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  • Walking Pneumonia


    By Dawn Lewis

    It turns out that I have had walking pneumonia for 6 months. It began December 21, 2013, the day I shot the final piece of the Lower Extremities video. I felt I was tripping over my tongue. My mouth felt thick. That afternoon, I began to feel tired and achy. I went to bed that night knowing I was getting sick.

    At 2 a.m. I was awoken by a rattling noise. What is that? I thought as I came out of my sleep fog. Well, it was me. I was lying on my left side, and each time the rattle happened, I felt it in my left lung. I was intensely sick for two weeks. At first, I thought I had the flu. By the end I was convinced I had bronchitis for the first time in my life.

    I do not generally go to the doctor for respiratory illnesses. I know, I know, very, very silly, but I have had many colds, although never the flu and I do not know if this illness was actually the flu. They always clear up on their own. This particular illness came with 3 days of fever, body aches, difficulty breathing, and exhaustion.

    Slowly I got better. By week 3 I had a chiropractic adjustment and a massage. I felt better. The next week I had another massage and felt better still. I steamed myself and used essential oils, and each day I felt better, but it was slow.

    In January, as I was feeling better, I began to have rolling hot flashes that kept me awake most the night and were wickedly uncomfortable during the day. In February I began to have fairly significant edema in my lower legs. I thought my hormones were shifting. I went to my doctor and she did a full hormone blood panel. I am in menopause, but nothing had changed from the last time except that my blood pressure was bordering on high. This is unusual for me, as I am a 120/70 woman most of the time.

    By the end of April the edema in my lower legs was noticeable and causing restriction in my range of motion. I went to another doctor, who told me this:

    You may have a blood clot in your lower leg, but bilateral blood clots are unusual, still we need to do bilateral ultrasounds to rule it out because if you do have one and you fly, as you do frequently, and the blood clot dislodges and goes to your brain, you fall over and you die. You’re on a plane, there’s no one there to help you, and by the time you land, you’re just dead. But probably you do not have a blood clot, more than likely you just have heart failure. Heart failure is easier to deal with, you find the cause, treat that, and you’re fine. But in the meantime, we will want to control the fluid. Because you can drown in your own fluids. The fluid overtakes your lungs, you fall over, and you die. And then you’re just dead. What I want you to realize is that your 49 not 29, you need to slow down. Now, let’s get those tests ordered.

    They did an EKG (which was normal), a chest x-ray (which was normal), a full blood panel (which was normal), bilateral ultrasounds on my legs (which were normal), and finally an echocardiogram (which was….you guessed it….normal). The only thing abnormal was that my blood pressure was high for me. I had told both of these docs about my illness in December and that I had not felt quite right since.

    This month I went to North Dakota to teach. It was dusty and windy. By Sunday, my lungs were seizing up. I went home on Monday with a full blown case of bronchitis. My family teased me, “you’re allergic to North Dakota,” they said. This past Sunday, with my lungs still locked up, unable to take a comfortable breath, unable to take a deep breath without coughing, I went to another doctor. This time in an urgent care.

    She listened to my chest. I was wheezing, she said. They did a breath test, which I coughed my way through, then a nebulizer treatment, then another breath test. Halfway through the nebulizer treatment, my lungs opened and I could breathe, that is when I knew that I had not been breathing well for months. The second breath test was much better. She diagnosed me with bronchitis and walking pneumonia.

    Steroids are not my favorite things, and I refused the prednisone. I have only taken it once in my life and it was the worst experience I have ever had with any pharmaceutical. Monday morning I had a fight with myself. I was trying to convince my stubborn drug averse self that I needed to use the steroid inhaler I was prescribed.

    I have been working very hard the past 6 months, and obviously ignoring myself. I am using the steroid inhaler, the other inhaler, taking the antibiotic, steaming twice a day, etc. I feel better than I have for quite a while. My blood pressure is down, and so is the edema in my lower legs. Sometimes what is most obvious (higher blood pressure and edema) is not the cause of the problems, and all things are related (higher blood pressure can cause edema and not breathing well can cause higher blood pressure). Good lesson to be reminded of. Very glad I am finally treating the correct thing.