I view each stay in the hospital as an erosion of my overall health. The capacity and ability of my lungs seem to diminish with each exacerbation. You go into the hospital (even if you are suffering from pneumonia) at one level of wellness, and during the curing or fixing of the illness, you generally leave the hospital without the actual illness, but with a significantly diminished capacity. One would think and want to believe that the curing process, at least cures you, and would at a minimum keep you at your current level. And this might well be the case with many a disease or illness, but with COPD and other terminal diseases this isn’t the case.
Without question, I believe that I can define each moment of my decline by my hospital stays. Over the past 3 years I have been in the hospital 5 times with pneumonia. The 1st couple visits took 5 days of relatively intense care, followed by at least 10 days of outpatient care before I was back to me. But I wasn’t really back, I had lost a step. I had lost ground to the COPD. I really only noticed subtle changes the 1st few days out of the hospital. But after a week I was back to me, the reality of these changes was that my body and my mind had made the adjustment to the new normal, which was not as good or as strong as the normal prior to the hospitalization. The next couple of trips to the hospital for pneumonia took at least 6 days of inpatient care. The drug treatments much more aggressive, the post hospitalization was expanded 10 to 20 days of outpatient therapy. But within a week or so of the completion of the post hospitalization treatment, I was again back to normal. But the normal was lower than it was prior to the hospitalization. You can see the trend, hell after the 3rd trip to the hospital I could see trend, and I believe my wife saw it even before me. My current last trip to the hospital for pneumonia lasted 8 full days, and I could have stayed a couple more in my opinion. And I qualify it as last current because I know at some point I will be back in the hospital again for pneumonia. And with any future trip to the hospital I know my health will diminish even further.
Some readers may think 5 trips to the hospital for the same illness is a lot, and granted it is. But some of the folks that I communicate with on a regular basis on the Daily Strength discussion group have been in the hospital for pneumonia and other related pulmonary issues as much as 1 a month for the past year. Imagine the courage of these folks as they make their way down the COPD staircase.
With COPD you are never as good as you were yesterday. This is not a defeatist attitude. This is not about giving up. It is about a pure hard fact. COPD is a downward staircase, there is no upside to it, and COPD is soon expected (by 2020) to be the 3rd ranking killer of people IN THE WORLD after heart disease and cancer. And so few people know about it.