I’ve had a busy summer and haven’t been doing a good job with this blog. Having some free time this morning I decided to finish up a post about the San Francisco Half Marathon which was July 31. Then I noted that my last post was about a scare that I had while swimming on July 5th.
It was then that I developed a problem breathing while out swimming in the cold waters of Ventura Harbor without a wetsuit. After subsequently buy a wetsuit I’ve had great swims all summer and swam a nice 1.2 miles on August 18th.
Before going out for a swim with a small group last Thursday someone asked, “how far?” I quickly responded, “1 mile!”
In my swimming I’ve developed a nice even every three stroke breathing pattern. This is what I did on Thursday. But about 10 minutes into the swim I had to switch to breathing every stroke. This was the first warning sign…one that I dismissed because I thought that maybe I had just gone out too fast.
Once that first lap was completed, I experienced the occasional cough while I was waiting for the other swimmers to complete their first lap. This was the second warning sign…one that I stupidly chose to ignore.
Just a little way into the next lap it was clear that I couldn’t swim, but I still was ignoring the truth. Once I made it to the turn around point I could no longer ignore that my lungs were just not working and I decided to swim to shore. A big mistake at this point was not letting anyone know the extent of my distress because as I swam to shore I found it more and more difficult to breathe.
At one point I was some paddle boarders and I contemplated calling for them to come and rescue me but I didn’t because that would have taken too much precious air. The only good thing is that I am a good swimmer and so I didn’t panic (much!) and finally turned on to my back and kicked my way to shore. Once on the beach I hit the sand and commenced coughing profusely. This was awful. A kind beachgoer gave me a bottle of water to drink.
While waiting for the others to finish (another swimmer had my car keys) I worked my way up to the parking lot, rinsed off my wetsuit and decided to go to urgent care.
Here’s another dumb thing…if you can’t breathe you probably shouldn’t be driving…thankfully I made it to the urgent care without hurting me or anyone else.
The office is on the second floor…I walked up the stairs and you would think that I’d just run a really fast 400 for how out of breath I was. Yikes! Once I made it in to the exam room, the nurse took my vitals and my blood pressure was an alarming (for me) 140/70. The doctor listened to me breathe and decided on a breathing treatment as well as a blood test to check for blood clots.
After the 20 minute breathing treatment (which was interrupted by my having to pee really bad…that bottle of water seemed to have gone right through me) I was still coughing a bit and my chest hurt. The doctor listened to me breath again and decided a chest x-ray was in order. So back downstairs for an x-ray. The walk back up the stairs was easier than the first time so that was a good sign (and yes they have an elevator but I’m a bit stubborn).
Back in the exam room I had to wait for a while and I was finally breathing well enough to relax. When the doctor came back in she said that I look better, I replied that I felt better…finally! Then she hit me with a big surprise, “you have pneumonia.”
That was a surprise! I asked, “How can I have pneumonia when I easily ran 20 miles on Monday?” To which she replied, “you ran 20 miles? All at once?”
Once they were assured that I don’t live alone (I guess in case I got worse), I was set up with some medicine and an appointment to return the next day for follow-up. That night I slept horribly and my husband reminded me the next morning of how the same breathing treatment (many years ago) amped up our (then) infant son for hours…so of course I didn’t sleep well.
On Friday I was breathing fine, but had a horrible headache. When I returned to the doctor’s office the nurse asked about the purpose of my visit and I replied, “apparently I have pneumonia.” To which she replied, “x-rays don’t lie.”
When I saw the doctor and told her that I have a marathon in 2 weeks she crossed her fingers and looked a bit dubious. Then she listened to me breathe and was surprised because my lungs were totally clear… and all my vital signs were good…heart rate of 48, oxygenation of 100%, and blood pressure was still a little high at 130/70 but she was fine with that.
Her advice was to take a couple days off training, run the marathon if I feel ok, and come back in a month for a follow-up x-ray. I asked if this was maybe exercised induced asthma but she said “no” because there is something on my lung x-ray. I asked about the other, more minor episode on July 5th and she said that we just don’t know…but that I am very fit… and finally concluded with, “sometimes shit happens.” I really like this doctor!
If you’ve managed to read this far on the very long post, I’ve had a major league headache for three days and so I decided yesterday morning to drop out of the race. However, my coach wisely suggested that I wait a few more days to decide.
Today, Monday (day 4) I finally woke up headache free…except for the lingering soreness that is the result of the headache!
It’s very possible that I’ve been fighting this infection all summer! Which means that I’m pretty bad-ass in the fitness department! Seriously though, this was a very scary thing to go through.
The moral of the story: stay fit and above all listen to your body because it really does try to tell you very important things.