It's a brand new year, and just as it gets going I have a brand new lurgy. It's a viral thing. You might be thinking, as part of me does, 'So what? Almost everyone picks up some bug or other during the winter months,' and that's true, but the problem is that, for a brittle asthmatic like myself, there is no such thing as a simple infection.
At the moment I don't feel too bad most of the time - a little bit sniffly, the edge of a headache, a slight sore throat, etc - except that, aside from those niggly things, I also have scratchy lungs and a barking cough. The cough is tiring and it's beginning to make my lungs ache, and the worry with that feeling is that it's all too common when an upper respiratory tract infection is making its way south to become a lower respiratory tract infection. And the trouble with that is that it will set off the asthma.
For most, a cold or a bit of viral bug is annoying and bit miserable, but you know you'll be back to normal after ten days or so. My worry is that this could land me in hospital. In fact, I've all to often ended up in Intensive Care on a ventilator because I've picked up a 'simple' cold. Of course, there's the possibility - albeit limited - that I might get over this without any drama, and that is exactly what I want to happen, of course. But the other possibility scares me. Having a bit of a viral infection scares me. I know that it could all go horribly, horribly wrong, and that it could end up putting my life in danger.
Mum's still with me at the moment - still here from her stay for New Year. I have the appointment for the MRI on my back/spine first thing in the morning, and she's coming with me to that, but then she and J are going back home to Scotland. It shouldn't make much of a difference, seeing as I'm almost 40, but actually it does, because while they are here they can (and do) make sure that I'm okay. That's not to say that I can't look after myself - of course I can - but everyone knows that it's easier to have someone help look after them when they're under the weather. More significantly, should my lungs have a big splat while Mum is here then I know that she can easily summon help quickly. It's not quite so straight forward when I'm on my own again - if I haven't got the breath to speak clearly to ambulance control; if I lose the ability to judge how ill I'm becoming (which does have a tendency to happen due to a build up of carbon dioxide in my blood when my lungs get bad); if I push myself that little bit too far in trying to maintain my independence, which might be as little as trying to walk through to the kitchen to make a cup of tea, or through to the bathroom to use the toilet.
Then there are night times, those dreaded times when lungs have a habit of deteriorating and GP surgeries are closed. Now, in my cogent head I know that in an emergency I should call an ambulance, and that ambulances exist throughout the night as well as the daytime. But the trouble, once again, is that muddled brain that I get when my lungs go into that dangerous slip, and I forget about ambulances. I forget about other portals of help. I worry that I will wake a friend from needed sleep, rather than thinking that they'd much rather be tired the next day having been woken by me to help me get the right help, than to later find out that I've died from an exacerbation of asthma. My CO2-muddled brain worries about getting my health record info and my meds list up to date in the event that I might need to go to hospital, but it doesn't always register that I should be going to hospital there and then, rather than faffing around with paperwork. My CO2-muddled brain thinks about making sure that there's everything in my hospital case that I need, not about getting to hospital itself. My CO2-muddled brain is a dangerous brain to have, probably because it's in danger, and it's that CO2-muddled brain - the possibility of it - that scares me now.
Of course, of course, of course I know that it might not happen this time. I hope to God that it doesn't, but I can't trust that it won't, and that uncertainty is frightening too. And then there's the thought that it might all drag on, and I'll get more and more tired and weary, and then I won't have the energy to fight if I need to. The possibility of a long, slow slip downwards is frightening. The possibility of a long, hard fight at the end of that is even more frightening.
I have home antibiotics if I need them, but there's no point in taking them at the moment while it's almost certainly viral. I won't take them unless I need them. I'm keeping an eye of signs of an antibiotic-worthy infection, but so far there's none. I just cough, and I feel the heaviness in the top of my chest, hear the gentle wheeze and the edge of an occasional crackle, feel the scratchiness in my throat, and take the meds I can to alleviate what is possible to alleviate. No relief lasts long, but I'm thankful that at the moment I'm not in crisis, and I hope that it stays that way throughout.
All this from a bit of a lurgy. It scares me, and I wonder how much people understand about why my fears are real, and why they're not an over-reaction to a 'simple' viral bug. And I wonder how much people understand why, at times like this, living on my own is a frightening thing, and why it means quite so much that my mum's going home tomorrow. Perhaps it shouldn't matter what others understand ... but for some reason it does.