Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Lot To Say and Don't Know Where To Start

This has been the week I almost became my mother.

I remember the faint burning in my chest to tell me that I was coming down with something. I remember the taste of illness in my mouth when I would cough. I don't remember how I got from the onset of a mild chest cold to the panting, dysneic existence I knew the night John rushed me to the emergency room. I just knew I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was dying. And the life of my mother flashed before my eyes, like her choices were manifesting themselves into what was to become of me. Alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency. That was all I could think. Genetic emphysema aggravated by several years of just plain ol' self-neglect in the form of Marlboro Lights. The last time I mentioned te disorder to a doctor, I was asked if I wanted to know how I would die. I said no. When death is the culmination of drowning in your own fluids, who wants to know of its appraoch? Certainly not me, so I declined the test. But this time, when I mentioned it to the pulmonologist, he didn't give me a choice. He just nodded and scribbled somethng down in my chart. An hour after he left, a lab tech showed up in my room to draw some blood. No questions asked. No chance to chicken out.

I will not die her death any more than I will live her life. The test was negatve. I have the time and the chance to make the choices necessary to ensure that I will not have the same demise. Those goals I have set for myself? They are still attainable. As I lay in that hospital bed this week, I told myself that, should the test be positive, I would abandon the whole doctor thing. I would instead focus on my son and my husband and live my life leaving well-enough alone.

Instead, I didn't have to make the choice. Instead, I was branded with bilateral pneumonia with secondary areas of atelectasis. In layman's terms? I had pneumonia in both lungs that was bad enough to require a week-long hospitalization, and was horrifying enough to cause some collapse of several lobes of my lungs. In other words yet? I became my patient. And for the first time in my life, I did not want a cigarette. I was scared. I was confronted with my own mortality. So now, here I am making soe major adjustments to my life.

Incidentally, this is what happens to an arm after 15 gazillion needle sticks and IV attempts.

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