Woman with Mask for OxygenI have spent a lot of time in hospitals because I have had so much surgery over my life, but never a lot of  time all at once.  I have recently been diagnosed with COPD & I am trying to deal with this diagnosis.  This post was inspired by Bill Hamilton’s post where he describes a long stay in the hospital in HIS journey with COPD.  See it herehttp://dealingwithcopd.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/postscript-to-how-i-feel-the-week-ending-012414-living-with-copd/#respond
I can relate to his situation when I got my pleural effusion, even though my situation was not nearly as severe as his was. I lived in the bush, 4 hours drive away from the closest hospital. I presented to the doctor in my little community with chest pains in my upper right back. I felt clammy, short of breath & unwell – I thought I was having a heart attack. The doctor was unsure what was wrong with me, so he sent me by air ambulance to the closest hospital (40 mins. flight). I am afraid of flying! As soon as they put my stretcher on the small plane, my heart rate skyrocketed & they had to give me a sedative. I arrived at the hospital, they did the bloodwork & other tests to determine I wasn’t having a heart attack & discharged me, even though I still felt crappy. I had to find my own way to a motel in the community & wait till the next day when my husband could drive down to pick me up.

I still felt crappy for a about 4 days, then I developed a fever & even more difficulty breathing. I presented to the doctor who now recognized I was in real trouble. Please don’t misunderstand – this was a very caring & knowledgeable doctor – but over the years I have recognized my body does not present with “the usual symptoms.”  When I had gall bladder problems I presented with the symptoms of appendicitis, when I have stomach problems I present with pain under my left breast.

Another air ambulance was summoned, but because of my fear of flying I was heavily sedated this time. I don’t remember the flight, the x-rays or examinations. I woke up in a hospital bed on oxygen, the next day. I had severe pneumonia with a large pleural effusion. I spent a week in the hospital on heavy duty antibiotics & enforced rest before they discharged me back to my small town. When my hubby heard they were flying me out again, he thoughtfully went back home & got me a book so at least I could read because there was no TV in the room.

A week later hubby & I had to drive the 4 hours back to the hospital so I could be examined again. My breathing was still labored. After x-rays it was determined the effusion had not re-absorbed into my body. I was given the choice of going home for another week on antibiotics & being re-evaluated again or having the effusion drained off. While hubby & the doctor debated what to do I sat there, afraid & struggling with my breathing.  When someone finally asked my opinion, I said I didn’t want to go back home with the breathing problems I was already experiencing, let’s treat this now.

The 2 hospitals in this community were merging into one at the time, so some supplies were missing.  The doctor had to jerry-rig with a long needle inserted into my back, he would fill up the syringe then pour off the liquid into a little beaker before drawing off more fluid.  I had to sit perfectly still the whole time this was happening & the whole thing took about 25 minutes to complete.  Once the fluid was off my back my breathing improved right away.

I had been diagnosed with pneumonia before & even had “walking pneumonia.”  When I woke up in the hospital the day after my admittance, the doctor told me I had “laying in the hospital, on oxygen & enforced rest for a whole lot of time” pneumonia.  This was my first indication of what was to come.

By the way, this is my 300th post!

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