It’s crazy how your world can be turned upside down in the blink of an eye. One day it seems you’re perfectly healthy going about your daily routine, and then the next day you’re laying in a hospital bed with the constant sound of machines beeping all around you. This is exactly how I spent my last weekend of summer before school started, all cooped up in a hospital bed constantly being disturbed by a respiratory therapist and nurses checking oxygen levels, blood pressure, and temperature while also being tethered to IV-fluids and antibiotics. Only days before being admitted to the hospital I was out running 6 miles every day. I had worked all summer ever since the state track meet was over to prepare myself for a successful cross country season.
I began my summer training the day after state track was over to prepare myself for an AAU track meet in Eldorado the following Saturday. I was entered to compete in the 400, 800, and 1500-meter race. So I set myself to work putting in the miles and speed workouts that would condition my body for the races. When the Saturday of the meet arrived, my mom and I hit the road at four o’clock in the morning and head to Eldorado. When we arrived at the meet we checked in and got the schedule of events. We had a long day ahead of us, which culminated in qualifying times for all three events for the Missouri Valley Championships in Joplin, Missouri. I unfortunately was unable to attend the championships in Joplin due to time constraints and expense.
I continued to run every day and began to workout in the weight room. After weights I would go home and sleep for two to three hours and then go mow lawns in the evening. Mid-way through June my running habits changed and it became hard for me to motivate myself to get up in the morning and put in the miles I needed to be a successful runner. Since I hadn’t been feeling well and had been sleeping a lot I saw my doctor at the beginning of July and was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a condition where your body is destroying your thyroid gland. The doctor decided to have me start thyroid medication in mid-July, after I got back from a KU cross country camp.
At the cross country camp we stayed in the college dorms and ran three times a day. The KU coaches would take us down to the track or out to the KU Rim Rock Farms cross country course to run. One of the days when we went out to Rim Rock Farms the coach had us sit in the grass and ask questions that we wanted to know about running in college. While we were all were asking questions, there were ticks and spiders climbing all over us from running through the tall grass. Following the KU cross country camp I began taking two different thyroid medications to help replace my T4 and T3 thyroid.
After I started thyroid medication I continued my running, and at the beginning of August my family and I went on a trip to Kansas City. We stayed in a motel, visited the Starlight Theater and the World War I Museum. At the museum I became very anxious and irritable, which was out of character for me. The following weekend I ran a 5K at Victoria, Kansas. During the race my legs felt heavy and my breathing was hard to control. The following Tuesday I went on a short 3 mile run and what would have been completely easy for me was incredibly difficult. I was gasping for air and had to walk about every other block. It was a hundred degrees outside that day and I had to bundle up in sweats because I was having chills and couldn’t get warm. My hands and feet became ice cold but at the same time I was sweating. That night I began having night sweats and would wake up with my pillow and blankets soaked with sweat, and every hour I was having frequent urination throughout the night.
On Wednesday my mother made an appointment for me at the clinic to see a nurse practitioner in the afternoon. At that appointment, the nurse practitioner made orders for me to have my blood drawn and as an outpatient to receive 1500 mL plus another 500 mL of IV fluids. The IV fluids made my hands and ankles swell up, but after receiving the fluids I felt much better. Wednesday evening I started Omnicef, a broad- spectrum antibiotic and continued to spike fevers along with night sweats and frequent urination.
Thursday I started to develop an awful crackling sound when I tried to breathe and when I coughed, I would cough up slimy reddish-brown worm looking mucus from my lungs. This mucus later turned tan to green then back to tan with blood in it. Concerned, my mother called the clinic to report the changes and they said to continue Ibuprofen and acetaminophen along with the antibiotic and to see a different nurse practitioner on Friday. The Ibuprofen and acetaminophen made me feel better for a while until they wore off, then I felt awful again. Thursday night I continued to worsen and spike temperatures at 103 in just a matter of minutes, mom used ice packs and I took tepid showers to bring the fever down.
After several calls Friday morning, I was able to get in and see the nurse practitioner. They immediately sent me to the radiology department of the hospital to do chest x-rays. The radiologist that took my x-rays had finished processing the films when she then came out of the x-ray room and approached my mom and I where we were waiting. The radiologist had a very concerned look on her face and she asked me if I was feeling all right. I responded “I’m a little under the whether and having some difficulty breathing.” The radiologist led my mom and I back to the clinic side of the hospital so I could then have a doctor read my chest x-ray. When the nurse practitioner finally saw us he brought with him Dr. Hineman. When Dr. Hineman walked into the room she seemed very serious and said that I had pneumonia. She took us back into her office and brought up the image of my chest x-rays on the computer. She described my x-rays as “very impressive” because where we should have been able to see my heart we couldn’t because of the fluids in my lungs.
Dr. Hineman told me that they were going to admit me to the hospital and keep me over night, and then if all went well I would get to go home the next day. I felt my hopes fall knowing I’d being cooped up in the hospital during the last weekend of summer. I wanted to be out running, hanging out with my friends at the pool, or doing anything that didn’t require me to lay in a bed all day. I was led to the patient output services where they placed a white hospital wristband with my name on it around my wrist, and then was led down to the nurse’s station to get checked into my hospital room. Once I was situated in my room the nurses had me cough up the mucus from my lungs so they could do a culture on it in the lab. Next one of my nurses came in to start an IV on me so I could receive the antibiotics Rocefin and Zithromax along with fluids. She had a hard time trying to find a good vein to start the IV because I was dehydrated. The nurse stuck the IV into my forearm two times but was unsuccessful so she called in the head nurse to start the IV. The head nurse was able to start an IV in the fold of my left arm, which disabled me from bending my elbow.
I appeared to be doing well that Friday afternoon and into the evening and a respiratory therapist had started coming in to give me treatments. It wasn’t until later in the evening when I started to shake and became really cold. The nurse came in and took my temperature, which read normal, and my mom asked if we could get me some ibuprofen but the nurse wanted to see if I could get through the night without any. Then almost immediately after the nurse left as I lay there trying to go to sleep the chills stopped and I began to feel very warm, so warm that I had to kick off the covers. It had only been three minutes since my nurse had checked on me but I knew I had spiked a fever so we hit the call button for the nurse. The nurse took my temperature again and saw that I was running a fever of 103.8 degrees, the CNA and the nurse went to get ibuprofen and ice packs to put on my body to lower my temperature along with a call to Dr. Cupp that led to blood cultures being drawn again to try to catch what might be causing the fever during the spike. After a little while my temperature came down to normal so the nurses left me to sleep until midnight when Dr. Cupp who was on call, came in. Dr. Cupp, my mother, and I discussed my symptoms and Dr. Cupp said that he would keep me another twenty-four hours until I did I was fever free.
On Saturday, the respiratory therapist came in to give me percussion and nebulizer breathing treatments four times a day. The respiratory therapist had me using an Albuterol nebulizer that helped open up the airways in my lungs, and then the therapist would use a very strong machine that vibrated on my back. This was used to help break up the mucus in my lungs. I was allowed to get up and start walking around the hospital to try and help build my stamina. I became winded very quickly and the Albuterol used in my nebulizer was causing me to have adrenaline type reaction and mild hallucinations. Dr. Cupp ordered that I switched from Albuterol to Levalbuterol, a drug that wasn’t quite as strong.
Along came Sunday morning and I had been fever free for twenty-four hours and had high hopes that I would be going home. After a short visit from Dr. Cupp, he released me with a nebulizer and prescriptions for Levalbuterol, Albuterol rescue inhaler, and seven days of Zithromax, along with continuing the antibiotic Omnicef, which I had started prior to be admitted to the hospital.
My total mileage running for the summer was 281 miles; all my hard work was suddenly gone and I had to be patient and accept that it was going to take time until I would be physically able to compete. It took me three days until I was able to join the cross country team in practice. At first I was only allowed to ride my bike as the team ran and when I was allowed to run I was unable to keep up with the team, nor complete the entire workout. As the season progressed I was able to build up my stamina and could compete at a competitive level and run just as far and further than before I got sick.
I don’t know what gave me get pneumonia, if it was breathing in dirt and bacteria from mowing lawns, running at Rim Rock Farms with ticks and spiders, or maybe I had picked something up in the college dorms. Maybe I had had pneumonia for along time and had been walking around with it. What I do know is that I am healthy and that good health isn’t to be taken for granted and you should be grateful for what you can do even if it’s not much.
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