I went for a mile walk today. Actually, it was more like one and one half miles. Since I hate to walk, that was a long way for me, but it was a beautiful day (finally) and it felt good to get outside.
Around October, we had the notorious Texas wildfires. We were fortunate to be spared the worst of the wildfires, but for a few weeks the smoke was so bad that it really affected my lungs every time I went outside the door. I blame that for what happened after.
The smoke probably started an allergy: I was coughing and my eyes were hurting. I was relieved when we took a vacation and got away from the smoke. In October, we left for a long-awaited trip to Peru and the Andes: in particular to Machu Picchu, which had been on my list for years.
Machu Picchu was even more spectacular than I had imagined, and you would think that breathing that clear mountain air would have cleared my lungs. Not so. With the increased altitude and my already compromised lungs, I found it hard to breathe – not so hard that I didn’t enjoy the trip, but hard enough that I didn’t want to do any running.
Machu Picchu is at 7,970 feet, or so they tell me. Not that high, really, unless you’ve been used to living at sea level for a few decades. Cusco, though, is at 11,200 feet, so I was really feeling the altitude there.
Then we went to Puno, at 12,421 feet. It must have been that last one foot that got to me there – one wonders how they measure it that close, especially as it’s a very hilly town.
By now, my lungs were really complaining, but it got worse when our hotel room filled with smoke from a wood burning stove in the lobby below. That night, and the next, I found it hard to sleep for more than an hour or so without waking up coughing. Appeals to the hotel management had no effect.
Back in Texas in November, it turned cold and miserable, but after about ten days I left for Roatan in the tropics. The problem there was that I hit a very wet spell in the rainy season, and ended up spending more time in bed sleeping than anything else. By now I had begun to recognize that I was definitely not well.
When I got back to Texas, I finally visited a doctor for the first time since all this started.
He X-rayed me, gave me some antibiotics and sent me home. After five days the antibiotics ran out, but I was feeling better.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last, and I had another visit to the doctor and more antibiotics. This time, he told me I had pneumonia: at least I knew now why I felt so bad!
Today, feeling somewhat better, I decided to go for a walk for the first time. Every time I hit an uphill slope I found myself puffing and panting like in Puno, but at least I made it! Now I’ll start getting back gradually to running, but I think I’ll wait until the doctor takes another X-ray and clears me before I do too much.
So what is the lesson in all this? Upper respiratory problems should not be ignored. Most minor running pains will go away after a while, but when your lungs are giving trouble it’s best to take care of them earlier rather than later. I knew this: I had pneumonia about the same time last year through ignoring symptoms. My only excuse is that I was traveling and was not sure I’d be able to keep up with the medication: a poor excuse for stupidity!
Have you experienced any lung problems lately? Let me know in a comment about your experience. (I hope you were smarter than I was!)