Listening to my body allowed me to get the help I needed

It's OK to admit I need assistance when I'm sick

William Ryan avatar

by William Ryan |

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I’ve been away for a while, but not because I wanted to be.

While I’d love to say I stepped away for something exciting, the only fun I had was seeing the film “Training Day,” starring Denzel Washington, and binge-watching TV shows from 20 years ago. It wasn’t because I love reruns and killing time with Denzel, but rather because I had a cold.

Well, it started out as a cold but turned into pneumonia and an exhausting trip to the hospital, where no respite was granted. I’m glad I took the cold seriously enough to call my doctor, because if I hadn’t, who knows how sick I’d be today? As an adult with cystic fibrosis (CF), I must listen to my body and know when to ask for help. I can’t afford to overlook the “small” stuff.

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I’m no longer ‘toughing it out’

Growing up in a large Irish-American family, my cousins and I were all taught to “tough it out” as best we could and to not let any hurdles, major or minor, get in our way. It’s what our parents learned from their parents, who learned it from their parents, who came to the shores of New York and New Jersey for a better life in the United States.

On the other hand, though, I was also taught by my family that it’s OK if my CF prohibits me from being able to do something. However, I’m stubborn and don’t like quitting on myself.

While I usually try to push through minor inconveniences, I couldn’t push through what I thought was a cold. It developed a few days after Christmas and began with a lot of coughing, sinus issues, and fatigue, along with a rapid heart rate. I thought it would go away in a week, but a week came and went, and the cold only got worse.

I called my doctor’s office and was told to take ciprofloxacin pills and inhaled aztreonam, both antibiotics, and to call back if I didn’t improve by the end of the week. While I felt a little better after the first day, I then took a turn for the worse. My heart rate wouldn’t slow down, my cough worsened, and I was more fatigued than ever.

The next day, I called my doctor and asked to be admitted to the hospital. I knew I could no longer tough it out and needed to ask for help.

Things aren’t always what they seem

During the following week at the hospital, I was given rounds of various intravenous antibiotics, such as tobramycin and meropenem, with the hope of getting rid of the infection. An X-ray and CT scan showed I had pneumonia, and a sputum culture confirmed it was caused by Pseudomonas and Staphylococcus, the bacteria that usually grow in my body.

Doctors then added to my regimen Zosyn (piperacillin and tazobactam) for my Pseudomonas and Bactrim (sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim) for my staph. Bactrim is a pill while Zosyn is delivered through a PICC line — a long-term IV — that currently sits in my right arm.

If I hadn’t listened to my body and my wife, who told me it was OK to admit that I was sick and needed help, I probably would’ve kept trying to tough it out. But because I listened, my pneumonia was caught early, and I’m doing much better with the help of medicine.

It’s understandable if anyone with CF wants to keep trudging along, despite whatever may be bothering them. After all, we often deal with dire medical issues; it’s easy to think the common cold is only … well, the common cold. However, if you listen a little harder, things aren’t always what they seem.

Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.


Anthony Palmiero avatar

Anthony Palmiero

Good work again Will. Love you

Helen Palmiero avatar

Helen Palmiero

Hey Will! Good to have you back, you were missed. I empathize with your recent ordeal, having my own lung/breathing problems. Interestingly, I recently had what I also thought was a cold, which turned out to be bronchitis and would have gotten worse had I not forced myself to see my pulmonologist. I'm so glad you listened to your wife and yourself! We need to make ourselves stop dismissing the little things before they turn into much bigger things - which can happen very quickly. Love you lots, Helen

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

Thank you Helen! I'm glad you are feeling better. Love you!

William Ryan avatar

William Ryan

Thank you Tony! Love you too!


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