(If I’m coming back to this article at some point in the future, this is where I need to remind myself to go ahead and skip ahead to the end section, “Getting better.” That’s where the happier stuff starts.)
Well, this time I was going to make sure this never happened again. I went and got my checkup at the same clinic three weeks later, where they scanned me for pneumonia by x-ray and found no evidence of it.
There’s actually a pneumonia vaccine, too — typically only recommended for the very young or those with other chronic health problems (just so that if you ever have to go to the hospital again, you don’t have to worry about getting pneumonia while in a hospital bed, along with everything else you’re having to deal with). So, I got that, just to be thorough.
I started being very clean and washing my hands all the time, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, etc. I got the flu shot every year for the next five years, right as soon as it was available, in early September. I ate right and tried to exercise.
I figured that, even if I did somehow contract influenza again, it probably wouldn’t turn into pneumonia, because I had the vaccine, right? I no longer considered myself invincible, but I surely didn’t go around fearing for my health all the time.
Getting pneumonia twice was like getting hit by lightning twice, right? I couldn’t possibly get it a third time.
Well, it looks like I did.
This year, 2015, the flu vaccine didn’t cover all the strains of flu that got around into the general population. Or there was a mutation late in the year and even people who had gotten the flu shot started getting the flu. Either way, about two weeks ago, I started having chills, and body aches, and knew immediately that I had to take action.
So, I went into full flu-preparation mode. I went to the clinic, and even though I turned up negative for the flu (via the big nasal swab q-tip test), I was prescribed tamiflu, and an antibiotic. I went to the pharmacy, got my prescriptions, got lots of fluids, and prepared to just get over it, like everyone else does. My fever started going higher, but I was able to keep it down with fever-reducing drugs.
However, I wasn’t getting any sleep. My sleep was fitful and bothered. I coughed. The fact that my new job requires me to be on call 24/7 during a week every two months, and that of course my on-call week started simultaneously when I started coming down with flu symptoms didn’t help either. (When you’re in a rotation of on-call personnel, and your week comes up, you don’t get out of it unless you’re either dead or in jail, and I was neither at this point.)
Good sleep is important to getting over any illness — it’s said it gives your immune system time to repair and restore, and I wasn’t getting any of it.
So, seven days later, instead of being completely over everything, I was still sick.
Back to the clinic.
My on-call week being over by this point, I told my boss I was going to be out for a while, and I didn’t know when I’d be back. I go back up the clinic, get checked out again… and this time it looks like I’ve got pneumonia.
Even though I’ve had the vaccine, it looks like I still got it. The doctor prescribes me a stronger antibiotic, I get it filled, and go home to rest some more.
Two days later I had no fever anymore, and felt like I had more energy.
I’m writing this now, after I’m pretty sure the pneumonia’s cleared up. It’s been five days since my fever broke after being put on a stronger antibiotic (the first batch that I was put on at the clinic either wasn’t strong enough, or wasn’t going to go on long enough to clear everything up).
I’ve had a minor scare with some of the medication I was on — something was causing an allergic reaction, so I’ve had to stop some gradually to see if things get better. I know in the grand scheme of things — ending up in the hospital and all that — a mild allergic reaction is no big deal.
But I’m still worried. And scared.
I imagine this happens to most people who go through some sort of health scare — you’re worried you’re not actually getting better, and that you’ll relapse.
You’re worried that even if you do get completely better, the same thing will happen to you again in the future, and you’ll be a burden to your loved ones again.
Getting very badly sick, even if you recover from it, saps you of confidence. If fills you with doubt. It makes you depressed, which is as much as impediment to recovery as anything else you encounter.
I know I’ll get over it all soon. I know I’ll be healthier, and have my strength back, and in a month or two or three, I won’t be thinking of this every single day.
Having people in your life who love and care for you helps. I have Nina. Without her I wouldn’t know what I would do, and she helps me find reserves of strength I had in me that I didn’t even know was there.
So, I’ll get better. There’s things I know to look out for. More drugs to add the list of medications to warn doctors about.
The pneumonia vaccine is supposed to have a booster after five years, so I’ll make sure and get that after I get better. I’ll make a new appointment with my doctor for some time in the future, and talk about what risk factors may have led to this.
The good things are this — this time, when I get better, I will have gotten better without having to go to the hospital.
That proves I can do it. Every time I get pneumonia I learn more about it, how to handle it, and what to look out for. I’ve learned a few things about what not to do (like the safest thing to take for a fever is just plain ibuprofen, did you know that?).
Maybe it’ll happen to me again, maybe it won’t. Maybe medical science will advance to the point where even if I do get it, a single shot of nano-bots or something will take care of it for me.
So, if you’re reading this five, seven, ten years from now, Me, know that you’ll get over it.