Coping with COPD

I normally lead a healthy, productive life. I am retired from an office environment. I am 77 years old. I go 3 times a week to an exercise facility and spend about half an hour on a treadmill and a recumbent bicycle. I do not smoke now. I quit a multiple pack a day habit some 30 years ago. I’ve had several heart attacks (the first was 25 years ago) and have had pneumonia several times.

My lifestyle should be enough to enable me to cope with the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease that I have. Although I do take medication for blood pressure and cholesterol, I don’t have any medicine in the house for symptoms of COPD.

A week ago Sunday I woke up in the morning with a sore throat. Later in the day I developed a raspy cough. I did the normal things. I dosed extra on vitamin C. I drank lots of water. I stayed warm and bundled up.

Monday, I felt pretty good in the morning but by mid afternoon I needed a nap and the cough was getting worse. I still kept pushing the liquids and the vitamin C. During the night Monday night I was awake a lot. I could feel a kind of pressure on my chest and a sort of sore rawness to go along with it. About 2 AM, I woke up bathed in sweat. Even by the time I gave up on the bedroom and got up a couple hours later, my nightshirt was still wet from the sweating.

Tuesday, I spent with a book. I alternated between it and dozing fitfully. The cough worsened and sounded and felt like my lungs were trying to turn inside out. I figured a good nights sleep and I’d be over the hump and feeling better. However, Tuesday night was not a good night. I tossed and turned and huffed and puffed and sweated until about 3 AM I gave up and got back up with my book.

Wednesday, I gave up. Being away from home, I went to a walk-in clinic. The clinic took a chest x-ray, a blood test, a nose swab, and a throat swab. I think the lab tests were to diagnose the absence of flu which is in season. The doctor, after listening to my chest and checking the x-rays, agreed that what was happening was an exacerbation of the COPD.

A diagnosis of COPD is sort of like saying you have a broken bone. You could have broken an arm or a leg or a finger. COPD it is the presence of diseases that affect the lungs and obstruct the ability to breathe. Two of the diseases most likely to produce symptoms are chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

The exacerbation part simply means that something happened to make the symptoms of emphysema or bronchitis flare up. This could be as easy as walking into a smoke filled room, catching a cold, or going from a warm to a cold environment.

To get me feeling better, the doctor gave me a antibiotic shot to clear up any bacterial infection that might be lurking. He gave me a steroid shot to dilate the air passages in my lungs. He also gave me a prescription for a steroid and an antibiotic that would last a week or so. He prescribed a ventilator to help open up the airways in am immediate fashion and an inhaled medication that would provide some support in the long term.

There is no cure for COPD. Emphysema and bronchitis are chronic conditions that don’t have cures. Only the symptoms can be managed.

I finished my regimen on steroids a few days ago and cleaned up the last of the antibiotic this morning. I still cough but am sleeping through the night. The additional symptoms have disappeared.

This is how I cope with COPD.

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