Uh-oh; Capacity

This occasional non-blog blog might be taking a detour for a while. Until September 6, I had never been ill in my life except for colds, flu, one bout of pneumonia, and the common complaints of the overweight: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and gastric reflux. I hadn’t done an overnighter in the hospital since the one that began with my birth. Not bad for my number of years and better than my family medical history would cause one to anticipate.

Since then I’ve had a belly illness that involved lots of pain, three weeks of near-starvation and the weakness to be expected from that, 45 minutes in an MRI machine, during which I thought “Send me straight to hell, because this is worse,” 2½ hours of surgery, the onset of diabetes, and now slow recovery.

The gurney-pusher down to the O.R. had a Russian name. I asked, and, yes, he is from Russia. So I talked with him about some of the subtitled Russian movies I’ve been watching on Youtube and why I like them. He said he’d recommend some, but he couldn’t think what to call them in English. After a few minutes in the “post-anesthesia care unit” (what we used to call the “recovery room”), during which a nurse was tending to me and there was lots of noise and movement all around, I said to the nurse, “Stop. Before we go any further here, there’s something I need to know. Is this the dream or is this the reality?” It was a serious question, and she answered it seriously.

I have what sounds like a sermon illustration, but I don’t need it because I’m not a preacher except in these pages, so you can have it if you can figure out what it might illustrate. Early on in this illness, the doctors and nurses were concerned that some of the large amounts of fluid they were pumping into me might get into my lungs or heart and mess things up there. During testing, they found that both lungs and heart are actually pretty healthy for a guy of my age, girth, and family medical history. Still, I was gasping for breath much of the time, but that was because of bad breathing habits. That is, I wasn’t using much of my lungs, and so my normal capacity wasn’t up to potential. A respiratory therapist came two or three times a day to give me “breathing treatments,” which many people dislike, but I rather enjoyed. After one of those, it felt like my lung capacity had gone

from Sketch (91)a to Sketch (91)b.


And they gave me an Airlife incentive spirometer, which is good for training in good breathing habits. It has a similar effect: one can feel the capacity expanding to new bits of lung that have been unused. It hurts. It hurts good.