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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Aspiration Pneumonia and the First Day of Spring Training

            The great American singer John Prine once wrote, “There were many great days and many not so great days. I tried to turn them all into great songs.” As an introspective person and a writer, I believe that. Some days, we’re on Cloud 9, and life is as good as can be. Other days, we feel like crud as bad things happen, which Forrest Gump confirmed that they do. Those aren't fun days, especially when our pain puts other people in worry and pain.

            Since the night my wife and I returned from New Orleans (22 December), I haven’t been well due to a burst of pneumonia that saw me miss a whole lot of everything from Christmas to last weekend. I'm not sure what did me in. Could it have been the guy on the plane running from the back to the front swinging a saddle bag at everyone (really)? How about the famous NOLA cemeteries or the ghost of Marie Laveau or the woman in the witchcraft shop putting a hex on me for taking a photo of her shop? So many possibilities to consider. In the end, it only mattered that I was nailed with horrid nasty lung gunk like some gator was looking to take me out!

            Over that time I didn't feel myself, I spent parts of 6 days in the hospital for the aforementioned pneumonia (which I wrote about HERE) and a second trip that saw me filled with hypoxia and chest crud. Those are not fun at all (fortunately, after tons of tests, there was no pneumonia, sepsis, or zombie virus), nor was not having enough blood for IVs and routine blood. They were going all over my drained self with butterfly needles. I felt so bad for both of us!

            As a “Parkie,” the fear is that people with chest crud will concoct aspiration pneumonia, which is a brutal murderer of our people. And no, I’m not exaggerating (see Michael J. Fox Foundation for more info).
            Put simply, we Parkinson people have trouble swallowing since EVERYTHING in us slows down. When your mom told you to not eat or drink so fast because it would go down the wrong track… yep. That’s it. Stuff goes into the lungs, and bad stuff happens.
            The risk factors other than death (according to the Merck Manual) include:
Impaired cognition or level of consciousness
Impaired swallowing
GI devices and procedures
Dental procedures
Respiratory devices and procedures
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
What makes a lot of respiratory problems worse is our inability to take a whole lot of medications, which I wrote about HERE.
The good thing is that NOW, I feel better. On the first day of Major League Baseball’s spring training, the world is all future and no past, as Lou Boudreau would say. Sure, there's lots of nagging issues, but on the first day of the season, it's all possibility. Why not believe that it's our year and our time to raise the trophy that speaks of greatness and how things go the other way, too?

My wife, family, and friends rallied me out of the hospital on Saturday, and now I’m working through my to-do list. Heck, I even got out walking on the local rails to trail (1.5-1.75 miles of a cool breeze and sunshine) for the first time all year. It wasn't a long walk, nor was it an overwhelmingly scenic walk, but it was a great walk nonetheless. In the end, that's all that matters!

In many ways, I feel glad to be alive and better so I can do all of the great life things I want to be able to do. Going into the CT machine scared me like nothing I've felt in this PD battle. It's hard to explain because generally, I'm positive and / or stoic (except when I'm not), but right there, I wondered about what if it was worse. 
It very easily could, but it wasn't, so like Nietzsche and Kelly Clarkson, I go on stronger than I was.
Sitting here now, I know my only choice is to take it to PD and chest crud like the Rock would since we know Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson can do whatever he puts his mind to. You gotta smell what the Rock is cooking.

But even though I feel like this is the it I need to follow, it's not that easy, though Bob Feller had it right.

Thinking about this now, I think about how there’s a scene in the TV show Scrubs where the one character (JD) reflects his friends' lives and medical issues and contemplates what will be their demise (diabetes, blood pressure, and anxiety, if I remember correctly). That's how I felt in the CT. 
At that exact moment, I felt helpless being away from my wife as I thought about my lungs and how I walked into the hospital unable to really breathe (O2 in the 80s – it should be mid 90s). In fact, I felt like the guy in the Salem Witch Trials (Giles Corey) who was pressed to death (though I wasn't screaming for more weight as a show of resistance to a corrupt legal system). What was going on was that I could hardly breathe or speak. Fortunately, they got me back and nebulizered me with lots of TLC and professional care. Those hospital workers rock. Now, they have some fun contraptions and meds to keep me good, and yes, I'm feeling much better. However, prior to that, I was getting winded on 20 yard walks on flat ground... not even including stairs. UGH! That's not a hiker's life!

Now that I got my unconditional release from the hospital, I feel like a new man, but what is to come? After all, my PD journey is only 6.5 years old. I'm sure it has more tricks for me, not to mention things it can take or bills it can generate. 
Here, some people might wonder if my desire to get back on the top of a mountain in the near future an unrealistic expectation or the crossing of a personal scum line that says, “No more?” For me, I say that I might walk slowly, but I’ll do what I have to do to keep going up those 1,000 steps. I’ll draw my goals list and color code it for what I finish today while prioritizing what I can do tomorrow.

Nevertheless, I still know that the potential for future diagnoses and what is lurking under the bed to come for me is scary on a level that makes medical bills seem benign. But let's be real; bills, even with insurance, are still scary all the same. I guess it’s fair to say something will get us all, but at the same time, I’m not ready to be gotten. I have too much to live for, so hit the highway wendigos, chupacabras, and lung nastiness!
It's time for Jimi, Stevie, and me to chop mountains down with the edge of our hands.

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