Pneumonia is Pneu Fun!


(The photo shows me on the first day I felt really sick. Awful!)

I have a sneaking suspicion that this blog will consist of more than one entry…okay, wait, it's not even really "sneaking". This suspicion is all out in the open, announcing it's presence like a college roomate walking into your shared dorm room at 3 am after a night of partying. Know what I mean? Another admission about this story: in the wake of all the sadness and devestation in our world, this entry is going to sound PATHETIC, I tell ya. But I have to get it out.
Last night, at 2:30 am, admid the bit surprising heat of the desert, we arrived home after four weeks on the road in our RV. Four weeks with our baby. Four weeks with our yellow Lab. Four weeks of sleeping in different beds. Four weeks of filling up on record-setting priced gas every few hours. Four weeks of dealing with Pneumonia! When we set out on the road, I was sick. Really sick. But I thought I just had some nasty bug I'd get over. Turns out, I'd end up in the hospital for two nights in Dodgeville, Wisconsin on our last week of vacation with a massive case of Pneumonia has apparantly been hangin' out in my lungs since the birth of Kaia. (!!!) For me, here's what Pneumonia on the road looked like: lots of moaning, not being able to sit up for extended periods of time (i.e. only for nursing my baby), inability to even lift my arms (except to nurse my baby), a dry, deep cough, round the clock fever, night sweats, loss of appetite, Jason doing everything in his power to take care of our baby because I just couldn't…well, it doesn't really matter anymore. But it sucked. I finally went to a Dr. in my Dad's hometown of Warrenton, Missouri. Not having a clue as to what I had, the Dr. said "Oh yes, you have congestion in your chest". I was put on a 10 day round of Amoxicillin. I also sported a lovely fever blister. Due to this intruder, I was told not to kiss my baby until it cleared up. Have you ever had to "not kiss your baby"? Terrible. Barely possible.
After the Amoxicillin, I still didn't feel better. I checked myself into another Dr. in Jason's Dad's hometown of Charlestown, Indiana. After listening to my lungs, asking tons of questions, concerned looks and furrowed brows, the Dr. sent me to the hospital to get chest X-rays. "It could be many things", he said. " It could be a collapsed lung." "What??!! And I wouldn't know it??", I asked scared and flabbergasted. "Not nessasarily". I admit I was a quite relieved to find out it was "only" Pneumonia. A pretty nasty case of it in my left lung. This time, I was put on a 5 day round of Zithromax. We headed to Spring Green, Wisconsin, our last stop on the journey before we headed home. After four days at Taliesin, I knew something wasn't right. I still coughed. And it started to hurt in my chest. I woke Jason up at 9 am on Thursday and said "I need to go to the ER". Anyone who has read my blogs clearly knows about my aversion to hospitals. After Kaia's birth, I vowed I never wanted to step foot into another one. But I knew in my soul that it was where I must be. And I knew that I'd be staying. I had a premonition of sorts a week or so early…I was tied to IV's, not able to nurse my baby. And when I woke this Thursday, I knew I had to surrender to it.
Dodgeville is one tiny town in Wisconsin. Their ER admitted me immediatly and I was greeted my a kind male nurse. Right away, a nightmarish amount of testing began and I struggled to resign to them all. I abhor blood draws, and must lay down to avoid passing out. I must breath deeply and consciously block out any conversation going on during this time. I cry every time. Jason holds my hand and tells me it's gonna be alright. I almost hyperventilated when they had to insert the IV. I surived the scariness (albeit painless, thank goodness) of an EKG and CT scan and multiple chest x-rays. I even managed to get through a very painful arterial blood draw (although much crying accompanied it). But the time I bawled the most, the time I just didn't think I could get through one more moment was when they said I'd have to pump-n-dump and formula feed my baby for at least 48 hours. I freaked out. This was not my plan. Although this moment appeared in my premonition, I had dreaded it. I did not want to give up this intensly personal, profound, wonderful act of nursing my baby. The nurse stared at me in a combination of confusion, sympathy, and craziness as I wailed, muttered to Jason, flailed in the hospital bed, and choked on tears as I struggled to breath through the ball of Pneumonia in my lungs. The nurse silently left the room and in a few moments later the gentle, female Dr. appeared. She tried to talk me down. I had more resigning to do.
That first day was tough. Being tethered to an IV in the middle of my arm(which administered round the clock antibiotics and saline solution) restricted my ability to even hold my baby. Not only could I not nurse her, I really couldn't even bottle feed her or hold her or change her diaper. Of course, I am terrified of IV's in my arm, so I am extra cautious and careful. I envision it ripping out and blooding spewing all of the room (I know, I know, I'm insane). As I watched Jason feed Kaia her first bottle of formula, I again broke down in tears. "I should be the one feeding her…I should be holding her and gazing in her eyes…that's my job". As trivial as it may sound to others, it was heart-wrenching to me. I felt robbed. I felt out of control. I felt so very alone. I felt vulnerable and so terribly exausted. Jason is an amazing Dad and took care of our little girl like a pro. He slept in my room along with our baby and did everything in his power to love, love, love me. Dang, I am so lucky.
Another Dr. had stopped by around 10 pm that night to check on me and try to assess my case. The Dr's were really concerned as to how I contracted this and why it had held on for weeks admid rounds of antibiotics. They each asked questions, many about my birth. They concluded that I had aspirated a bit of the vomit (yum) during my labor and that it had settled in my lungs and caused this infection. Apparantly, my body must have tried like hell to fight it off, as I didn't get my first true "bang me over the head" symptom until 8 weeks postpartum.
I couldn't sleep that first night. I felt those same waves of disspointment that came over me after Kaia's birth. Why couldn't I take care of myself? Why didn't my body fight this off? Was I a bad Mom? My body felt so invaded with all the testing, and check ups, and routine breathing treatments, and unexpected blood draws that sent me into fits. At 3 am, when the nurse came to check my vitals, I told her I couldn't sleep and could I please get something very mild to help? She brought in Robitussin, which I politely declined since cough syrup makes me naseous and dizzy for 24 hours. Not exactly the relief I was looking for. I slept a few hours here and there and kept waking up suddenly with the thought of my IV coming out of my arm. The next morning, another Dr. consulted me. They were still concerned and kept encouraging me to try and "cough something up" so they could culture it to find the exact right antiobiotic to treat it. If I couldn't do this by the weekend, they make have to cut me open and scrape stuff from my lungs. When I heard this, let my head, arms, and tears fall. I held Jason's hand and babbled about how I couldn't do this anymore, I wanted to get better, I was so very scared.
My fate began to turn later that afternoon when the nurse said the Dr. had agreed I could get the tether line to my IV removed. Although the IV would have to remain, I would only need to be hooked up when antiobiotics needed to be administered once a day. I smiled for the first time. "You are my hero" I claimed as they removed the IV line. They also moved us to another room right after this. As I sat in my new bed, freed from the IV tether, I summoned Jason to bring Kaia over. I gently laid her on my knees and wept. I smiled and talked to my baby, told her how much I loved her and how I had missed her SO much in just these past 24 hours. I told her she had grown and that I was gonna get better for her. She smiled and laughed and talked to me and looked curiously at the tears streaming down my face. I felt like I was meeting her for the very first time. I cannot describe the overwhelming happiness. The blood now flowed in my arms out of sheer joy. I held her and changed her and fed her from the bottle (apologizing the entire time and reassuring her that Mama's milk would be back on the way soon). It was a new day!
I slept soundly that night and dreamed of my baby. The next day, the Dr. came with great news that I was indeed getting better and stronger. The antiobiotic was working and they felt confident about releasing me, although I'd be on a 11 day oral antiobiotic. I still had to get well and strong. With the Dr's agreement, I happily nursed my baby that night in a hotel room after being discharged. I felt like I could have nursed her all night. Man, how I missed it.
We are now home, after driving the 30 hour journey in about 40 hours total. Jason is a master long-haul driver and I am immensly thankful for his resolve and his ability to have NEVER complained once during the entire four week adventure. I have much, much to learn from him.
Settling on my couch to nurse my daughter after we arrived, I saw her look around and smile. She knew we were home. Jason and I, our baby, our dog and our cat all slept sounding in our tiny room last night.
While our "vacation" was anything but, I am once again faced with numerous lessons in patience, humility, parenthood, love, family, will-power, and surrendering. It was one tough adventure. I am looking forward to being a "Mom" again, without this infection. While I feel 90% better, I know that there's still that 10% in which I must take time to help heal. And for someone who had never been really sick in my life, I no longer take my health for granted. And now, I REALLY understand the quote I mentioned a few posts back:
" It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children."
I've been there. I've done that. And the emotion and experience never leave you.

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8 thoughts on “Pneumonia is Pneu Fun!

  1. Leigh,
    OOOOOOHHHHHHHH I’m aching for you. Can I come, bring chicken soup? Let our babies chat while I brush your hair do your nails or something…sounds like you need some serious pampering. I don’t know if I can find your number, so give me a call when your up to it.

    Jeanette

  2. Morning Honey,

    I am up at 4:00 a.m. a flawless, early, fall morning awaits. Just couldn’t sleep. Troubling dreams of aircraft crashes and wild dogs attacking.

    I often have such dreams during times of stress. We have been worried about you and are so relieved that you and your little family are safely home.

    Though the circumstances were difficult…..our time with you in Wisconcin was wonderful. Keeping Kaia overnight was a truly happy experience for Di and I.

    Take care honey…..get well soon and give Jason and Kaia our love.

    Dad

  3. Morning,

    I’m thankful you arrived home safely, but saddened that you had to be so sick for weeks. You MUST slow down and get well for everyone’s sake.
    I wish I were closer, I’d babysit baby Kaia, a few hours each day so you could just REST…Do you know any grandma type woman that would do just that??
    Take care and God bless.

    Aunt Ree

  4. Poor little girl – you’ve been sooo sick and all our love couldn’t heal you. We knew when you left us on Saturday for Wisconsin that you were too sick to go on, but also knew that you would. We’re so glad you’re home where you can finally rest and heal. Kaia is beautiful and we were elated to get to know her. You are a wonderful mom so please don’t doubt yourself.

    Give Kaia a big hug and kiss from us. Love to you all.

    Grandpa and Grandma BJ

  5. Leigh— all I can say is that I can’t even imagine what you’ve been going through. I wish I had known you were struggling so much more after you were in Evansville. I would have been praying for you! I’m glad to hear you are 90% better. I know Kaia was probably worried about you. Make sure you put all this in her baby book so she’ll never forget everything her mommy had to go through when she was so little!
    Looking forward to chatting with you soon! Hales

  6. Leigh,

    Oh my gosh! I had no idea! I’m so sorry you were so sick! I’ve been battling bronchitis (seems everyone here is sick), but I had pneumonia my first month away at Grad School, and it was definitely “pneu” fun! And so far away from the comforts of home and family…well, at least you had Jason and Kaia by your side!

    So glad you’re home! That means it’s closer to the time when you’ll be back at work…I know your family needs you, but so do I. And for purely and admittedly selfish reasons, I am so glad you are back in town, and it is almost October, and you will be coming back to me! I miss you sooooo much!

    Hang in there…rest up these next couple of weeks…have lots of soup (if you want me to bring you matzoh ball soup, just say the word!!!).

    Lots of love!
    Kim–>

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