profusely – like running off my body in trickles. It was wonderful. I slept like a baby, only waking at midnight to pop two more pills.

I kept up this regimen for a few days. Did I mention that all through this time I was also coughing? Racking spasming coughs that at times were so bad I almost couldn’t breathe. I had to go to my knees so that I wouldn’t throw my back out from my coughing fit. Even now, my neck is stiff because I think I kinked something in there during one of my monumental hacks. Even as the fever abated, the coughing continued. I tried to work the following Tuesday, and stumbled my way through a training program, but on the way home my fever spiked again and I clearly needed some medical intervention. I was at the doctor’s office the next day and was diagnosed with pneumonia. This is the third time I have had to deal with pneumonia. I should have recognized it without the doctor’s help. Azithromycin did the trick and put me back on track, but it took a few days still before the coughing really began to fade. I’m still coughing up the occasional slug, but they aren’t the dark foreboding green the originally were, nor are they so abundant. God bless antibiotics. They get a bad rap, but as I said, when you need it the right medicine is glorious.

My wife was a beautiful angelic nurse to me through this. And then as I was coming out of it, her coughing got worse and she also was found to have pneumonia. We are such a sharing family! She skipped the flu part, thank goodness, but it even now struggling with the tiredness that comes from not being able to take full breaths. It’s a sluggish feeling from not having enough oxygen. I’m still struggling with that a little, although I can breathe deeply now without tossing up a lung.

As a result of this I lost 10 days and a solid week of income when I can least afford it. I am self-employed and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Any opportunity to finish the summer with a nice hike in perfect weather was lost. Time I would have rather spent with my girls went down the drain. Our 23rd wedding anniversary was an afterthought, as we both just felt glad to be alive. I shed about 12 pounds in a week as I had no appetite for the first 6 days and ate very little – but I wouldn’t recommend the plan. It’s a little harsh. The feeling of helplessness and even occasionally some fear that this was more than just a passing treatable sickness is memorable. I don’t care to repeat this again anytime soon. Sickness just hollows out your life. I am more than ever grateful for good health. It’s a tough way to be reminded.

Here's what else I was reminded of...the care and concern of neighbors and friends. Our church family kept track of us, provided meals and other kinds of support. Neighbors checked in and helped how they could. We had to go through it ourselves, but it was good to know that we were not completely alone. Someone outside our house actually cared, even helping take care of our poor orphan children who pretty much had to fend for themselves for 3 or 4 days when both of us were pretty much out of commission. Community ain't now joke. It's a cliche term, but it exists and it's as real as breathing. If you ain't got it, get some.

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