It began three weeks ago. I woke up in the morning with a slight pain on the upper left-hand side of my back. I thought I must have slept in a funky position and just sort of shook it off. I noticed, however, that it hurt quite a bit when I coughed. And still getting over the effects of the flu, I was coughing quite a lot. Over the next few days the pain progressed to the point of excruciating. (Is that an eight on the pain scale or less? More? I hate when they ask me to rate my pain.) The pain began to extend to my side and my left upper chest as well as my back. Coughing, laughing, breathing deeply and especially sneezing and hiccups became so painful that I would attempt to hold my left side with my left hand and contort into a bizarre position in order to lessen the stabbing pain following any of these things. I also couldn't lie flat on my back for even an instant. What would you have done?
Would you have waited a few more days to see if it gets any better? Well. That is what I tried and it didn't work. It began aching when I moved. My shoulder and arm and even my neck were in pain. I couldn't sleep. I complained incessantly (ask anyone). FINALLY I called to make an appointment with my doctor. She couldn't see me for two more days so I gave up and headed for the urgent care. The doctor listened to my detailed complaints and told me he thought it could be one of four things: a blood clot (unlikely), a cracked rib (this was my guess since it had happened to me once before when I had bronchitis), something about my lung and rib (what?), or a heart attack. Heart attack! Are you kidding? He didn't seem overly concerned about any of these and sent me off for a chest ex-ray. But he quickly came back into the room and asked me a question about medication. When I told him that I have Type 1 Diabetes and that I take insulin his whole demeanor changed. He suddenly started talking about an EKG and seemed to become more anxious. I was a little nervous but was certain that it hadn't been a heart attack. I'm 36, for crying out loud. I know I am at a greater risk, but I think I would know if I had a heart attack.
The chest x-ray came back clean and my EKG was fine and dandy. But my doctor just wouldn't let the heart attack thing go. He wanted to send me then and there--by ambulance--to UMC. I asked several more questions. I couldn't see how a pain that began so gradually could be a heart attack. He said that the pain in my arm was very disturbing--but that came last! He said it could have been a Silent Heart Attack and that I might not have recognized it. In the end I declined the "free" ride to the ER and instead told them that I would go home and discuss the situation with my husband and then go to the St. Rose emergency room closer to our house. I left the quick care having decided that I would just go home and let it alone.
But the reality was that I still didn't know what was wrong with me. I had no diagnosis and nothing had changed pain-wise. After talking to Eric I decided to go to the ER. I had also looked Silent Heart Attack up on the Internet and decided it was nothing to be sneezed at. My dad just happened to call at that moment and I explained the situation to him. My dad, the paramedic, diagnosed me with Pleurisy. He explained what it was and I thought that it sounded like one of the possibilities the quick care doctor had mentioned. I took the copy of the EKG and the chest x-ray and we left the girls with the little people. Even after having been warned by the receptionist that we were in for a long wait we were there less than two hours. The ER doctor, after having reviewed the EKG and the chest x-ray and determined that it wasn't a blood clot (99 % sure, anyway) he diagnosed me with--you guessed it--Pleurisy. (Smart dad!) You can read more about it if you are interested, but it is basically an inflammation of the pleural layer. The pleural layer is on top of the lung. And then there is a layer of fluid between the pleural layer and the ribs that prevents them from rubbing together. When the pleural layer becomes inflamed (pleurisy--brought on by, among other things, flu or recent infections), the pleural layer and the ribs rub together every time you breathe deeply, cough, sneeze, etc. I'm obviously not fluent in medical jargon (if you are in the know and can correct me, please do), but I think you get the idea. Mostly it translates to pain.
The game plan: ibuprofen three times per day, pain medication as needed, and take it easy. (Right! I do have four kids. And shame on you, Seana, for my relapse last Friday night when you made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants.) Oh. And patience. It does go away. Eventually. Fast forward two weeks and I am still in pain. I have to say, though, that yesterday was a fairly mild day but today I think I overdid it. Can I please just have my regular ailments back? (A bum pancreas, an under active thyroid, corneal ulcers, etc.) I don't know what it is about 2008 and all its sickness but I am sick of it.
Okay. I have finished with all the complaining. It's about time I look at the bright side. Like for instance...well, there is....um--just give me a minute. I'll think of something. I'm kidding. I have an amazing family and super-duper kids and the best husband. I hope you all have a great pleurisy-free day!