Tag Archive for sick

It’s been feeling a lot like August

August is always my worst month of the year. It’s hot and humid, ragweed flourishes, and I tend to get sick. This summer has been the usual with plenty of missed days, CPAP time, and breathing treatments.

My daughter picked up a cold the first or second day back at school and shared it with the family. It’s been awful. I just finished a z-pack and some prednisone, but still aren’t feeling great so my doc had me do bloodwork and chest x-rays to see what’s going on. In the past, I’ve just gotten stronger and stronger anitbiotics until the sickness goes away or I’ve ended up admitted. I appreciate the attempts to make sure it’s a bacterial infection before the unnecessary use of more medicine.

In a couple days I’ll go in for my echo. One of my lung docs wants me to be re-evaluated for pulmonary hypertension. My right ventricle was enlarged on my first echo back in 2010. I’ve had two since then showing things to be normal, which has been attributed to my strict adherence to CPAP therapy. Lately I’m always short of breath, my chest hurts, my blood pressure is often higher than normal, and there are a few other signs that need to be ruled out. I’d really love them to find something, anything. For years it has always felt like there’s something not yet diagnosed. If they found something, I could at least be treated for it and maybe not feel like crap all the time. I’d love to do normal things again.

Children and Chronic Illness

I am chronically ill, and I have two children. I don’t like admitting I can’t always take care of them, mostly because it is true. Fortunately they are very understanding and are kind of used to it. It can become really difficult when I’m solo parenting though.

Last week, my special lady friend was in L.A. for a work conference. Kid #1 goes to school during the day and Kid #2 is with a babysitter during the day, but I’m on duty for nights, mornings, and weekends. I was doing alright until the weekend.

I wasn’t feeling well before Liz left. She was worried things wouldn’t be ok. The kids weren’t adjusting well to mom being gone, but I was doing ok. The week progressed, and I became slightly more and more tired each day. I’m often able to rest and recharge on weekends, but not this time.

I did get a break for a couple hours Friday night and Saturday afternoon, but I was already feeling bad enough that it wasn’t enough for me to feel better. Sunday morning I got the kids some food, turned on the TV, and laid back down. They woke me up at 11, 12, 1, and 2. They were hungry, they were tired, and they needed some attention. I was able to get a family member to come get them around 6, but by then I was in pretty bad shape. It’s now three days later, and I’m just now doing some normal things like: not sleeping all day, eating, and talking to people.

I’m fortunate that my oldest can watch over the youngest and mostly keep him out of trouble. I’m grateful to have family around who can help out at times. We’re all glad to have Liz back, and hopefully I can hack it next time. The kids are also fine, I just wonder if they think all dads are like me.

Using a CPAP when sick

Using a CPAP and wearing a mask on your face can be difficult even when you’re feeling 100%. When not feeling well, compliance can be a problem for even the best of us. Wearing your CPAP when sick is even more important because your body is relying heavily on sleep to get better. Here are a few things I’ve learned or discovered that can help me stay compliant.

Sinus rinsing

The thought of using a neti pot or similar product seemed awful and disgusting. I even avoided using one for about 18 months even though my doctor insisted and provided me with multiple samples. Once I finally found some courage to do it, I was shocked at the benefits – and all the snot that came out.

I use the NeilMed Sinus Rinse bottles. It’s a squeeze bottle which allows me to control the pressure when I’m clearing out my sinuses. It’s a good idea to use filtered or distilled water. I get my water from a Brita filter I keep in the refrigerator, so I usually microwave the bottle with the cold water for 30-40 seconds so I don’t experience brain freeze.

I think the packaging suggests one rinse a day. My doctors have instructed me to rinse twice a day, especially during allergy seasons which last March to November for me. I often have a period of “good sinuses” and forget to keep rinsing, only to go to a regularly scheduled doc appoint and be told I need to get back on track. It’s especially important when I’m sick.

Don’t let your sinuses dry out

Humidify your CPAP – There are several ways to assist this problem. I use a heated humidifier with my CPAP. Once I used it without in a dry, dusty hotel room. My sinuses were so messed up I had major nose bleeds eventually resulting in me shoving a tampon up my nose. Yeah, I realize that probably sounds odd, but the cheap, singly-ply toilet paper in the room seemed to dry my nose out even more and wasn’t really absorbent.

If you experience rain-out, too much water in your mask, try adjusting your humidifier setting to something a little lower. You might also inquire about a heated hose with your CPAP supplies provider.

Drink more water – Drinking water can also be a big help. I try to drink a gallon of water a day. It doesn’t always do the trick, but it helps with a lot of things.

Moisturize your sinuses – An allergy doctor suggested I get saline in a spray bottle for my sinuses, or try out Ayr sinus gel. It was helpful, but seemed not to have any long-lasting effects. It reminded me of cough drops or chapstick – once you start, it’s hard to stop. Another doctor suggested I try Ponaris Nasal Emolient. The packaging boasts astronauts use the stuff. It comes with a dropper and has a medicinal smell like tea tree oil. One drop of this in each nostril keeps my sinuses in good shape most of the day, if not the entire day.

Application can be a bit tricky dropping liquid up your nose. I usually lie down on my bed and tip my head back. Be careful not to squeeze too hard on the dropper or you’ll put way too much in your nose and it’ll all run down the back of your throat. After putting the drops in, I often squeeze my nose a bit to move the emollient around. If a little bit starts to run out your nose, some simple dabbing with a tissue will take care of it.

Try changing your mask

Earlier this year I was having trouble keeping my oxygen levels up, and the easiest way to feel better was to stay at home with my CPAP on. The problem I experienced was sores developing on my face from being in contact with my mask 18 hours or more a day. I started folding up a piece of toilet paper to act as a buffer between my mask and face. That helped, but it wasn’t a long-term solution. I eventually had a chat with my CPAP provider and got a different style of mask. Now I alternate masks every day to help prevent this issue. Different mask types might also help you in using your CPAP while sick. If you mask is only attached to your nose, a nasal pillow or cushion, you might try a full-face mask. Many like them because you can breathe through your mouth or nose.

Clean your CPAP

Probably the easiest thing to do is make sure your CPAP, and its replaceable parts, are clean and replaced on schedule. Leaving a dirty filter in your machine won’t help you at all if you have allergies. You should also be rinsing your mask parts out, and emptying your humidifier reservoir daily, and washing them with warm water and soap weekly.

SoClean_2

Towards the beginning of this year I decided to invest the money in a SoClean 2 unit. Each morning, after I wake up, I simply place my mask, with hose attached, into the cleaner. The machine runs on a timer, similar to a programmable thermostat, and starts up when I want it to. The cleaner runs for about 7 minutes and then needs two hours before you use your CPAP again. It even sanitizes your humidifier reservoir allowing you to keep whatever water you had from the previous night. The cleaning unit costs around $300, which I admit is expensive, but the peace of mind and ease of keeping my CPAP clean is worth it for me.

Have I left anything out? What do you do that helps? I’m always interested in learning what others have done and what helps. I didn’t mention this above, but you should always check with your doctor or CPAP provider if you’re having any trouble with your equipment or usage. If one or both of these are unresponsive or not helpful, consider finding a new one if possible. I’ve sacked several doctors and durable medical equipment providers over the years for not providing the level of service I need.

Trying to take it easy

For as much as I love hanging out, watching movies and studying the finer points of The Big Lebowski, you’d think I’d have no problem with “taking it easy.”  I’ve been sick solid since mid-May this year.  I’ve been to the hospital four times, made way too many calls to my doctors’ offices, taken five courses of anti-biotics and if all the steroids I’ve been taking were metabolic I’d look like Schwarzenegger from Terminator 2.  You’d think this cycle of almost getting better and then trying to get back into what I shouldn’t be doing too early would have stopped by now, but I’m a bit of an idiot at times.

A few days ago I decided to just stay home from work next week.

It was about the time I thought I was doing ok and then no matter what I did my lung function kept dropping below 40% landing me back at the hospital on Thursday.  It was interesting to see how seriously the hospital staff took me showing up again.  While they were obviously trying to make sure I didn’t become worse, I’m sure others were trying to make sure they hadn’t released me too soon.  I ended up bouncing back fairly quickly and got some of the advice I get every time:

  • Don’t forget to take your medicine – taking medicine is like a part-time job for me
  • Don’t be afraid to come back if you need to – that’s happened twice this summer
  • Try to avoid your triggers – this is my other part-time job
  • Try to take it easy – sure, that can’t be hard to do

Yeah…taking it easy.  When I feel super awful I never leave my bed.  When I feel just slightly less awful I make an attempt to get out of bed and live on the couch.  While limiting my activity might sound like exactly what I’m doing, little things like getting more water, swapping a dvd, getting up to use the restroom, answering the door – these can all be way too much.  One thing I do pride myself on is pushing myself a little every day no matter what my current breathing condition is.  Some days that’s picking up the living room or doing laundry.  Other days it’s me walking to the mailbox and back.  On really good days it’s parking a half mile from my office and riding my bike after work.

Tonight a friend of ours came over to watch The Newsroom and I had been on the couch for hours.  Even after seven breathing treatments today I start feeling bad out of no where.  With all my “taking it easy” I’m now sweating, PF has dropped by 100 and my O2 saturation is down 5%.  So I take another treatment and ride it out.  An hour later my body has mostly chilled out.  The coughing started and I decided to just take some cough syrup instead of letting it get bad.  Now I’m back on the couch watching Anchorman (thinking about what a Newsroom/Anchorman mashup would look like) and wondering how late I’ll be awake tonight.  I’m wheezing out of nowhere, more awake with the medicine I’ve taken and the only real reason I have for all this is nocturnal asthma.  It’s just one of those things I deal with on a regular basis.

To be fair this is probably the best I’ve been in a while, even though I don’t feel good at all.  It’s weird how “normal” changes over time when you never feel quite up to par.  Once you get a little better you may think you’re a million bucks only to be reminded three months ago you would have been seriously concerned with this million dollar feeling.

A couple years ago I had to stay home from work for three weeks – doctor’s orders.  My lung function improved 300% over that time period and I actually felt “great” for most of that hiatus.  I’m not planning to stay home for almost another month, but this next week will be a great start in the right direction.  At least I’ve been able to buzz through some HBO series and really beef up my Netflix ratings.  That has to be worth something, right?