Pulmonary Tales: Apprehensions On Ice


Claude Giroux on the bench after collision Saturday night.

I saw Claude Giroux get his concussion.

It happened so quickly, and as so many of these happen, so unavoidably accidental. Giroux was down to try to clear the puck into the zone as Wayne Simmonds came up and tried to leap frog past the surprise obstacle on the ice. As he went over, his knee hit Giroux’s head. Giroux left the ice for the bench, then disappeared down the tunnel for the rest of game.

The following days saw descriptions of Giroux’s injury as now feeling OK, until word recently came that he was out indefinitely and being watched for a concussion. Concussions have become a major problem in sports as these injuries can have long and debilitating effects, and seem to happening with more frequency. Are they happening more or did we just ignore them more back in the age of the warrior who plays through an injury?

But this column is not about sports per se. I bring up the Philadelphia Flyers game because it was something that I had not done in a while.

I went to a Flyers game. I’ve wanted to for a long time but since I’ve developed my Interstitial Lung Disease and the subsequent need to carry an oxygen tank, I’ve avoided a lot of public arenas and activities. Call it vanity, call it fear, call it anxiety, call it stupidity. I just didn’t want to deal with the idea that all eyes would be on me because of that “companion”. Forget that others also head out using aides and items to help them enjoy life. I just saw myself as not myself anymore.

Going to this game was the result of an old Villanova friend of mine, Mark, inviting me to come along. I said yes and then started to reverse engineer the reasons I should go versus the reasons I shouldn’t. So, for only the third time in the two years that I have had this disease, I went out with tens of thousands of other people. First was an Elton John concert, then a Phillies game (which I blogged about here), and now, the 2011-12 edition of the Broad Street Bullies, the Philadelphia. My first game was in 1967, BTW.

This game was also the start of a weekend spent trying to get over the nervousness of my upcoming pulmonary function testing and six minute walk, plus a visit with my lung specialist at the Penn Lung Center, Dr. Maryl Kreider. The nervousness was because this would tell me how well I am doing in keeping this progressive disease at as much of an arm’s length as I could.

As mentioned previously, this cannot get better, it can only be slowed down and governed as to the future progression. The goal is not recovery, but stability. Had all that I’ve been doing made this damn thing calm down any?

So, I went to the Flyers game, in part to forget the appointments and tests in two days, and in part to start to slay the fear dragons that seem to govern my activities. I needed to move mentally past the thought that the oxygen tank was as obvious as forgetting my pants (again).

So, I went and I glanced at those who glanced at me. I had a couple of kids stare and avoided staring back, though I wanted to. A few looked briefly but no one pointed and gawked. Basically, I carried something I needed and while it drew attention, I could still blend in and be myself. It became so natural that at the end of the first period, I took a walk around the arena on my own, nodding to people who looked, talking with a couple, and enjoying the atmosphere.

Much like hockey concussions, the answer here was to simply deal with the problem, not delay or deny it. By just going out and living for a few hours with a few thousand like minded fools, I got to laugh and yell and cheer and watch and criticize and celebrate a great team and a great atmosphere.

Pride and vanity get coal in their stockings this year.

On Sunday, my niece took me to the MOVIE TAVERN in Collegeville PA as a birthday treat. The trick of this theater is that they serve you pub style food at your seat during the show. As a novelty, it is a cool idea and the food was fine, not great, but good. We saw THE MUPPETS, which I liked a lot but was essentially an extended version of THE MUPPET SHOW. No real moral here, just enjoyment and escape from the thought of Monday. Well, one small moral. While there is fear that serving food in a movie theater is an odd thing, just like walking with an oxygen tank, if you don’t try it, you never know.

Then came Monday.

I did my pulmonary function tests. There are basically a series of tests that measure lung capacity, gas exchange, and other breathing related items. Much of this is done inside a small claustrophobic capsule where you breathe into an apparatus that both measures and offers resistance levels to gauge your abilities. This lasts between 20 minutes and a half hour. Mine took a little longer because I tend to pause between inhaling and exhaling, and the fancy computers need to be more precise, so I got to repeat a couple of tests.

Then came the six minute walk, which is pretty much exactly what it says. You walk at your own pace for six minutes with monitored, giving effort and breathing levels every minute. Thanks to the techniques and the activities at my pulmonary rehab class, I did the best I ever have with this test.

Finally, I met with Dr. Kreider. She was happy because the tests showed that I was either steady or very slightly improved from last visit, which is as good as it gets. However, to use her word, it left us with a quandary. I have been on Prednisone, a steroid, for 18 months, and that is not so good. The steroids are great in the beginning but potentially harmful with extended use.

The goal now becomes weaning me off of the steroids in the next 3 months. The downside is I will cough a bit more, the upside is that I won’t have to worry about steroid side effects any longer. All my other meds, including the Cell Cept remain the same.

What is different now is that, with a good report here and the slaying of the dragons over the weekend, I’ve moved a step back towards not letting the mental picture I carry of myself rule how I actually carry myself. The oxygen tank will be here for as long as I still live and it will be me, period.

The sooner I accept that, the sooner I start to accept myself again.

And Go, Flyers!

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One comment on “Pulmonary Tales: Apprehensions On Ice

  1. Pingback: PULMONARY: The Heat Was/Is On | A View From Under The Desk 2.0

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