Friday, May 4, 2012

I Am Not Normal, Thank Goodness

Another day, another test. I finally got into a pulmonologist and once again, I seem to be passing their tests with flying colors. "Your chest x-ray is normal and your lungs really sound pretty good," says the doctor. My usually response is, "Well, I am not able to breath normally, so what now?" Off to get a CT Scan and a PFT (Pulmonary Function Test). These will be checking for lung scarring, a possible pulmonary embolism, or a fungal infection.

Today I arrived at St. Vincent's Hospital at 6:45am where a friend of mine awaited my arrival. She volunteered to come with me for support and another ear, in case we were told another bunch of medical mumbo jumbo...two sets of ears are better then one.

Registration was quick, since I had been there recently for my stress test. Then I was shuffled off to Radiology, which was right next to outpatient registration. The lady checking me in was completely annoyed that they did not give me an extra sheet that I needed to have to take to my PFT. Poor thing had to walk 10 feet to the copier and make a copy for me. My friend and I were laughing that with one facial gesture and roll of the eyes, we could hear the conversation in her head. "Of course they didn't give you that sheet. They never do. Now I have to walk all the way over here and make a copy."

Despite the disgruntled lady at the desk, everything else ran super smoothly. The hospital was actually completely on time, and I went right into the back. Here, I had to get an IV and was told what actually was going to happen during the CT Scan.

Needles do not bother me, so even when she warned that they would have to use a larger needle than usual, in order to inject the dye, it didn't phase me. IV in and we walk back to the room where the scan actual goes down. The nurse warns me, "When the dye is injected you may feel really warm and like you peed your pants, but that is normal." I laugh, make a comment like, "Awesome, can't wait for that sensation." I am given the instructions that I will hear directions overhead on when to hold my breath, open my mouth and breath normally in order to do the scan. Then out the room they scoot.


I am lying there on the bed, arms up over my head, as instructed, and wait. Just then, the machine turns on and it sounds like an airplane is taking off in the room. In my head I am thinking, "Just like I am going on vacation!" The dye has yet to be injected, but then her voice tells me from above, "We are injecting the dye. Here is where you may feel the effects that we talked about." I was thinking, "Sure, maybe some older women will feel like they are peeing their pants, but not me." Man, was I ever wrong. I could feel the dye spreading throughout my body, into each extremity, into my finger tips and yes, down "there." And I will admit, yes it TOTALLY feels like you are peeing your pants....luckily, I assure you, you are not. Not only did I feel like I was suddenly in need of new pants, but it made me feel like I was on fire, from the inside out. What a strange feeling. Like nothing I have ever felt. Aside from the weirdness of now feeling incontinent and on fire, it was quick and easy. The plane once again landed, as the machine was shutting down.  IV was unhooked, I hopped off the table and was off.

Out the door, my friend was saying, "What? You're done already?" I was and we were off weaving through the maze of hallways in order to find the Pulmonary Function Lab. (Link explains in more scientific detail what I went through.) There it was. This little room with a weird machine and an odd technician. I waited briefly as I was told, "You are early. I have to finish getting the machine ready." Once the machine and the technician were ready, I came in, got weighed, my height measured and was told to sit down. In all essence, this machine was very interesting. It uses Boyle's Law in order to calculate my airflow volume, lung pressure, and flow, as calculated for a "normal" person my height and weight.

This test basically consisted of me breathing into a "snorkle-like" tube over and over. I had to pant, give deep breaths and bursts of air, and breathe normally into this tube while I had nose clips on. Then I was given an albuterol breathing treatment. This made me so jittery, which she warned me about. The technician said, "This may make you feel like you drank too much coffee." I responded, "I don't drink coffee or anything else with caffeine." She says, "How about an energy drink?" Before I respond, I am thinking, "Isn't there a TON of caffeine in energy drinks? Genius." I simply state, "Nope, haven't had one of those either." Then the jitters set in. My entire body is shaking and I feel dizzy from the medicine, but guess what? We are not done, more breathing tests. Mind you, the entire time I am taking these tests, the obese technician is trying to tell me that maybe I have acid reflux. *Insert, in my brain, a major eye roll and the conversation and judgment that makes me think, "Yes, it must be acid reflux. Must be all of that McDonald's that I have not been eating and all of that Coke I have not been drinking.* More huffing and puffing into that tube and more comments that the reason I am coughing is not mucus or fluid being extracted from my lungs, but again, acid reflux. I could not wait to get out of there.


My friend and I leave, laughing and discussing my "acid reflux." Now, this is where I get frustrated and somewhat pissed. Supposedly, by the expert acid reflux technician, my breathing was fairly "normal." Here is what I want to know, what is "normal" to a pulmonologist? Is normal the guy in the wheelchair with oxygen and a pack of Marlboros in his pocket? Because if that is normal, I am so above normal it is not even funny.

I have said this over and over. I have never had trouble breathing until I got pneumonia. From the reactions of all the doctors I have seen since, it sounds like someone dropped the ball and I should have been hospitalized in November, when instead I was sitting on the couch for weeks. No blame, I am staying in the present. But since then, I have not been able to breathe normally. That means normally for me. For a 5'3" female that is in super shape. A woman who is strong. A mom that can CrossFit and run while feeling that I am breathing through a cheesecloth. Someone who has had her blood work taken--normal. Had a stress test--heart is "more than perfect." A woman who now can walk across a room and be out of breath and have physical pain in her lungs, but will still complete a WOD for the day. Someone who eats better, works out more than most people. Someone who has, literally, NEVER, and I mean NEVER smoked in her entire life. So tell me, am I wrong to think that what is normal for the typical obese, fast food eating American is not normal for me?

In a couple of weeks I will go in for my followup and get the results of my tests. I will admit that I am feeling somewhat better. I don't feel like I can't catch a deep breath all of the time. But as I sit here, having done the breathing tests and a WOD today, my right lung hurts. It physically hurts. So, all I ask is that we figure this out and that the doctors consider that what is "normal" for others, may not be "normal" for little ole me.

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