Gasping for Air

Voice Card  -  Volume 12  -  John Card Number 13  -  Wed, Feb 14, 1990 04:08 PM

Well, gang, I've had another one of my misadventures. The flu that has been raging through our archipelago stuck me down with a vengeance and actually landed me in the hospital!

The flu hit very suddenly about a month ago with chills and fever and then settled down into little more than a dry cough. But even by my standards I was weak and sluggish, unable even to turn on my trusty Mac. I had severe muscle pains that came and went. And I distinctly remember thinking that there was something ominous about this flu.

On a Monday I was feeling better and even took a walk in the woods. But Monday night the muscle pains came back and this time they didn't go away. The pain was constant and became excrutiating every time I inhaled. By Tuesday I was so desperate that I actually called around to find the name of a doctor. I psyched myself up to go into town on Wednesday.

That evening several people I talked to on the phone noticed that I was having trouble breathing. It had come on so gradually that I didn't notice it myself at first. But by midnight I was actually gulping air as if I had just come to the surface after having been underwater. And this gulping was intensely painful.

I decided to take a warm bath. But this only seemed to make matters worse. I was now in so much pain that I could hardly move and my gasping was too loud to ignore. It occurred to me that I sounded exactly like my grandmother did just before she died of Pneumonia.

It was now 2:00 AM. The air temperature was twenty below zero with heavy winds pushing snow drifts across the roads. I was 35 miles from the nearest doctor. With an inward groan I realized that I could not take the chance of waiting until morning; I had to summon help.

So I called my Uncle who lives up the road a few miles and gasped into the phone that I needed to get to a hospital. He stumbled out of bed and began making arrangements. He alterted the hospital and, in case his jeep couldn't break through the snow drifts, called another rancher and asked him to stand by.

It took him an hour to reach my doorstep. By this time I was pretty much helpless. I couldn't dial a phone or put on my own boots. He half carried me into his jeep and it took another hour to reach the Emergency Room.

Once there, I was X-rayed, poked with needles 6 or 7 times, and wired up with an oxygen tube in my nose and an I.V. in my arm. I sure enough had pneumonia in my right lung and a big helping of pleurisy to boot (that's what was causing the pain).

I was in the hospital for three days, during which time the respiratory therapists first had me smoking some kind of plastic peace-pipe, and then inflated my lungs like a balloon with another infernal contraption. The doctor pumped various antibiotics in me until he found one that worked. Two weeks have now elapsed and I'm starting to feel human again (but I'm told it may take six months to fully recover).

It was, as the Chinese might say, an interesting experience. I have never before had trouble breathing, and I can't reccomend it: it is a truly frightening sensation! As you can imagine, the hour I spent waiting for help, alone and airless in the middle of the night, was an eternity. The gods have played a little prank on me, a snowball in my face, a slap of icewater down my back: just a little reminder of my mortality.

But as Suzanne pointed out, it's something to write about, and as Drury (our new member) pointed out, it's a nine on the ten scale of excuses for the tardiness of issue 12.