The last two weeks have been some of the most challenging and physically painful of my life.
It began the morning of December 2nd as I was returning from a road trip. I had developed a nagging cough and quickly lost all of my energy; to the point that I had to stay a motel and just get some rest. I was actually having trouble keeping my eyes open.
That next day, Friday, December 3rd, I was at a doctor’s office in Sioux Falls where I was told that I had some type of lung infection in my left lung. I was given some medicine and told to go home and get some sleep. Which I did. It did not help.
Four days later, Tuesday, December 7th, I was back at a doctor’s office. My condition had worsened tremendously and quickly. It frightened me. I was run through a barrage of tests; blood work, blood oxygen levels, chest x-rays, the entire thing. The nurses and doctors repeatedly asked me the same questions;
“Mr. Allen, do you feel dizzy?”
“Mr. Allen, do you feel nauseous right now?”
“Mr. Allen, are you having trouble breathing?”
The answer to all of those questions was “No”. I just felt miserable. I had a continual temperature of 102 degrees, I was coughing to the extent of having physical, long lasting pain in my ribs and my stomach.
Turns out the reason I was being asked so many questions (repeatedly) is that my blood oxygen tests came back at 89%. Normally, someone will take in 96% oxygen as part of normal body function. This was way low and dangerous and they wanted to know what was happening.
The tests came back and showed that what had been an infection in my left lung four days previous was now active viral pneumonia in both of my lungs. This is not a good thing. Pneumonia in one lung can severely cripple your body. Both lungs is dangerous.
How did I get this? The doctors say they have no idea. They say viral pneumonia happens but that it is hard to trace the source of the initial infection.
I know for a fact that the doctor was seriously thinking about admitting me to the hospital. But I think she also knew I would fight the idea tooth and nail. I hate going to the doctor’s office; the hospital would throw me into a stroke.
So the compromise was this: back home, away from work for at least a week, multiple medications and a what is called a “booster pack”, a machine that I can use to help me breathe when I have problems.
So I went back home and went back to sleep; for roughly the next 7 days. There are entire patches of time I do not remember. The doctor says this is the result of having a continually high fever over a period of days.
I was on an anti-biotic to fight the infection, a pain killer to ease the physical symptoms of all the coughing, a cough syrup (which really didn’t work) and my “booster pack” machine.
In time, the fever broke. Then more coughing commenced which allowed me to literally pull the infection out of my lungs and get rid of it. I will spare you the description of what I coughed up. Suffice to say, it was painful and not pretty.
So I now sit here typing this blog, into day #15 of fighting this off. I am still not 100%. I am still coughing, still in pain and still getting rid of this infection. It is amazing to me that I have been sick this long. I hardly ever get sick and when I do, it is usually a 2 day affair and then it is done.
But while there have been an amazing amount of negatives from this, I am also trying to count my blessings. I am thankful I live in a country where I have immediate access to health care and a quick diagnosis. It makes me sick to my stomach to think how I would be right now if the doctor’s hadn’t caught it. I would be in the hospital, likely for a long time, probably talking about permanent lung damage. I am thankful for my family who rallied around me to take care of me. I am blessed by having so many friends who worry about me and take the time to email me and ask me if there is anything they can do.
I do not recommend double pneumonia to anyone. I would not wish it on my worst enemy because the pain is real and lasting. But I am also smart enough to know I am surrounded by good people who want good things for me. I was truly flattered to receive words of encouragement from my fellow journalists who work at different radio and TV stations in town. You folks are a class act and I am glad I know you.
I was also able to grow what I dubbed the “pneumonia beard”, a picture of which you can see below.
This is what I have to show for 2 weeks of fighting off Pneumonia; a pretty sweet beard.
The above picture was taken by KSFY photojournalist Robyn Black on my first day back to work; Monday, December 13th.
I produced the 10PM newscast that night and find out I was rushing things just a little bit. The next day, Tuesday, December 14th, I worked a half-day before jumping back into in on Wednesday, December 15th with a road trip to Pierre to interview outgoing South Dakota Governor Mike Rounds. I was then urged to take another couple of days off before returning to the anchor chair for a 6 day run from December 19-December 24.
It has been a learning experience. Part of it involves fear; how does someone get that sick that quick? How does a lung infection in one lung morph into Pneumonia in both lungs? I have no answers to these questions.
I have now been told by my doctor that a Pneumonia infection this severe and long lasting may make me more easily susceptible to Pneumonia down the road. I hope not because I truly NEVER want to go through this again.
I ended up losing 15 pounds in about 13 days time. That also provided a bit of trauma for my body. The doctor says that must weight loss that quick can provide a serious challenge to a body. I could stand to lose the weight, but not that fast and not like that. I am now struggling to try and put some weight back on. My stomach shrank over two weeks time from a lack of eating and only drinking small amounts of water, 7 Up and Gatorade.
Thanks to everyone who took the time out of their busy lives to check on me. I do appreciate it. I do not take it for granted.
I wish for all of you good health this holiday season.