This blog is health related, and you are forgiven for skipping it if you wish – I just want my readers to know what happened to me last year – and to spread a tale of caution. I will tell you that it has a happy ending!
Those of you who know me are likely aware that 2015 was a lousy year, healthwise. On the positive front, I had a very successful ablation that fixed my afib problem, but other than that, things got cruddy. First, while in the hospital, I contracted pneumonia and was on IV antibiotics for a long time to get that out of my system. While dealing with this, I was told by a pulmonologist that I had COPD – a chronic lung disease that made breathing hard, and was just going to get worse over time. My energy fell through the floor and the thought of going out on the speaking circuit was the last thing on my mind. I had a horrible cough, and my lungs were working at about 45% of normal.
The docs prescribed a couple of inhalers, but these did nothing. From the hospital I went to a rehab center for a week, and then went for outpatient respiratory rehab. I was the only one in the group who had not been a smoker, which I found strange, but was told that it sometimes happens.
In the meantime, my thyroid went through the roof, and my endocrinologist attributed this to a side effect of my old heart medicine, Amiodarone. Fortunately, Prednisone and Hydrocortisone took care of this problem, after which I was being weaned off the steroids.
One problem solved, but the lungs were still lousy – and getting worse.
After about 9 months of nasty lung problems, we went to California to visit friends and Norma suggested that I see another pulmonologist to get a second opinion. This new doc listened to my lungs and did a breathing test. In short order, he told me that, while he wasn’t positive what I had, it surely wasn’t COPD! In short order he eliminated a bunch of other nasty causes and thought that it might be another well-known side effect of Amiodarone. The good news, in that case, is that the problem would be reversible. By this point, my lungs were only working at 35% – not the best news by a long shot!
After a couple of days in the California hospital for tests (I’ll spare you the details), the decision was made to load me up with Prednisone again since that was known to help with Amiodarone pulmonary toxicity.
It turns out that, while it was easy to find that the problem was NOT (COPD), proving that it was another Amiodarone side effect was much trickier. From my perspective, though, my health started turning around for the better almost immediately, no matter what the underlying cause was. The coughing went way down, my breathing got better (some days it is almost normal), my energy is recovering and I’ve rejoined the human race.
At this point, I’m being weaned off the Prednisone again (apparently it has problems of its own) and every day I get a little bit better. My friends have all noticed that I’m back! I have a busy speaking schedule for 2016 and two new workshops that we are scheduling, safe in the knowledge that I’ll be in great shape. I’ll be at FETC and TCEA, and I hope to see some of you there!
While I’m getting a new pulmonologist in the Chicago area, I’m still flying to California every month or so to see the doc that put me on the fast track to recovery! The big question remaining for me is how I could have been so badly misdiagnosed in the first place. I know that medicine is not an exact science, but I’m one of those guys who trusts what doctors say. Mistakes happen. I have a PhD and I’ve made my share of blunders, so why should I hold other highly educated people to higher standards?
At this point, I’m just moving forward. A nasty health scare gives you perspective and helps set priorities. In my, case, this means putting family and friends first. And that reminder makes all the lousiness of 2015 worth it! So, for those of you who knew something was going on, I thank you for your support and look forward to seeing lots of you next year at some of the conferences I’m attending!