lunch water, breathing easy

Mary and her glass chamber.

Biking with Ungerer.

My favorite pulmonologist: Dr. Ungerer.

I saw Dr. Ungerer earlier in the day. He’s still rad. After putting me through his typical battery of breathing exams, we discussed some lingering affects I may experience from last year’s lung trauma. Of specific concern was prolonged muscle weakness, as Ungerer mentioned a recent study has detailed strength impediment in young patients who have spent a week or more in intensive care, and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) symptoms such as asthma. Muscle weakness has not been an issue for me for several months at least (I assume patients with debilitating strength concerns are not climbing as much as I’m climbing) but lung utilization might not be what it should. Ungerer explained to me the process by which a lung is "hardened" in response to severe pneumonia, how alveoli may not function optimally in such a presentation. We determined medication in my case may be beneficial but certainly not necessary, perhaps for use prior to exercise, in my case swimming, to counter-effect exercise-induced asthma. So he gave me an inhaler that I used later that day before my swim routine. It worked. I can’t say I was skipping across the water but lung capability was undeniably improved and so were my times. There is a concern I have regarding long-term use of any drug. However, my use of an inhaler is not guaranteed for long-term, as a completely healthy lung would not benefit from this medication, nor is its affect today really that dramatic. To quantify its affect, I will say it improves my swimming performance between 10 and 15% – noticeable but not mind-blowing. A competitive swimmer bumping against the inside of his potential performance envelope would surely be grateful for an improvement of that scale but I can do fine without it. So I don’t know – I might use it again. I might even use it regularly for a while. Regardless, the inhaler does not provide me an enormous ergogenic benefit.

I was so pumped up about the prognosis Ungerer gave me that I went climbing at Vertical Heaven after getting out of the pool. The climbing session also was rad and left me totally knackered for the day. Between Ungerer’s stationary bike exam, swimming, then climbing, I was tapped out – good Wednesday.

party at Cottage

I just got my bill from Cottage Hospital. Pneumonia isn’t cheap. Well, it isn’t cheap if your jackass physician tells you it’s the flu so you sit at home while the infection bones your lungs hard. If you do that before you go to the hospital it costs about $450,000. This bill from Cottage Hospital alone is for $423,704.03. No worries – my share is $286.22. Thanks, Blue Cross of California. But that’s not the rad part. So, I’m reading through the lines on this bill and I stop at the item marked ‘PHARMACY’. The number next to it is $227,735.48. That is truly a lot of drugs.

Impressive, no?

thanks, everyone

I need to thank everyone who participated in my care at Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital, visited me, called or had me in their thoughts while I was not doing so well. This is a whole bunch of people. Without the dedication of the doctors in charge of my treatment, the personal interest every nurse and therapist took in my recovery and the support of friends and family, things would not have turned out so well for me.

Here’s what I look like when I’m totally screwed (and, yes, that’s a Teddy bear under my arm):

This photo was taken early in my hospital visit, during the induced coma. My neck is swollen because fluid has moved all around under my skin. I forget why.

Here, I’m still on the ventilator. I forget this nurse’s name because I was high as hell on morphine, which I feel terrible for because she had an especially huge impact. She was there for much of my time in the Critical Care Unit and, though her name was lost in my delirium, her passionate dedication to my recovery is clear.
More photos of me with the hospital staff – they’re all rad. This isn’t everyone. Way more people helped me but here’s who my mom got pictures of:

Me with my dad and Maiya (I’m the one who looks dead).

Here’s me trying to walk after waking up from the coma. I remember it didn’t go so well. Notice the walker and the therapist holding me up.

Having Maiya here was critical. I remember being asleep and fighting to get back to see her.

Here’s me with my mom:

Here’s all the photos from my hospital trip:

getting in shape for climbing: what not to do

Don’t get pneumonia. I did. And it sucked. It sucked so bad I had to go to the hospital. For 17 days. Meanwhile, I lost 25 lbs. That’s 25 lbs on top of the 25 I lost before I went to the hospital. That makes me 156 lbs with 6% body fat. I don’t look healthy and I’m not climbing well. Now that I think about it, I’m not breathing well. Lungs are something I probably took for granted before. Not anymore. My lungs remind me of their significance all the time now. It’s been 23 days since my vacation at Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital and my lung capacity is about 50% what it normally would be. On a positive note, I’m still alive. Clearly, things could be worse. They couldn’t be worse for my climbing though. Maybe that’s not true. Last weekend was my first day back climbing. Don’t tell my pulmonologist. On Friday I bouldered at Lizard’s Mouth then toproped at Gibralter Saturday. My ticklist for the week: V1, V3, 5.4 (toprope), 5.5 (toprope) and 5.8 (toprope). Yesterday I did some hangs on the campus board at the shed. Pretty impressive, I know. Whatever. Rehabilitation is something I can do. I’ve done it before. At 29 years old I know I still have the capacity to fully recover. And the pulmonologist’s prognosis is great. It’s certainly better than the outlook from my first days in critical care. At that time the consensus was that I would not live – which means no climbing. Perhaps I shouldn’t complain too much. Long story short, I will again crank. Maybe not today. Maybe not this weekend. Maybe not even next Wednesday. But I will be back. Oh, yes. I will be back and you better watch your ass, Hard Boiled. For now though, I will be playing Call of Duty 4.