I deliberated about whether to share a personal story, knowing how humanity reacts to stories like mine. Everyone has an opinion which is likened to buttholes. There is a preponderance of buttholes on social media often with assorted degrees of foulness. Should you choose to continue reading, please do so with an open mind and heart. Maybe there is something here that will reflect back to your own life’s experiences. If so, please comment.
Ten years ago, I came very close to death with double pneumonia. The crackles that I could hear with every shallow breath I took were sobering. I hated coughing because it was so painful. I would continue to cough up mucus for the next three months because that’s how long it took for my lungs to completely heal. Hospital scans showed I had very little left of my lung lobes that weren’t filled with fluid. I almost died. Some years later, a friend told me how lucky I was to have survived. Another friend recounted a story of someone who had walking pneumonia. They had mowed the grass, taken a nap and never woke up.
After the severity of my respiratory infection was observed in the ER —being I was hunched over and could barely speak— the hospital took action to quarantine me, assuming it was tuberculosis. Over the course of my hospital stay, my room became a revolving door of doctors and nurses. It felt like I was a specimen for medical study. They had determined after trying several therapies that the medicine that treats anthrax poisoning was the most effective in combating the infection I had. Yes, A-N-T-H-R-A-X. Respiratory illnesses are no joke.
But that’s not the end of my story, much more happened prior to my hospitalization.
Just the Flu
At the time, I was employed at an early childhood center. I was also working as an organizer of a photography group. When I think back, I know I wasn’t taking care of myself as I do now. The stress of daycare and my extra activities outside work were taking it’s toil on me. Prior to becoming ill, there were several children who were sick at the center and in that critical time period, I had organized an early morning sunrise photoshoot where the conditions on the lakefront were not ideal.
The symptoms I started to get were those commonly associated with a cold. By the time I tried to go back to work on Monday, I came down with a fever. On top of that, I had a planned vacation to Florida where I had to leave in a couple of days. My doctor wasn’t available at the time and I had to go to the referral. The referral doctor made jokes during my visit and brushed it off as just the flu. Since flus are viral, you would think I’d get an anti-viral however I was prescribed penicillin. Which I found odd at the time but I didn’t know any better and I was feeling quite miserable to even notice. My regular doctor would always take an aggressive approach to illness, I probably would have gotten amoxicillin (yes I’m aware that this is a penicillin-type derivative) or Z-Tabs along with probiotics. Even Tamiflu if someone was thorough in the office to take a mouth swab and find out what was really going on with me. If you are wondering, I never did pursue any malpractice suit with the referral doctor. In retrospect, I should have.
The penicillin turned out to be completely ineffective. My fever was still present. I’d sweat it out and catch a break with a slight reduction. I was taking cold and flu medicine as well. I had some strength to keep going and to make it to Florida.
You’re probably asking, why didn’t I cancel? Well, I had planned it in advance with the goal of taking my child to Disneyworld. It was an experience of a lifetime for both of us, but mostly for her. My sacrifice to give my child a chance to see more of the world beyond Chicago and I was the only one who could do it. Also I was hopeful I’d get over whatever I had being in a nicer climate.
It was the hottest season in Florida when we went. The high temperatures had it’s pros and cons when it came to pneumonia. The hot water in the outdoor jacuzzi was soothing and helped me breathe better so I found myself spending much time in there. As for walking around the theme parks, the humidity proved challenging as my breathing was becoming shallower with each passing day we were there. While at the hotel, I couldn’t sleep laying down being it was painful. Fluids were building up in my lungs. I had to sleep sitting up and didn’t get much sleep either. Even through all this, I had a somewhat decent appetite as I kept taking the penicillin and Tylenol.
We spent 4 days there from what I recall and prepared for our trip home. On the plane, I was miserable. There was another passenger who kept coughing two rows in front of me. I kept still as much as I could because I didn’t want to wind up in a Florida hospital. I didn’t have insurance. Luckily they didn’t kick her off or divert the plane. We arrived and I got picked up by family. When I got home, my gut knew I couldn’t stay. I had to go to the hospital. I went to Stroger. They are the only hospital that accepts patients without insurance. Going anywhere else, would have bankrupted me. I probably would have been dead too.
What I did learn from this illness, was that my immune system was weak and compromised. I became sick again with bronchitis and sinusitis. Clearly, I wasn’t taking care of myself often working while sick. It takes time to build up immunity in your body and that can only happen with eating right, getting sleep and making sure to take important nutrients that can fight off harmful bacteria and viruses.
Getting a blood test will show everything that’s going on with your body. You’ll quickly find out what deficiencies you have. I had a Vitamin D deficiency. If you’re not out in the sun enough where the body naturally produces it, you won’t get what you actually need without taking a supplement. Vitamin D deficiencies can be felt in the winter months and lack of it also causes depression.
Another one is Vitamin C. I take an extended release of 1000mg everyday. More than what is in my multivitamin. Not only does it support collagen but it fights against infections. Speaking of multivitamins: find one for your age range and take it everyday!
Raw honey, garlic, ginger and drinking fresh teas and yes, fresh coffee also help. I’ve added some new supplements along the way such as Oil of Oregano and Elderberry. Those have gotten attention in recent years as being anti-viral.
Eating fresh foods, vegetables and fruits. Home cooking is my thing but I don’t deny myself take-out food to which I have several places I enjoy. It’s all about balance. Walking, fresh air and learning to let go of things that you can’t control. Having faith and family. These are things that help build a stronger immune system, a stronger you.
The Other Side
Contracting double pneumonia lead me close to death. In 2004, my father passed away. He died a very painful and unnecessary death. He could have lived a bit longer. I was never able to say good-bye to him either.
For our Florida trip, I had packed our luggage and set it out in the dining room. The day before our departure I saw my father standing by our luggage. It was for a split second. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t breathe. Stunned, I reached out to touch him but couldn’t. It was an intense moment seeing him. I dreamt about my dad several times after he died but nothing like this.
Back at the hospital, in emergency, I was kept in a separate room awaiting transfer to an upstairs bed. I fell into unconsciousness and saw myself swinging on a long string. On one side, I could see the earth, the world. On the other side, I could see the most beautiful clouds and sky unlike anything seen here. Virtually impossible to describe. My string was about to be cut and I was going to swing into those clouds. But the imagery changed and I was standing in our apartment in the future that could have been. It was a future without me. I saw my daughter profoundly changed. Unbearably alone. Years alone and empty. All the things I would have missed seeing her do. My mother I had seen as well, devastated with the loss. I saw what it would be like without me there. Now whether it was G-d or me or me agreeing with G-d who determined that I needed to fight this and stay, I came back to and found myself being transferred upstairs.
I stared out of that hospital window wondering about many things. My life, My child. The road to recovery was long after that. It took three months for the infection to clear my lungs. I went back to work after a month but on a part-time basis. I lost a potential promotion as well. Things were taking a different course in my life but I was still here for my loved ones.
Now looking back, I often wonder whether my father showed up as a sign of his protection or whether he was coming to take me home or probably both. I think I did make a conscious decision in that moment to stay after being shown the future. An almost “It’s A Wonderful Life” moment where the angel shows George how much he affects the people around him.
My hope for the current world crisis that we are all going through is that you have the will to fight this and overcome it. To know that you DO affect those around you. You have value. Live your life knowing that. I pray for healing and transformation for the entire world.
“Be still and know that I am God.” ~Psalm 46:10.
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