DURING THE past year, about the time that COVID-19 changed our world, I noticed that I was developing shortness of breath. Over the years I’ve walked all over downtown and played full-court basketball in local gyms for decades. I never had any problem breathing. I prided myself on being in fairly good shape — at least having a healthy set of lungs.
THEN IT started — bit by bit. It almost coincided with the day we closed the newspaper office to the public because of the COVID-19 Pandemic a year ago on March 18. I don’t know if wearing a mask accelerated the process, but I couldn’t help but notice my breathing wasn’t the way it had always been. I was getting winded while walking a few blocks to the post office to pick up the day’s mail which I’ve always done as part of exercising. Then, one day, I carried a small package back from the post office and by the time I reached the back door of the office building I had to lean against the door — totally out of breath!
I WASN’T willing to give in to the reality that I was getting older and my breathing wasn’t what it once was. Then, I couldn’t even walk the short distance from my parking space to my office without gasping for breath! It became almost impossible for me to walk any distance — even down a hallway — and at home, my breathing got so bad that I couldn’t lie down and sleep in bed because of being winded. Lying on my back only made the situation worse. After sleeping in a recliner chair for several nights, I realized that what I had was not getting better — only worse.
I CONTACTED my doctor and x-rays indicated that I had pneumonia and an antibody prescribed didn’t seem to make the situation better, Last Friday morning, my doctor ordered an echocardiogram and more lab work and within a few hours, my doctor’s office called and told me to go to the emergency room immediately, as what they saw in the results was an alarming rise in potassium and another negative factor. After arriving at the emergency entrance at Decatur Memorial Hospital, I was given numerous tests and was hooked up to a lot of equipment to monitor a lot that was going on, or not going on, in my body. I was kept in the Intermediate Care Unit so they could keep a close eye on the changes that were happening.
I SPENT Friday through Saturday morning in ICU and then in a private room until released Monday as the medical personnel and specialists determined what was causing an inability to breathe and swelling in my legs and ankles. It was finally determined that I was not suffering from pneumonia but Congestive Heart Failure — my heart was not functioning efficiently enough to keep fluids from building up in my lungs, legs and feet. Had I continued to think it would go away without any treatment, when it was only getting worse, I probably would have suffered a heart attack or a stroke!
I WILL be meeting with my personal physician, heart and kidney doctors (I’m also a diabetic) in the days ahead to make sure that I take better care of my body through what I eat and what I do on a daily basis. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I need to do to live healthy in the past week and I intend to apply those lessons because I’d like to stick around, enjoy my family and friends and keep publishing this newspaper.
I’M NOT writing this column today to draw special attention to my health issues and what I’m doing to live healthier. I’m writing to make all of you aware, who may not be aware, that shortness of breath and other symptoms I’ve described, should not be ignored. The end result of such denial could be, and often is, a tragic one and it doesn’t have to be that way. Thank God, that didn’t happen to me.
WHEN I went to bed the evening after being discharged from the hospital, I slept like I had been reborn — and in a physical sense I had been reborn with needed knowledge about living healthy and eating the right food. Of course, my beloved Diet Dr. Pepper is going to be a casualty of a new lifestyle and I’ll probably have to push a low sodium V8 juice to end my column on the back page each week. Although low-sodium V8 doesn’t have the “action sound” of simply V8, it will still turn on the press!