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The Air I could Not Breathe

Updated: Jan 1, 2022





Sept 2015, they started to fail me. My lungs were not functioning properly and it was evident when I was unable to walk up 1 flight of stairs. But the week before, I rode my bike 30 miles with no problem. So what in the world was happening? Just like many, I ran to: webmd, uptodate, all my medical school notes, and textbooks to diagnose myself. I was hoping and praying that I had a common cold. Something that would go away in about 7-10 days.

After prescribing myself medications, and having my colleagues evaluate me, I knew I needed to seek a specialist. After a week or suffering from breathing, I sought out a Pulmonologist, and he didn’t tell me anything that I didn’t know already. He seemed just as confused me. I mentioned to him that I was an avid cyclist, and I ride my bike on average 15-20 miles every other day. Sometimes I go 30 miles. He asked me if I had muscle soreness, and I chuckled “of course, I workout everyday.” I mentioned that I have never smoked in my life, never been exposed to coal mines, or toxic inhalants. I'm a Physician Assistant in family practice that works in the underserved community. After his assessment and evaluation of labs all he could tell me was that your lungs are cloudy from the X-Ray, and that you may have an infection vs. inflammatory process. Well my first thought when he said that was ‘duh”, that’s stating the obvious, but how do I get rid of it. The Prednisone for inflammation is not working, the antibiotics for infections are not working, so now what? This has to be something more than the obvious I thought, but what?

I struggled barely walking into Brandon Hospital in Tampa, FL., and unbeknownst to me I wouldn’t walk out of that hospital until a month later. I was intubated, heavily sedated, and put in a Roto Bed (something that looked as if it was made in outer space). A nurse was assigned to sit next to my bed for 24 hours to watch me turn in this bed. Literally every resource was used on me like a medical experiment to save my life. I was in Acute Respiratory Failure and not one medical professional there knew why. They performed neurological tests, cut about a 3 inch incision on my right thigh for a muscle biopsy, evaluated every organ in my body. But still there was no concrete diagnosis as to why the life changing experience was occurring.

After 2 weeks of being intubated and on life support the doctors told my parents to prepare for the worst and start making arrangements. But all of a sudden my lung function began to restore itself. Here is when God showed up and said “I’m not done with you.” I was finally taken off life support, and was able to breathe on my own, with the use of supplemental oxygen. There was a lot of muscle lost to my legs and vocal cord damage from the tubes going down my throat. I had to learn to walk and talk all over again. I was discharged without a concrete diagnosis, and sent to continue outpatient rehabilitation.

The realization of coping with the possibility that this was my new normal was overwhelming to say the least. A person who had never been hospitalized, and never had nothing more than a common cold. I worked out vigorously, ate fairly healthy, never smoked, drank alcohol socially and managed my stress. In the mist of me living to care, and give hope to others as a provider. I had now become a great patient.

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