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When I Contracted ARDS

I’ve probably never discussed this subject, but Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome is a deadly disease with a 40% survival rate. I rarely get sick, but whenever I do get sick, I do it in a BIG way.

My youngest son is a world traveler (At least he was until he got married and ended up with a son…). His first trip was to Asia: China, Japan… the works. He didn’t come home sick at all from that adventure, but his second trip… tramping all over Europe, camping on the beach and eating somewhat dicey food… left him a veritable mess when he returned home. I took him to our doctor, who said that his immune system was shot; and although he didn’t have HIV, he body could fight infection very well anymore.

He stayed with us for about two years, and then decided to attend the University of Hawaii (Good pick, no?) He majored in Spanish, which as we all know is spoken everywhere there… NOT!... But he got himself a good teaching position, and taught Spanish in a private school for a couple of years.

Then get was laid off because of budget cuts, so he decided to use some of his inheritance and some money that he had saved to tramp all over South and Central America…. And, naturally, he came home a total wreck.

I was fine and didn’t catch whatever he had until one day, working at a part-time job, he came home with some sort of cold or flu. He spent a few weeks in bed, but whatever he had was so powerful that I eventually contracted it, too.

Never being one to pay attention to sniffles and coughs, I just wrote it off as a common cold… but my situation kept getting worse and worse. I NEVER sleep during the day, but I started doing it on a regular basis, and started becoming weaker. My husband, who was out of town on an assignment, could hear it in my voice, and one day he just started shrieking at me to go see a doctor.

The last thing that I remember is walking down the stairs to go to the car and the rest is a total blank. My son took me to the doctor, who immediately called an ambulance to take me to the hospital, where I was on life support for 10 days and in a coma for 12 days.

I had contracted ARDS, and if I had been so much as overweight I would’ve died. My husband flew out to see me, and one male nurse told him that the hospital where I was didn’t have the capability of caring for me properly, and that if I didn’t improve in a day that I should be transferred to another hospital with a respiratory emergency unit because I was otherwise going to die. Fortunately, I started responding to the new drugs that the hospital had ordered, which killed both bacterial and fungal infections, and my vitals started to improve to the point that after 12 days I woke up and was actually talking to my husband…which I don’t remember at all. After a 3-week stay (and after I had been put in a regular care ward) the hospital staff put a woman with Alzheimer’s disease in the bed next to me and I was going insane from her constant calling for nurses (by yelling for them)

I was so fed up with being in the hospital that I told my doctor that I was checking out (even though I probably wasn’t ready). He was at first not willing to let me go, but he finally caved in to my constant demands of leaving just to get rid of my pain in his @ss. Just walking down the hall to the car was agony because I was so weak. I stayed in bed for a week and my son, who had come to visit me every day (probably out of guilt) fed me a gave me a portable DVD player so that I could watch movies while I was still really weak. I‘ve never felt like that before or since, and I hope that it’s a long time before some old-ager’s disease hits me.

ANYWAY… One-third of my lung tissue is scarred and useless permanently, and it’s taken me year to develop new neural pathways in my brain so that I can have normal brain function (Well, it‘s back to the way it was … but that was never normal.) It’s been one h3ll of a trip getting back into physical and mental shape, but I can function well in every way but my speech… My tongue won’t work normally and it’s a b!tch because I’m trying to relearn French and hold reasonable discussions with people. Fortunately, that’s beginning to work out as well.

The human body is an amazing thing… I’m, of course impressed by the way that it can repair itself. But here’s a word of advice… If you ever find yourself in a position where you’re coughing up phlegm on a constant basis and feeling weak, GO TO THE DOCTOR or the nearest hospital. Don’t risk your life, as I stupidly did. - Fish
fishsweeper fishsweeper 51-55, F 5 Responses Jan 5, 2013

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PS Parallel to your experience of not going to the doctor. For about six weeks I had an intermittent and unproductive cough. On seeing GP found I had infection in lung and put on anti-biotic. Chest X Ray was clear but ECG revealed atrial fibrillation but this was not of urgent concern - suggestion I took Aspirin as precaution against heart attack, The ambulance situation arose three days after the ECG and could be associated with:-
failure of GP to have regard to the fact that an unproductive cough can be associated with heart problems and certainly oedema linked to atrial fibrillation is a warning of impending heart failure.
Maybe if I had consulted my GP earlier the infection might have been dealt with before doing the damage it did.

I don't know about you, but I have to be on death's doorstep before I'll allow myself to be dragged to the doctor. I'm so happy that you caught your problem in time!

Yes we must stop this "death doorstep" concept to seeing a doctor. In both our cases it was almost too late. Support fully the advice you gave in the last paragraph of your story.

Just been part of your journey in an ambulance on oxygen. Emergency admission to hospital as a result of oedema resulting in breathing difficulties and dangerous blood pressure and pulse rate to cope.
Fortunately OK now but must keep taking the pills!
For those who have not had the experience it is quite frightening not being able to breathe in sufficient air.

It never ceases to amaze me the variety of incredible life experiences that you have endured. I suspect that it is either your feline-like supply of nine lives or maybe just your dogged determination that has kept you alive all these years. A lesser woman would have capitulated long ago. I'm surprised that you live at altitude now, given your reduced lung capacity. But I assume proximity to your husband's employment may have something to do with that. Regardless, don't leave us Ms. Fish. Our world would be a lesser place without you.

Thank you for your lovely words of praise. Yes, I'm here because of my husband's work, but despite getting snowed it, enduring temperatures WAY below freezing and dealing with cabin fever once in a while, I'm doing very well. I don't intend to leave EP, but I do spend some days studying French and don't get on this site.

You're a good friend, and I hope that you're happy and doing well. - Fish

I DID eventually get better, but I still am in a lot more weakened condition. You're right about doing all of the right things and then having something like ARDS happen to you. Hopefully, it'll be a long, long time before I get sick again. (It's usually just confined to the sniffles.)

I certainly hope that this message finds you happy and in good health! - Fish

It is unfortunate that you can do all the right things and then contract some kind of virus or contagious disease that changes your life.

I hope you get better and things work out for you.