I spent last week in the hospital. It’s Fall, the weather is changing, mold counts are rising, ragweed season was rough, and farmers are out in the fields harvesting their crops. It’s always the perfect storm of things to induce inflammation in my airways.
It started off with an asthma attack. I was in the garage riding my spin bike one night when I hit a wall after 15 minutes. I backed off, slowed down, and figured things would soon get back to “normal.” Things did not get back to normal. I started myself on some standby prednisone and talked to my lung doctor when things didn’t completely improve. I restarted the prednisone, but it wasn’t enough. One the way to an urgent clinic I got a flat tire. Urgent clinic told me I had to go to the hospital, and the doctor in the ER admitted me after 125mg of solumedrol and some duoneb seemingly had no effect.
This is the first time I have been admitted not in the middle of an active attack where I felt like I was in distress. The ER doctor was going to admit me as soon as I got there, but I wanted to try some standard treatment first. After that it was three days of 240 mg solumedrol before tapering down to 60 mg of prednisone and getting out of there.
Right now I feel like I’m struggling. Doing everything for yourself is harder than it looks, and I’ve come down with bronchitis as well. Here’s hoping the medicine works and I can fully recover without relapsing.
Well, it happened. After two years staying away, I ended up in the hospital for a tune-up. Four days and four nights kind of makes it sound like a vacation or resort reservation, but it wasn’t that fun. This time it was fairly simple, just good old asthma without other complications.
They did all kinds of blood tests to see if any clues came up as to the cause of my exacerbation. IgE levels were about 3x as high as usual so it was determined allergies were the culprit, of which I’ve been complaining for the past couple months. It was a lot of sitting around, neb treatments, IV steroids, and an occasional walk around the hospital floor. I was put into a double-occupancy room but spent almost the entire time by myself.
As usual, my first RT was Scott the sci-fi fan. For some reason every time I’m admitted he is on duty, remembers me, and we talk about the latest in science fiction shows and movies. I recognized a few other respiratory therapists, but none of the nurses. My local lung doctor came by every morning around 7:30 to check in with me and update notes. The hospitalist team quickly decided I had a “complicated and very advanced case of lung disease” and was going to let my lung doctor call the shots. I was glad because doctors unfamiliar with me tend to cut me loose early and I quickly relapse.
While there I got the usual questions and comments:
- How many years did it take to grow your beard?
- Are you always this chill?
- Whoa, your water bottle is HUGE.
- I LOVE your backpack!
I think my biggest fans were the nurse/tech pair who stuck me 9x before calling a phlebotomist in to draw blood. The phlebotomist walked in, drew the blood immediately, and then trash-talked the other nurses. It was pretty hilarious.
After a few days the hospitalist came by to update me and dispense some advice:
- We have determined your severe asthma exacerbation was caused by your allergic asthma
- Be sure to take your medicine when you go home
- Maybe stay inside with the windows shut cause there are allergies outside
I could have stayed longer, but asked to go. The first day out is always tough, but I’m hoping to bounce back soon.
A couple of months ago I ended up at the ER again short of breath, with chest pains, flaring allergies, and low oxygen. They ended up keeping me a few days mostly because my o2 was in the 80s and my ABG came back not good. I ended up connecting with a great hospitalist who looked through my medical history and really wanted to track down the root cause of my health issues. She ran some tests and was in close contact with both of my lung doctors throughout the process. After being released I saw my second pulmonologist out in PA, did more tests and it was determined I do not have asthma.
Even after a couple of months it feels weird to say that as it has been a big part of my life for the past 23 years or so. I still have the breathing problems, but it was confirmed I do have vocal chord dysfunction (VCD) and my chords are pinching on exhale which really mimics asthma. I was often asked if it was hard to breathe in, assuming VCD could be pinching my throat shut on inhale, but for me it was the other way around. I was taken off a lot of medications and given a few new ones to take. I’m still having a rough time with Fall allergies, the rotting leaves outside, and smoke outside. I’m looking forward to winter when the outdoor allergens freeze and I’ll have a few months of better breathing. Hopefully my health will be in much better control next year.