Pneumonia, Zombies, and the Afterlife
Lifelong asthmatic: Used to having shortness of
breath, but this was outside the box. Been uncomfortable during the
Christmas holidays, maybe even before that, thinking, "Once the weather
cools, all this pollen will die down." And when the coughing got too
conspicuous, the clinic could supply a "breathing treatment" from the
But by mid-January things were worse, and on
January 20, the clinic ordered us up to the ER at the new Viera
Hospital. And they checked me in with pneumonia.
Pretty darn sick.
(And listen, I didn't neglect precautions. I'd had the pneumonia shot
two times, and flu shots every year, even a shingles shot, but
evidently to no avail.)
Five days later and home again, everything
was going downhill. John fell and hit his head during the night. I
gouged a hole in my ankle on a bolt in the walker. By day two (or was
it day three?) the shortness of breath was acute. I'd cough and
could not get any air.
I was exhausted. John was exhausted. I
seriously believed I was going to die.
Hazy thought: "ER will know
how to dispose of the body." Gasped out "Call 911!" They came.
remember being in the van. Trying to breathe
I remember being in
the ER. Trying to breathe.
Somebody brought a gown and somebody took
off my clothes. Trying to breathe, I saw my T-shirt on the floor under
people's feet and thought, "But I really liked that T-shirt. Oh well..."
And then Gone!
Two and a half days later I woke up in a
hospital bed, too weak to move. And my breathing was perfect! And it's
still perfect. Wow! But I REMEMBER NOTHING. (Okay, Nora Ephron already
used that line! Even so, it's true for me, too. )
They had given me
an injection of the drug that killed Michael Jackson not enough to
kill me, but to put me to sleep while I was on a ventilator, and while
they did a
reached into my bronchial tubes and
into my lungs and sucked out all sorts of nasty gooey solids, popped
them into plastic bags and sent them to the lab. The labwork found two
a word I interpret as meaning
pretending to be pneumonia
plus a couple of strains of strep.
Meanwhile, back in my body, I was remembering nothing, which was a good
thing, while they had been pouring antibiotics and steroids into me
until I was pink and very healthy-looking (except my hair. Awful hair,
However, among those in the conscious world, was the
knowledge that old people who have had a prolonged period of
unconsciousness sometimes are no longer there when they wake up.
Soon after they stopped giving me the knockout drug, and I
woke up, my darling elder son came sailing in, saying, "So, Mother
what do you think of President Trump!" (In retrospect, I think this was
a test.) "WHAT? How long have I been out?" (You see, I could remember
that I had been out just not what happened. That Michael Jackson drug
is dandy stuff, when handled by a professional.)
confessed that while he was driving down from Jacksonville, he was in a
nervous state for fear that my brain might have turned to jello while I
was a zombie!
But the brain remained intact. Thank goodness!
Yes, friends, this is my confession and my joy. I was a Zombie for two
and a half days,
and I recovered!
And I owe it all to the
grand folks at Viera Hospital: the doctors, respiratory therapists,
nurses, nursing assistants, cleaning folks. It's a beautiful hospital,
immaculate, all the latest equipment, beautiful decor, truly wonderful
And, oh yes, BTW they saved my life!
I kept asking who
actually did the job. (I'd happened to see my chart and it said "Total
respiratory failure." Not hard to interpret.)
respiratory therapist who woke me up for treatments at 11:00 and at
2:00 and at 5:00, admitted to the deed. "I did it. You kept trying to
throw yourself off the bed, and and I couldn't get at you. Until that
cute little nurse, got you by the arm and gave you that shot, and then
you were like a dead person. Much easier to handle."
One is so
vain. I'd had a vision of doctors to the right, doctors to the left,
"Here, let me assist," "Scalpel . . ." But it was just routine
respiratory therapy. So thanks yet again for that. And for waking me in
the night. (I think it was an MD who did the bronchoscopy. Thank you,
Sir!) And thank you to all those doctors and nurses and respiratory
therapists. And thanks to the guy who invented that magic vacuum
cleaner. Thank you for my life.
Another respiratory therapist (over
time, there were several) told me: "Did you know that only two
countries in the world license that specialty? The U.S. and Canada.
When somebody in Dubai needs a breathing treatment, they have to import
an American or a Canadian." What a shame! Think of all the people in
England and France and Nigeria who are going through what I had been
going through and not making it because they have no respiratory
therapist to save them. Let's have that specialty everywhere! The whole
world needs that specialty. They save lives routinely, daily no
sweat, it's a mere bagatelle!
Also, while I was in hospital, the
nursing staff was so good to me: cheerful, skillful, sympathetic,
helpful, patient. You know, when I was a young woman, nursing was not a
high-status job. When my cousin Susy decided to be a nurse, my
grandmother was horrified! "Be a doctor, dear. Be a teacher . . . ."
But now, it's a profession. There is hardly any ceiling: nurse
practitioner, nurse anesthetist, respiratory therapist yes, it's very
demanding work, but it's also virtuous work in a not-always-virtuous
world. And at last it's becoming well-paying work. Several of those
younger women had small children, and it made me glad to think that
they had a yes,
and decent-paying way up the
So: here I am, feeling better, with the
promise that in six months, I will be completely recovered and back to
That's my story for today.