One year ago this week, I became ill with pneumonia. One day I was fine, and the next day I was incredibly sick. I went to the doctor who diagnosed flu, even though I thought it was pneumonia. I had pneumonia when I was 24 years old, and it is a feeling like no other. I recognized it, but the doc said flu. A couple of days later, I could hear the bubbling in my lungs when I breathed. I went back to the doctor and this time they did X rays, which revealed the pneumonia. I started antibiotics and inhalers but basically was confined to my bed for days and days.

I had 6 administrative hearings scheduled over the following 4 weeks. I had to call one of my supervisors and ask him to postpone the one that was coming up right away. I still did not understand how sick I was, and thought I might be able to do some of the others. As the days went by, it became clear I would be out of work for a while. It ended up being almost 4 weeks. Some of the hearings got rescheduled and some of them were done by other attorneys in my organization.

It took me a long time to get back up to full speed and back to my old self. I would say it took about 10 months, quite honestly. I returned to work part time in March 2013, and then full time in May, and did my work competently, but I did not feel whole until just a few months ago.

This year, I made sure I got a flu shot, for the first time in my life, and had planned to get a pneumonia shot too, but I couldn’t get that at the pharmacy along with the flu shot (I’m too young, they said! HA!). I put off making a doc appointment for the pneumonia shot, and then I got sick on January 7th of this year. Once again, I was fine on January 6th, made three appointments to interview clients for the 7th, but when I woke up on the 7th, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.

As you might imagine, I thought I was in the movie “Groundhog Day.” It was January and I was sick again. At first I was just tired and achy, but then it turned into a really bad cold and a cough. OMG – here it comes. Annual pneumonia!

But I felt silly about calling the doctor (why? A subject for another post!). I could not hear any bubbles in my lungs, and felt pretty confident it was just a bad cold. After a few days, though, I thought I should at least go to the doctor to get the pneumonia shot. When I got there, I was told I was too sick to get the shot! Apparently you have to be in perfect health before they will give you the vaccine, which makes sense now that I think about it, as a vaccine is a weakened form of the actual illness.

I went back to work – big mistake. The coughing got worse. I felt worse. I ended up staying home for another few days. It is excruciatingly difficult emotionally for me to be sick and miss work. I feel 1000 times worse than I would from just the illness, because I so hate being sick and I hate getting behind in my work. I was doing some work from home, in between coughs. The computer and work email did not mind if I coughed all over them.

I was sure it was going to escalate to a month-long illness, just like the previous year and that gave me an attack of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I don’t intend to compare it to people who are attacked or who witness death, but it was nonetheless a version of PTSD. I felt despair, anxiety and fear. Being out of control of my life and my body was at the same time unpleasant yet familiar. Last year I had to miss 2 music events I had been looking forward to and for which I had purchased tickets. I wasn’t able to see my grandson for weeks. I missed important hearings and other events at work, and a series of serious problems flowed from that. I had visions of the same thing happening this year.

I am happy to say I feel much better now, and the cold is going away. I will be getting that pneumonia shot soon, though, and will make sure I get it in the fall next time. We all like to think we are invincible, but when the body decides it wants to be in charge and decides to shut down to get some rest, we don’t have a lot of opportunity to make persuasive arguments for another course of action. “Control” over our lives is a myth.

At least I do not have to take care of small children, like the other CT Working Moms. I remember those days vividly. You can’t reschedule a kid’s demands like you can with a court hearing! Mothers, please make sure you get whatever vaccines your doctor recommends, and take vitamins. Even the most competent, accomplished mom can’t manage this kind of overwhelm.

7 comments on “PTSD”

  1. Hi Randi, I had pnuemonia 6 times. Then a doc said “that’s reactive airway” (asthma). Now I use inhalers at the first sign of a cold and… No pnuemonias! Also, I stopped coming down with bronchitis every year. Just FYI because this small change has improved my life and my health immeasurably.

  2. Hi Randi. Glad to hear you’re feeling better. Reading your story as a physician, I wonder if your doctor has thought about doing a basic immunodeficiency workup which involves sending some labs BEFORE you get the pneumonia shot (and usually labs after you get the shot to see if your immune system made a response).

  3. I’m so glad it wasn’t as bad this time around Randi. I remember when you got sick last year, you had been blogging here for only a little bit and somehow managed to still blog most weeks while being sick!

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