Monday, February 6, 2017

Keep Breathing

     My health has really been less than ideal over the last couple of weeks. Two Tuesdays ago I called my rheumatologist in a desperate attempt to secure any appointment earlier than my scheduled one in March. I told the nurse I was in an immense amount of pain, likely as a result of the Women's March, and that I was struggling with mobility and making it to my classes (although I haven't missed one due to joint pain yet.) Luckily, the hospital was very understanding and they offered me an appointment that Thursday, a real miracle on earth. After class I made my way to the hospital, where I was given a cortisone shot and my blood work was taken from me (per usual).

     How much is the cortisone shot helping? I am not sure. I thought maybe it was making things better for a short amount of time, but now my joints are back to hurting once again, and I am having widespread muscle pain that has persisted for a couple of weeks now. The symptom that is having the most damaging impact on my quality of life is my fatigue. I sleep for at least 9-10 hours every night, with absolutely no exceptions, yet I still feel dreadfully tired, as if I have not slept in days. When I am out and about, enjoying all of the excitement that New Orleans has to offer, all I can think about is how long it will be before I can crawl back into my bed. I love all of my courses this semester, but summoning the motivation to drag my aching body out of bed and to my classes is a daily mental and physical battle that I am sick of fighting. I am the type of person who normally gets up early and spends time doing my makeup, creating healthy breakfast masterpieces in the dining hall, and excitedly preparing for the day ahead. Now I always have to shower at night because I do not have the energy to shower in the mornings, and looking nice or eating breakfast is strictly reserved for special occasions.

     I have been thinking a lot lately of the Ingrid Michaelson lyric, "I want to change the world, instead I sleep." I suppose that is how it always feels. I am lucky enough to be getting a world-class education in a colorful city that holds countless adventures, and there are so many organizations I want to be volunteering with and activities I want to participate in and friends I want to surprise with sweet gestures, yet when I consider all of the possibilities my body reminds me that my only real option is sleep.

    I woke up unintentionally around 5 a.m. on Sunday morning and could not breathe. I grabbed my inhaler and took several more doses than I am technically supposed to when the first one did not work, trying not to panic. My chest still felt tight and painful. I woke up my parents back home, and for a few minutes I was ready to toss some clothes on and call an Uber to take me to urgent care, but I was literally too tired and my knees were killing me so instead I took a few more puffs of the inhaler, added some pillows so that I could sleep upright, and tried desperately to fall asleep despite the tightness in my chest. When I woke up again a few hours later, I was nauseous and running a slight fever, but I did feel capable of breathing again, even though it was uncomfortable. The nausea was no surprise, because I have been dealing with that acutely for several days now, but it is frustrating to no end and the unpredictability of it seriously stresses me out.

Receiving my twenty-minute breathing treatment
     This morning I went to the Student Health Center as soon as it opened. One of my favorite nurses, the one who always does my allergy shots, did my intake and was kind enough to set my appointment up with a specific doctor (at my request) without trying to talk me into any of the other physicians or nurse practitioners. The nurses here are well aware that a case as complex as mine benefits from seeing the same person every time. A couple of hours later, I received a breathing treatment and another steroid shot, along with instructions to make another appointment with my rheumatologist. I am now scheduled for future appointments with the same Tulane doctor at the Student Health Center, rheumatology, allergy shots, and my New Orleans ENT (my jaw has been wack since my tonsillectomy) all within the couple of weeks, and although it is overwhelming I am grateful to have access to specialists.

     The nurse who gave me my steroid shot and breathing treatment remarked that I am "probably used to being poked and prodded." Truer words have never been spoken. She was also very understanding when the breathing treatment made me all jittery and nervous, a fairly common side effect. Despite the downsides of both the breathing treatment and the steroid shot, I am glad to breathing better this afternoon and to have regained some lung capacity. I even got to keep the tube as a souvenir (I'm supposed to bring it back for my appointment on Wednesday so I do not have to pay for two separate tubes if I get another breathing treatment). I am still feeling pretty sick, but today is definitely better than yesterday, and I am grateful for providers who offer their very best care, even early on a Monday morning.

"All that I know is I'm breathing. All I can do is keep breathing."

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