Sunday, February 17, 2013

When Life Becomes More About Waiting

I am keenly aware that this little blog is read by a fairly small number of visitors who come here because they know me or became aware of this site because of the great honor it received recently for its Photoshops™.

Because Political Clown Parade is a mostly unknown site, I doubt that the sparse postings of late have been noticed.  For those who are regular visitors here, the question may have arisen as to why there have been so few posts.

Allow me to bring you into the fold.

On December 11, 2012 I left work early to visit a local urgent care center because I was feeling like death warmed over.  The doctor who saw me immediately diagnosed me with acute bronchitis.  He ordered me to take not one but two breathing treatments to reduce the wheezing and allow me to breathe a little better.  I was given prescriptions to ease the coughing, antibiotics to clear up the infection and an inhaler of albuterol.

After about two weeks, I thought I was on the mend only to suffer a relapse and a return to the urgent care center I had visited before.

The doctor who saw me then prescribed a stronger inhaler, Combivent®, a bronchodilator indicated for use in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), another round of antibiotics, a cough suppressant and a stern recommendation to seek the help of a lung specialist.

I called a pulmonologist whose practice is located at a hospital in my town and was set up immediately for chest x-rays and a battery of breathing tests on January 17th.  After the x-rays and the breathing tests I went upstairs to see the lung specialist.

We discussed my long history of bouts with pneumonia, bronchitis and sinusitis.  He explored with me the various problems I’ve had breathing and the environment in which I work.  He decided to have me return to radiology after my appointment to have several cranial x-rays taken to determine whether I had marked problems with my sinuses and ordered a dozen or so blood tests:  mycoplasma pneumoniae, a complete blood count with differential (measures the levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelet levels, hemoglobin and hematocrit), immunoglobulins, Westergren Sedimentation Rate (measures inflammation and risk of heart attack) and an alpha-1 antitrypsin blood test which can help determine if there is the presence of lung tissue degradation characteristic of pulmonary emphysema.

I returned to the lung specialist on January 28th to learn the results of all these tests and x-rays.

Here’s what he said:  the breathing tests showed that I have a lung capacity of 54 percent.  You read that right:  54%.

He said my chest x-rays looked good.  No evidence of pneumonia, emphysema or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).  Though there is no sign of obstructive lung disease I do have restrictive lung disease.  The bad news is he doesn’t know what’s causing this.

On February 4th, he ordered me to get a high resolution CT scan of my lungs.  I have been waiting until my next appointment, which is on the 25th, to learn what the CT scan shows all the while struggling to breathe like a healthy person would and trying not to freak out.

There’s just not enough information out there about restrictive lung disease, but what does exist sounds pretty dire to me:  If the likely diagnosis is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), early treatment may slow the disease.  If the patient responds poorly, they usually die within two to three years.

Treatment includes effective coughing techniques, use of steroids for chronic inflammation, use of supplemental oxygen and energy conservation and relaxation techniques.

So, I wait and wonder.  While I wait, I will appreciate every little beautiful moment in every day.  

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