Pneumonia used to be a very big deal before antibiotics were developed. It still is in the elderly population. It's been called "the old person's friend"; indeed, my mother had pneumonia five times in the last six months of her life. I call it the "don't give a shit" illness. When I woke up on Wednesday after six days with a cough and realized I didn't give a shit about anything, I knew it was time to go to the urgent care clinic in Tucson. The knowledge was reinforced when Art's blood work at the VA came back with a high white count. We picked up his prescription from the VA and drove directly to urgent care. I got two shots in the butt - cortisone and an antibiotic - and spent 20 minutes breathing in some formulation to open up my airway, then picked up prescriptions for z-pack, cortisone, cough medicine and an inhaler. The nurse practitioner told me I'd feel better in three days. I felt somewhat better within five hours. The coughing is minimal now, I'm breathing fine, and I can tell I'm on the mend. But my energy is low. So I'm resting a lot.
Here's what I learned this week in my adventure with pneumonia:
1. If you can hear your lungs bubbling when you exhale, you should go to the doctor.
2. If you have an HMO in Washington State with no reciprocal arrangement with an HMO in Arizona, you learn how to get your costs covered by reading the part of your contract called "out-of-network services." In the meantime, you keep your credit card handy at the urgent care clinic and at the pharmacy across the street.
3. If you have plans to drive six hours to San Diego to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with your daughter and son-in-law, you cancel them. You might feel completely recovered by Tuesday, but you probably won't be. And that's just you. You also have a recuperating spouse.
4. You feel pretty good when you get up in the morning, but after an hour or two of small household tasks you sit down or lie down. You do not go for a walk. You do not go to the solstice service you were looking forward to. You do not wash the outside windows. What you do instead is read or spend time with your computer or watch the birds around the feeder or watch the cat watching the birds.
5. Antibiotics are a miracle and you are grateful you live in a time that has them.