I remember the day I got sick. It was winter and I went to meet a friend at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. It was raining. Maybe I caught a chill. All I know is, the next day I started coughing and my lungs started to hurt. I assumed it was a cold or maybe flu. But a friend convinced me I really needed to get it checked out because my lungs hurt so badly.
Trip to the ER
My friend took me to the emergency room. When the doctor saw me, he stuck in a big syringe and suctioned out a whole bunch of liquid. That scared me. By that time, the pain felt like someone sticking a knife in my back.
I remember some nurses laid me on a gurney to take some tests. At this point, I was so uncomfortable because I had the pain in my back, and it was also hard to breathe lying down. They put a mask over my face, and I went into a kind of panic because it was so hard just to get my breath.
When they got the test results, a doctor came to explain to me that I had something called “empyema.” That’s a complication from bacterial pneumonia where pus from the infection builds up in the pleural space in the lungs. He assured me that he was going to help me but that I needed surgery right away to remove the bacteria from my lung. One scary thing was that it was near my heart, and they wouldn’t know until they went inside if there was any damage to my heart. It was a lot to take in.
So I had to stay in the hospital to have the operation, which required both a thoracic surgeon and a cardiac specialist. Afterwards, it took some time to recover. I had respiratory therapy there in the hospital to work on regaining the strength in my lungs. I remember blowing into a tube a lot.
Many of my friends came to visit me and help cheer me up, especially after my surgery. They never told me until I got out of the hospital that they thought I was gonna die. I was already thin, and after surgery I lost my appetite, so I lost a good 10 pounds. Even my dad thought I might die. I was really sick and it happened so quickly. I just never realized how sick I could get.
My doctor told me I was lucky. Since I was younger, I was able to heal fairly quickly. But it still took me a month in the hospital and 2-3 months of recovery after I got back home. According to my doctor, if I’d been 15 years older, I might have been in the hospital for 3-6 months instead of the one month I was there.
Mark’s message about pneumonia vaccination
Now I’ve had my pneumonia vaccine. Back then, I really didn’t know anything about it. Plus being a smoker was not such a great thing. I’ve seen what could happen to me when I was young and healthy. Anyone who’s older could possibly face months in the hospital if they got a complication like mine, or worst case scenario, not make it. If getting a shot can help you avoid that, I’m all for it.
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