Tag Archives: ARD

Breathing Easy (or Not)

5 May

adiaryofapandemicmaster-1

May 5, 2020

Day 45

For the record, I am ill. Under the weather. Sick. Feeling poorly. Less than ideal.

I have a recurring headache, a tiny off kilter trembling centered just behind my cheekbones and numbness in my hands and fingertips, but the real kicker is a persistent migrating congestion in my lungs that despite my best intention and mumblings about a river in Egypt, will not go away. Wheezing with the slightest exertion, every now and then hawking up mucous and spitting it out on my work bench to examine it for green streaks or blood or aliens, then wiping it up with a paper towel and continuing with my work, I’ve been ever mindful that Valerie has been unwell for far longer and that I cannot afford to be sick. Yet sick I am. So I telephoned my doctor and told asked her to look at my chart for May 7, 2019 and write me a prescription for whatever I had back then. She did and I’ve been taking prednisone and I’ll keep you informed.

Lungs, lungs, lungs. People tend to take them for granted until there’s a glitch. If the malfunction is serious then they don’t worry long, but that’s not often a problem as the lungs usually don’t just pack it  in suddenly. That’s more the heart’s department. Lungs are the long suffering organ of the human body. They absorb a lifetime of a smoker’s choice of combustion byproducts and hang on until the bitter end, fighting all the way to do their simple job of getting oxygen into the bloodstream. Or they are filled slowly, year after year, with coal dust inhaled by a miner trying his best to put food on his family’s plates and after a few decades of this there are no unspoiled alveoli to speak of in the tortured passages of his airways and he dies of Black Lung. Asbestos fibres are another killer that starts out in the lungs, and true to form, that unsung organ soldiers on for many years before giving up the ghost and taking its owners with it.

Tuberculosis, cancer, emphysema, the names of lung diseases are legion. My particular disease is asthma. I daresay there are a great deal more obscure lung diseases that start with the letter ‘A’ that come before asthma but, nevertheless, I’m right there in the ‘A’s’, so I have that going for me. Considering what’s happening in the world right now, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about vaccines, and in my research I’ve come across several accounts of people who developed asthma right after they were vaccinated as children. Vaccinated for what, you ask? Tuberculosis is the main one. My grandfather had tuberculosis and lived, only to die of emphysema much later from chain smoking Marlboros. In looking into what was in vaccines back then I ran across a recurring chemical named Thimerosal.

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/thimerosal/index.html

Back in the day (mid 1950’s), almost fifty percent of Thimerosal was composed of mercury, which was used as a preservative. The mercury was considered an inactive ingredient, but, by weight and dosage, it’s use pushed children way above the limits for mercury poisoning then and seems to have been in use until the turn of the century.

What does a three year old boy in the 50’s know of any of that? Precious little. I was simply the child in our house who had asthma and that was that. Luck of the draw. I dealt with it as well as I could and never complained. It was was it was. Looking back though, and talking with childhood development specialists I realise that the disease had to have taken its toll on my energy and stamina throughout my youth and thus affected my ability to absorb information during school and to process it afterwards during the homework portion of life. I was always behind and while I am not blaming the disease on my lack of Nobel Prizes on the mantelpiece, it did affect the course my life took.

I remember being responsible for the exiling of all furred pets from our house, for being excused from the work of sweeping out the basement during monthly cleanups, for being the sick one, of having to be cared for just a little more than others in the family. When I wanted to join the cross country team in high school I ended up being the manager instead. Pop Warner football league for two years in my early teens was a struggle, first because I was a skinny, lightweight kid and second because I had no wind.

When my number was called during the 1972 draft (last year of the draft for Viet Nam and I won the lottery with number 68) it never occurred to me to use my asthma to dodge that responsibility. Instead of being hoovered into the army I chose to enlist in the navy and then had to lie through my teeth re my medical history to make it to the physical at the induction centre. There I held my breath, no pun intended, because though I had no special love for, or desire to be in the navy, it was something I’d set my mind to and I did not want to fail at it. As it turned out, I had a pulse and the rest was history. (Though I did have to repeat the lie when I volunteered for submarines and then again to be selected for naval nuclear power school.) Fire fighting training was a challenge, as I did not want to have an asthma attack when they placed us in the training building on hose crew teams and then set the other half of the building on fire. Same with the tear gas training room. Always wondering if I’d suddenly lock up and pass out and be kicked out. But I never did and never was. My lungs ceased to be an issue for for the next 38 years unless you count the times I stayed too long in the same room with a dog or in a house where a dog or cat lived. I learned about albuterol inhalers and exercise induced respiratory distress and I was smart about my exposure to allergens and I coped.

Even living on the Big Island of Hawaii with its constant VOG did not hold me back. I worked on a wind farms and in a restaurant for a while then joined Atlantis Submarines in Kona, Hawaii. After my career as a tourist submarine pilot (had to be SCUBA certified then for maintenance requirements – another test for my lung capacity) I worked construction (lots of treated wood sawdust and few masks).  In 2010 I was able to pass a rigorous spirometry treadmill test in order to be in the running for a job at the summit of Mauna Kea at the Keck Observatory. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got the job after the first candidate they chose couldn’t handle the altitude. A curious thing about working at the summit is that without exception, everyone behaves as if they are short of oxygen up there – because they are. Once in the door and assigned to shift work at night I found I was able to handle the low oxygen levels fine and did so for the next 6 years.

Then a leap of faith into another life and love led me to my last physical examination, the one required to be granted a residence visa for New Zealand. This one was not too hard and I passed with flying colours. Found the property we live on now and began building from nothing and over the last four years noticed something strange. For some reason, whether because I was living in the midst of the rot and genesis of a podocarp forest, or because I was (say it ain’t so) getting old or perhaps my life of breathing asbestos from navy ships or VOG or sawdust or extended periods of extreme high altitude were catching up to me, I don’t know, but for whatever reason, take your pick, my asthma had returned.

The building of a house alone, using a shovel to slowly excavate and sculpt and shift the land, clearing under-story trees and scrub, all these and more are candidates for being the possible or cumulative cause for my lungs diminishing in capacity. Personally, I think it’s age and a short use by date. I’d gotten a few respiratory infections that I couldn’t shrug off as quickly as I’d hoped, but nothing serious. I kept on working (the house wasn’t going to build itself) and was doing just that up until two months ago (actually, I’m still building, but I’m using scavenged or saved materials) when along came the Covid-19 Contagion. Hey, presto! – and suddenly I’m thinking about my my lungs more than usual, which, for me, is saying something.

The fact that I’ve got a lung infection right now (which is being seen to and worked on, thanks to Valerie’s persistence and love) was the catalyst for this post, but the contagion is the active ingredient. I am, as you’ve no doubt heard by now, one of the herd destined to be culled. One of Darwin’s least fit, so to speak. I am that person the young are talking about when they blithely say, “He was going to die sooner or later”. (Come say that to my face and see who meets St. Peter first.) But the young are young, they want to be out of lockdown and back to doing whatever the smartest people on the planet do, so I understand. I wish I could fast forward a few decades to that time when the realisation that they were not quite as smart as they thought sinks in. The expression on their faces would be priceless and of course there’d be the spectacle of them being marginalised or dismissed by a younger and equally clueless generation. Different people learning the same lesson over and over again. Life on earth.

But it’s not all bad. There are some bright spots out there for the discerning observer to see. First of these are today’s numbers, fresh off the press from the New Zealand Ministry of Health…

Screen Shot 2020-05-05 at 9.50.23 PM

Minus 1 New cases. (How that happens I know not, but I’ll take it as read.) 26 Recovered cases. Ratio of recovered cases to active cases is 87%. And an exciting first today – 3 Zeroes in the Zeroes department. Notable among these is the first day since the count began that there was no change in the number of confirmed cases. ZERO growth. That’s yuge, to paraphrase a politician of note. Really yuge. No change in the number of people in the hospital and Zero deaths again over the last twenty-four hours. Bada-bing, bada-bam, bada-boom! I love it. It’s a big day for New Zealand and big day for me because I have a vested interest in continuing the long saga of my lungs, specifically the part where they keep working.

On that note I saw a video posted by an emergency room doctor who said that though the  current paradigm has doctors preparing for and treating patients suffering from the Covid-19 virus as pneumonia and/or ARD cases, they should in fact be looking deeper because, he said, it appears to him that everyone he’s treated and who has died appeared to be suffering from high altitude sickness. Which I had Zero trouble with during my time at the observatory. An obscure connection? Perhaps. But it’s good news to me and it gives me hope, because, unlike the person in the photo below, who gives me no hope, I know what it is like to really have difficulty breathing.

 

AEasier to breathe

 

( https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8283957/Covidiot-explains-cut-hole-face-mask-makes-easier-breathe.html )

 

You can’t make this stuff up.

(On second thought my friend Russell Gayer could make it up. https://www.amazon.com/One-Idiot-Short-Village-Characters-ebook/dp/B079848Q3K

On third thought, he probably did, and paid that lady to do it. Kentucky’s not too far from Arkansas.

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 12.51.32 AM

 

Give me hope for the human race, Russell. Tell me you put her up to it.