So around 3 a.m. today one white-haired Emergency Department (ED) doctor, Dr. Seely, placidly pronounces the words "a touch of pneumonia" as the raison d'etre for my being admitted to Crouse Hospital, and minutes later the similarly white-coiffed, Brooklyn-born Dr. Kaplan sounds a shade more doubtful, using words like "infiltrate," as a noun, to describe stuff in my lungs, stuff which induced gagging, air-inhibiting, breath-obstructing coughing, which were the reasons for the trip to the ED way back at 10:15 p.m. Friday. Breathing is such a simple and effortless and shall we say natural thing -- when it works. Struggle with it for just a few moments and its currency rises faster than the price of gold during financial tumult (cf. my choking incident earlier this year). Not being able to breathe because of coughing, stamping one's feet, chasing, chasing for the unfound way to stop the spasm of repetitive coughing evokes fear and panic for the participant and those around him. To the point when it was my young daughter, crying, who insisted on some real action here, folks, c'mon! Insisted. Rightly so.
Hearing the doctor's (or doctors' if you figure in the broader analysis of both snow-cropped docs) diagnosis was actually a relief. (Why a "touch" of pneumonia and not a splash or dash or stain or Everglades swamp, huh?) Even more so, being ordered to stay in the hospital provided more relief, despite the fears of structural and procedural errors and the abundance of even newer germs to be found in the place. Relief because there are worse things than hearing "pneumonia" as your problem. I shall not list those. Granted, the Big P is serious stuff, and in yesteryear, before antibiotics (the triumph of science, Ethan!) were common, pneumonia claimed many, especially the young and the old. So, I respect it and do not belittle its power. Just ask Jim Henson. But, the diagnosis could be worse, far worse. Call it the Lung Is Half-Full Theory. HAHAHAHAHA! I experienced relief also because quite honestly I was loath [corrected, thanks to Mark Murphy, from the earlier wrong word, the verb "loathe"] to return home, frankly afraid to face the specter of another violent coughing jag. Wife and young daughter and I were not going to settle for some fake palliative. So this is the right place to be.
I must report I was a little cheesed off (thank you, Beatles -- John? Paul? -- on VH1 airing of Beatles Anthology for that expression reminder) by the triage nurse in ED who had earlier remarked glibly, "You're not going to die" as I was gasping for air in front of her unable to answer her administrative questions, sounding like a drowning sailor in Leonard Cohen's plaintive ballad "Suzanne." On the one hand, I can accept that her words were meant to pacify my panic, but it came off as dismissive. Excuse me, Ms. ED RN. You are not the Big Cosmic Cheese and do not have permission to make such breezy declarations about the breezy wheeze trapped inside my chest. Melodrama may not be called for on my part, but I do happen to have a pretty good sense about my body. Shucks, Ms. ED RN, be not so cavalier as I gasp in front of you like the common New Yorker magazine cartoon of the guy crawling in the desert looking for water but who sees a mirage. In this case, I was crawling for air and it was not a mirage. So there.
That was then. This is now. Respiratory therapy treatments have helped, as well as IV antibiotics (more to come at 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., ugh), as well as the care of nurses Allison, Cori, Amy, Carolyn, Allison, Amal, Maryann, Priscilla, Pauline, and Oksana (hope no one has been omitted), and Dr. Masood, as well as the calls by caring friends and family, and the heart-warming visits by Beth, Adrianna, Ethan, Jenny, Evelyn in absentia, Warren, Win, and Timmy [sorry I missed you] (hope no one has been omitted).
I expect to go home Monday.
This from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
1603, from Mod.L., from Gk. pneumonia "inflammation of the lungs," from pneumon (gen. pneumonos) "lung," altered from pleumon "lung," lit. "floater," from PIE *pleu- "to flow, to swim" (see pulmonary). Alteration in Gk. perhaps by influence of pnein "to breathe."