Wednesday, September 07, 2005

I gathered up my cynicism and visited a fourth pulmonologist last week. The three others I have visited did not listen to me; one was insistent that my past bout with TB was back and I was a dangers to others. He prescribed ten medicines before I left. I never went back.

I am an old man of 70, struggling with emphysema. Or at least, that is often how I feel. When I climb stairs. I huff and puff. When I carry things over a few pounds, the pressure grows and I lose my breath. I cannot sing without seeing stars. My oxygen sats plummet.

I know what I can and cannot do. I can paint, but I cannot sweep. I can mow the lawn, but I cannot dig holes. I grow winded if I walk more than a sedate pace. Cleaning bathrooms, doing laundry, vacuuming. Chores that are difficult not for being onerous, but for the strain they cause to my breathing. I must admit that I am a bit lax these days about how very clean my home is when guests are not around. Dust is not the enemy it once was.

I have become used to shallow breathing, to the taking of many breaths as I am talking, to the panic I feel when I lie down at night and it is as if someone is sitting on my chest.

So, when this pulmonologist had me walk a couple of circuits of the building with a pulseoximeter, I knew what I would see on the monitor. The nurse with me grew quite alarmed when I dropped to 82, suggesting I sit before I fall. I smiled and finished the test, huffing and puffing. The doctor was agitated at my distress and I was distressed at her agitation. A half hour appointment lasted five.

I reveled in her adamant assertion that this was not my asthma and certainly not my past brush with TB. I had been right and those other doctors wrong. I felt somewhat justified as she told me that I should have some blood work straight away and that I was to have a few tests, a CAT scan with contrast among them. She muttered that she could not believe none of the other doctors had done so. While none of the tests may give a definitive answer given that I have MS, they are important because living at a reduced oxygen level is apparently dangerous. If there is something that can be done, it should be discovered. She twice mentioned she could not believe they did not.

I was rather disconcerted to hear of the possibilities that may be responsible for my current pulmonary weakness. I refuse to give thought to those possibilities. There is no way, in my mind, that ANYTHING else can be wrong with me! Nothing! I choose, this moment, this day, for it to be simply a symptom of the MS.

I was glad that I gave in to my primary care physician's request that I not leave my lungs to her care only. I was grateful to discover that this doctor had listened to me, had heard me. But I did have moment's anger at the time and money I had spent three times before to no avail.

I know, that at 38, I should not be as if I were 70. I know that last year it was easier to breath than this year. I know that two years ago it was still easier. I know that what I feel is not an asthma attack. I know. Now someone else does, too.

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