Where are you? Yes, I continue to occupy my space on this planet. No, I have not stopped writing although it may seem that way since I haven’t written here in weeks. I have not written anywhere in weeks. I’ve written e-mails and signed release documents. I’ve written notes to myself, and grocery lists. But I have not been able to write any essays or fiction. Why?
That reminds me of a story I heard or read — I don’t know from whom or where now since I didn’t make a note of it — about the writers Andre Dubus and Tobias Wolff. Dubus had stopped on a freeway to help a motorist whose car had broken down, and a car hit him. I don’t recall if it stopped or not. But Dubus was grievously injured and had an extended recovery. After several months, he wanted to return to his writing but found that he couldn’t. He talked with his friend, Tobias Wolff, complaining that he couldn’t write. Wolff replied that Dubus had suffered a terrible physical injury that needed time for healing, and he’d also suffered a terrible soul injury that also needed time for healing. Once his soul had healed, he’d write.
Normally, I stay away from writing here about personal concerns. However, at this time, I believe I owe my readers an explanation. So….
About January 25, I fell ill with what I thought was the flu. I expected a week in bed, but I began to feel better after three days. Then on day 8, it hit me again with a vengeance, knocking me off my feet for another 3 days. During that time, I decided that I needed to go to the doctor, but I had to wait for confirmation that I was covered by my new insurance. I received that on Thursday, and I went to my doctor on Friday. She told me that I needed immediate treatment and admitted me to the hospital.
I could barely breathe, and I was coughing all the time. In the hospital, the doctor diagnosed pneumonia and ordered IV antibiotics. He also ordered some other tests that revealed my kidneys were in the process of shutting down, my blood calcium level was sky high, and my lungs looked to be scarred. The first two issues were easily reversed with fluids. The last was something we discussed, but he chose to focus on stopping the pneumonia infection. He was successful with that, and I was discharged 4 days later.
The following week I was recovering well from the pneumonia, but then my condition took a turn. About 2 weeks after my discharge, I ended up in the Emergency Room of the large University hospital, barely able to breathe. The ER doctor thought that the pneumonia had returned and put me on oxygen and IV antibiotics. He admitted me to the hospital and I acquired an Internal Medicine team who’d work on my case.
The IM team fairly quickly concluded the issue wasn’t pneumonia, and most likely wasn’t even an infection. They called in Pulmonology for a consult, and my life took a truly unexpected turn. I underwent blood tests, a CT scan, a bronchoscopy including biopsies and lavage, and then a heart ultrasound. It was intense. Meanwhile, my appetite came back which was a good thing — I’d lost over 10 pounds since this whole situation began. Fortunately, this hospital’s food was OK.
This time I was in the hospital 7 days but we got a general diagnosis: Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD). There are several types of ILD based on cause, and we’re still trying to find out the cause(s). The bottom line for me is that I have lung disease. It may be possible to reverse some of the scarring, but I will now be susceptible to lung infections, especially flu and pneumonia. This time when they discharged me, they sent me home with a tank of oxygen, and an oxygen supplier arrived shortly after I did at my apartment and set me up for home oxygen.
I am recovering from the pneumonia and the ILD flare-up. I am still enmeshed in the medical world more than usual and still very much in a primal survival mode. As a result of all this, my energy is quite low and I sleep a lot; my appetite is fine and I’m craving protein, especially fish; and my concentration is terrible. Last evening was the first time since the end of January that I wanted to read, and I was able to read without falling asleep. I have not written in my journal for weeks, haven’t written blog posts, haven’t done any work on essays or fiction. My body is still recovering from its terrible battle and cries for help. I wonder how long it will take my soul to recover…..