Welcome to Middle Age

Welcome to Middle Age

Behind the curtain

Last year, I started fitness training with Heather. It’s been really good for me, toning up and being able to see my body respond to regular, controlled exercise.

A few months ago, I noticed that during a few of the more difficult exercises I had a hard time getting a full breath. I also haven’t felt like I’ve gotten as far along as I’d like in terms of being able to finish the workout without feeling like I was about to die. That is hyperbole, but the nature of working with a trainer is that they continually push you. I had to realize that instead of barely 10 reps in a set, I could do 15 and do two to three sets. Major improvement. But the breath thing was disconcerting. I toned it down a little, started using an antihistamine regularly, started taking ADD meds and noticed that I was getting some good (for me) muscle tone where before I had none.

As part of my ongoing mental health assessment, I decided to ask my psychiatrist if we could pair an anti-depressant with my ADD meds. He suggested Wellbutrin. I said ok and about two weeks ago, I started taking Wellbutrin XL along with the ADD meds. Didn’t really notice much at first. Felt ok. Thought maybe I had found the wonder cocktail. Felt better than when I’d started Prozac, which was like halfway between stoned and sleep. Prozac evened out, but there were still side effects for me, dissociative feelings being the most prevalent. Since 2008, I generally have taken Prozac for the winter months only. I did take it for about 18 months; most of 2009 and half of 2010.

I’ve also been seeing a chiropractor. The adjustments have felt wonderful and the stretches are really helping my lower back. However, the last visit, I felt something weird when laying on the traction table and having the stim pads on my back. I don’t think the stim pads caused any problems, but that was when I noticed that the short breath was getting worse. It was like I couldn’t get a good breath, not just when working out, but doing normal stuff like sitting at a desk and driving a car. My posture has always been horrible, and I just chalked it up to that. Until Thursday of last week, when I was really struggling to get a solid breath and it hurt to breath all the time. The pain was a steady pressure against my lungs and my ribs were very tender. I wondered if I hadn’t fractured a rib, but I didn’t have any accidents or incidents that would have caused a fracture.

Thursday afternoon, I got in to see my doctor and got a battery of tests; chest x-rays, EKG, blood work. Inconclusive. He did discover, surprise! another sinus infection. Gave me a couple of prescriptions for antibiotics and 800 mg ibuprofen, a shot of antibiotics in my butt and told me that if the pain worsened in any way, to go to an ER immediately and get a CT scan of my lungs.

Friday, we ended up in ER. Heather has written about it here. It’s much better than I can do right now.

We’ll skip ahead to the part where the nicest person in the world, my friend Jon, came to relieve Heather so she could take over from the sitter. I’ve known Jon since 1989, when I spent a semester working for the underground student newspaper in Provo. You might know him as @zuhl (twitter/Tumblr) or from his blog. He informed of how weird a CT scan can be in terms of the internal sensations. People mention these as thought they are routine things, nothing to worry about. However, when you can’t get a good breath? It’s more terrifying to think about what they’ll find than anything else.

So I’m lying flat on my back in the CT Scan tube, arms stretched above my head, the iodine lead hooked to the IV dangling out of my right arm. They give me instructions about breathing and then the nurse tells me she’s starting the iodine and immediately, as in microseconds, I feel very warm over my entire body. A feeling that starts to freak me out until I realize that I’m not getting any hotter and then the scan is over.

I’m then shown to my observation room and given dinner at about 5:30pm. Jon visits with me for awhile and then headed out once he was convinced I’m not going to die. Heather’s mom and stepdad came over to the house and Heather came back up to be with me. She’s obviously very shaken by the events of the day. I’m so used to being the one to comfort her that the role reversal is strange for me, lying down in my adjustable bed, that I’m more concerned about how she’s coping than I am about whatever is wrong with me. We share a couple of honest, hard tearful hours.

They dose me intravenously with Toradol (Ketorolac) and Heather goes home. I fall asleep around 9, 9:30 and don’t wake up until a vital signs check at midnight. I dozed in and out for an hour until 1am and another blood draw (my third of the day). I can’t get back to sleep until after 2am. I wake again as the caregiver on duty tells me one of the six pulse monitor clips has fallen or been pulled off. I fall immediately back asleep and then awake for another vital signs check and blood draw at 5am. I fell back asleep until just after 7 when Heather came to be with me to hear what the cardiologist has to say about the CT scan and cardio stress test I’m due to take. I don’t get in until about 11 a.m. (and another blood draw) to take the cardio stress test. I’m in hospital scrubs on the bottom and socks. I should have put on the shoes that Heather kindly brought up for me. I get 14 miinutes in and I’m dry mouthed, sweaty and my feet are slipping on the 15% grade of the treadmill. The tech tells me she wants to get my heart above 170 “or so”. I last about 30 seconds beyond that. Heather tells me later that my heart rate was about 173. She can’t believe it, because she can’t get her heart rate that high in spin class. I know this is not as funny as Heather’s post. I’m sharing this just so I have a record I can look back on later.

From the hospital bed

I’m given a the clearance to be discharged. I’m exhausted, dehydrated and starving. When we got home, I napped for about four hours straight. The Toradol was really nice and smoothed out the pains. In terms of how I felt compared to when we entered the ER on Friday, my pain was dramatically reduced and everyone, including me, viewed that as a very positive sign.

Sunday, I resumed my regimen of ADD meds and Wellbutrin. About 3pm, the difficulty breathing and a reduced level of pain came back. We took at walk as a family and then came back home to this. The same not me above mentioned Jon delivered this on Sunday, appropriately dressed in his nerd FTP client shirt:


He’s good people.

Yesterday I did not take any meds, except the antibiotic that my regular doctor prescribed and the 800 mg ibuprofen tablets. Still had some pain, still had the tightness, still wasn’t entirely comfortable breathing. Fell asleep at 8 something pm and didn’t wake up until 5:50 this morning. I didn’t take my regular meds except the antibiotic and the 800mg of ibuprofen. Mid-morning Heather and I decide I need to go back and talk to the regular doctor again. I do. They give me a “pink lady” which is a mixture of an antacid and lidocaine. I feel a little better and my doctor prescribed me Omeprazole. I started that today as well. I’m scheduled for an ultrasound of my stomach/liver/gall bladder this Friday, unless I start feeling better. They also gave me an injection of Toradol before I left.

We’re getting to the bottom of this mess. I’ll keep you posted. p.s. Thanks to the members of the dooce® community who gave us the lovely orchid!