Tag Archive for work


I’m sort of a list person. Writing things down magically helps me to remember them. Sometimes my lists only exist in my head. Lately my lists have looked like this.

  • Wake up
  • Check breathing stats
  • Take medicine
  • Get kids ready
  • Get ready for work
  • Go to work
  • Come home
  • Dinner, baths, and bedtime routine
  • Take care of bills and household things
  • Sleep

More often than not, my list has stalled out around items three or four. I haven’t been to work in two weeks. I’ve worked 18 days in the last three months. Tomorrow the plan is to go to work, hell or high water. If nothing else, I need to get out of the house and do something just for my mental sanity.

Trying to out-Jedi the asthma

Last summer one of my problems with recovery included me trying to jump right back into my normal routine as soon as I could handle not being in bed all day.  While this may sound like a not smart thing to be doing, it made sense at the time because I was concerned about using up all my earned time too quickly and running out before the fiscal year was over.  This strategy caused me to use all my sick time, vacation time, FMLA time, and even had to miss a few additional days.  This summer I’m trying to channel Obi-Wan Kenobi and outsmart the chronic lung disease.

A couple weekends ago I piggybacked two ER visits and the doctors told me to stay home that following week of work.  I’ll be honest – that week was not a good one as I had several serious situations that could have easily landed me back at the hospital.  I showed up to work the next Monday, after staying home for a week, and made it through one day.  I seriously over-did things, watched my peakflow numbers drop to unnecessary levels and stayed home Tuesday and Wednesday.  Thursday rolled around and I had an important decision to make.  I could go back in for another day before the holiday weekend, or not be an idiot and just stay home.

I’m proud to say I chose the latter and actually gave myself some time to rest.  Yeah, I used up three sick days, but I can say with some confidence I probably avoided another week at home later this month.  I don’t know why it can be so hard to just be still and take it easy.  Fortunately I have The Dude to keep me company.


Balancing asthma and life

Most of the time I feel like I’m able to balance my breathing with general living.  I may have to avoid going places or participating in certain things, but with the exception of flare ups, I like to think I do an ok job.  This summer has been the exception.  I was doing pretty well this past winter and spring until May.  Since then everything has been a bit of a blur.  I haven’t been to work in weeks and I’m also taking an online class at the moment.

I haven’t “been to school” for almost 10 years so while it’s a little bit of a culture shock getting back into the groove of things, it’s also not too bad because I don’t have to physically show up to class somewhere.  Most of the time this entails logging into the course management system at the beginning of the week to find out what discussion questions I want to answer, and then coming back later in the week to respond to my classmates.  Now that we’re into the semester there are more substantial assignments due, like the paper I’m getting close to being a week late on turning in.  I didn’t actually get a late start on the thing, I had my topic and key points figured out and found 20 peer-reviewed academic articles to use as sources when I was only required to have 5.  I of course had grandiose plans to knock it out on the way to Pittsburgh and while I was there, but that obviously didn’t happen.

I think one of the reasons I’ve been having trouble making significant progress is the discussion questions don’t take a whole lot of brain power for me to answer.  I read the chapter(s) from the required textbooks, check out the question, think about it, re-skim a section or two of the text and type away.  Writing this paper is requiring some higher-level brain function which doesn’t play well with my short attention span due to:

  • Constantly wishing I was lying down instead of sitting up
  • My oxygen saturation levels dropping whenever I’m up and moving around
  • Watching the clock to make sure I don’t wait too long before taking my next dose of meds
  • Is this a…what day is this?

Trying to work on the paper in Pittsburgh was almost laughable because all day every day my body was being stressed out doing what I like to call respiratory acrobatics.  Even if someone didn’t have trouble breathing, I think a normal person would be worn out from all the huffing/puffing, inhaling/exhaling, breath-holding and what have you.  To top it all off, I had to refrain from taking most of the maintenance medications that keep me going day after day.  Then every time they degraded my breathing to the pre-established stopping point, I’d be pumped full of rescue medication that gets me back to an acceptable level but also comes with a list of side effects that aren’t conducive to critical thinking.  I was telling my friend Steve I was in a constant state of sweaty or extra sweaty the whole time.  Even after we were finished at the hospital for the day I continued feeling like I was still in a constant state of “cool down” into the evening.

The good news is I’m still slowly getting better.  I was given the option to start tapering my prednisone early but decided to finish out my current dose before dropping down.  It was a good decision because just going to the grocery store with Liz yesterday and walking up and down a few isles left me sweaty, worn out, and having some serious trouble getting to sleep last night.  Even now, I’ve been lying down for the past 20min, my resting heart rate is over 100 and my O2 is 93-95% which is better than sitting up or moving around.  I’m about halfway done with this paper and am hoping to wrap it up tonight or tomorrow.  I’m guessing I should probably get my in-house composition expert to check it out before I turn it in.


It doesn’t take a severe asthmatic to know stress can cause a variety of negative side effects.  One important factor to remember if you can’t breathe is to stay as calm as possible throughout the ordeal – sounds easy, right?

I’m not a very high-strung person and grew up in a family that didn’t really complain about health problems.  In fact there are probably many times I should have gone to the ER in the past but I haven’t because in my mind it just wasn’t “that” bad.  I always distinctly remember an ambulance trip to the ER back in 1995 where the paramedics showed up and were having me hold the tank for the supplemental oxygen they were giving me as well as a few other things.  Another person showed up and immediately wanted to know why I was having to hold everything while having breathing issues.  I think the first two guys were volunteer firemen.  They were cool and all, and before the ambulance pulled away with me in it they decided to start an IV line.  This is also the first time I remember someone having to dig and dig and dig to get one started.  Why’s that – oh, another reaction to stress.  When your body is undergoing trauma one thing that can happen is all your veins hide.  They eventually stuck me in the wrist and I still have a tiny scar from it today.

Eventually we got to the ER where they assessed me, gave me some breathing treatments and what have you, and eventually sent me home.  It wasn’t what I’d call a “bad episode” in the grand scheme of things but I do distinctly remember a nurse or respiratory technician who kept getting in my face and yelling,


The problem was I wasn’t freaking out.  I was just lying there, on the bed, similarly to that CD Manolo found on the floor in Burn After Reading.  If something similar were to happen today I’d most likely respond with, “calmer than you are,” but The Big Lebowski was just a gleam in Joel and Ethan’s eyes back then.  I wasn’t thrashing, straining, hyperventilating or sporting crazy eyes.  I was trying to chill out and this woman was screaming in my face.  Kind of counter-productive if you ask me.  Fortunately medical people I’ve dealt with in the past 15 years seem to understand yelling at asthmatics won’t help them breathe any better.  My mom later mentioned to me this would always happen to her sister, a fellow severe-asthmatic, in hospitals and emergency rooms.  I’m glad to see this is really a thing of the past.


It’s been ten days since my last ER visit and I’m starting to see some real progress on getting better.  I don’t have daily coughing fits and I’m not constantly feeling the need to lie down.  My peak flow numbers are slowly creeping up to 600 and I haven’t dipped into the 300s for several days.  I even had a decent ride on my bike yesterday where I rode longer than 30 minutes.  I don’t think that’s happened for two months or more.  This coming week I’ll be seeing a new doctor for evaluation and diagnosis as well as beginning my participation in a research study, after which I hope to return to work.  With everything going well, I’m feeling better, new doctors on the horizon, and life getting back to normal you’d think I’d be stress free right now.  Well I have four words for you in the form of an acronym – FMLA.

The Family Leave Medical Act of 1993 is a law requiring employers to grant eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from the job within a 12 month period to:

  • Care for their own serious health condition or that of a parent, spouse or child
  • Care for a newborn
  • Adopting a child or the foster care of a child

That’s not totally comprehensive, but it’s basically what the law does.  If you need to go on either full or intermittent leave, paperwork should be provided by your HR department which needs to be filled out by a doctor documenting the medical necessity of you not being at work.  This isn’t the first time I’ve needed to use FMLA and most definitely won’t be the last.  I’ve always thought this was no big deal with my breathing problems, but this summer has been interesting to say the least.  You would think six ER visits, a hospitalization, six courses of anti-biotics, three months of prednisone, numerous xrays, CT scans, blood tests and more doctor visits than I’d like to tally would make it obvious I’m not trying to “scam the system.”  While most of my experiences this summer have been positive, I’ve also had a less than awesome time dealing with my HR department at work.  My actual supervisors have been very understanding and great, it’s just been trying to get everything squared away with human resources, on which I don’t feel the need to get into specifics.

So that’s what is currently stressing me out.  It’s not the breathing, being stuck at home, shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, insomnia, medicine, needles, breathing treatments, hypoxia, bilateral subsegmental atelectasis, bronchitis, possible pneumonia, chest pain, not working, paying bills, the shakes, being prednisone crazy, trying to care for a three year old or figuring out what to name our new child that will be here in a few months.  It’s HR and FMLA – two things which are supposed to be looking out for me and making sure I’m not getting screwed.

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?