Tomorrow I return to work after a three-week dance with pneumonia.
If I may, a bit of advice for you, my babies.
GET. A. PNEUMONIA. VACCINE!
As you can guess from the all-caps, I did not. Sure, I got my flu vaccine per usual last fall, but for some stupid reason, the pneumonia vac just wasn't on my radar. I'm 61, but still think of myself as about 40, hale and hearty. The past three weeks showed me that clearly, I am none of those things. And that I'd better serious-up and get a better handle on the health thang.
Turns out, breathing is kind of important. You really miss it when you can't do it.
Seriously, I've never been so sick in my life.
Here are the basics. The satanic cough prevents you from sleeping, even sitting up in a chair (to lay prone is out of the question; the coughing simply won't allow it.) Eventually the coughing hurts your abdominals so much that it feels like you've done crunches for a week straight. The cough banged my brain around in my head so much I was sure I had a concussion.
For the first 10 days, I was too weak to stand and shower; I couldn't even bend at the sink and lift my head to brush my teeth. I had to stoop slightly, while holding onto the sink with one hand and brushing fast. Which of course sent toothpaste and cold, diseased foam careening down my front. I brushed about every other day after that. (I know; yuck.)
I was one sorry, smelly gal. Were I married, he'd have been half-way to San Antone after Day Two. And I wouldn't have blamed him one durn bit.
They put you on a bunch of meds - an inhaler, for those five minutes a day you want to treat yourself to a few actual breaths; Prednisone, a steroid that makes you feel like a bloated former Soviet athlete, but actually does open your airways; and a really strong antibiotic, which for some reason made the skin peel off the right side of my butt. (!)
The fatigue with pneumonia is hard to describe, but I felt more dead-ass exhausted than after my lady-surgery in 1998, which removed three major organs, dropped my voice an octave and required a two-month recovery.
Sure, I missed my reproductive organs.
But I missed breathing a hell of a lot more.
What else? Well, I blew through all my sick days and most of my vacation time; I now have only three vacay days left for the year. So much for summer in Portofino and shussing the slopes in Gstaad.
Seriously, this illness has taught me a lot, and my heart truly goes out to any and all who suffer with lung disease.
If this post has convinced even one of you to discuss the pneumonia vaccine with your doctor - especially if you are over 60 - then truly, I can breathe easier.
Take care of your "airbags," my friends!
(P.S. There are waay too many court-shows on daytime TV.)
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