This last exacerbation really did a number on me. Who would’ve thought that a simple cold virus could reek so much havoc on a person’s body.
I guess being older and and having crappy lungs to begin with, really does put you at greater risk for complications from RSV. After everything I’ve been through with this virus I could certainly be the poster child for that message.
It’s been over 9 weeks since this all began and Im still not back to my crappy normal. While my peak flows are improving, I’m still experiencing a lot of breathlessness which tells me that my lungs are probably trapping more air than usual. Air trapping in asthmatics is usually caused by tiny mucus plugs in the smaller airways brought on by inflammation. They get dried out and wedged inside the airway. When that happens the air on the other side on the plug can trapped in the airway.. hence the term “air trapping”. Ive written extensively about air trapping, but the take away here is that it can be made worse during and after a lung infection or asthma exacerbation.
To confirm my suspicions, the results from yesterday’s pulmonary function tests I had done yesterday show an RV (residual volume ) of 162% and an FRC of 126% of normal. Both of those numbers are super high and basically indicate that a large portion of the air inside my lungs doesn’t come out when I exhale. It stays trapped inside the airways. The irony of having trapped or too much air in your lungs is that it can actually make you feel more short of breath. On the bright side, my diffusion capacity (DLCO) is totally normal, so no destruction of the alveoli is seen in classic COPD or Emphysema. In other words, I have no problems getting oxygen in, getting CO2 out, unless Im experiencing a really bad attack. Somewhat encouraging is that my FEV1 was up to 34% compared to 26% last year, and went as high as 40% of predicted after maximal bronchodilation with Albuterol.
Ive also been very fatigued, have a continually runny nose and some mild, but noticeable chest congestion when I cough. Im guessing all of these are probably the residual effects of the virus. Of course being on a ventilator isn’t good for your lungs either, so that could be contributing to this painfully slow recovery as well. Who knows.
Rather than put my body through another of course of steroids, in dealing with the chest congestion and the possible increased mucus plugging, I started myself on a new course of Doxycycline and added some oscillatory PEP therapy to my Nebulizer treatments by way of an Aerobika. Im hoping that the anti-inflammatory effects of the antibiotic plus vibration from the flutter valve, will help break loose any trapped mucus that might be blocking my smaller airways.
While its too late for me, the good news is that there is now a brand new RSV vaccine available for those in high risk groups. It came on the market literally 4 weeks after I got sick ( just my luck). I strong encourage people with chronic lung and heart disease to consider getting the vaccine. Trust me, you don’t want to go through what I went through and am still going through. Because I’m just getting over that infection, I have to wait a few months to get the vaccine, but for others I strong encourage you to get it as soon as you can. Fortunately, RSV season is pretty much over until next fall, but you can still catch it.
Enough belly aching. My goal, once I get find the full recovery exit, is to spend the rest of summer months getting into better physical shape, particularly in the area of strength training. I want to get this body prepared for the next bucket list adventure/challenge in the Fall. More about that later, but I can tell you now it will be my most ambitious challenge yet.