Wind In My Sails

Okay, back from my last visit to Duke on Thursday, September 23 and the news is SO MUCH better than before!  Praise the Lord!

First of all, ALL of my Pulmonary Function Tests were up.  Overall, my lung function was at 73%.  Now, you may say, that’s not great but here’s the story.  Unless you’re a triathlete, a marathon runner, Michael Phelps or Lance Armstrong, the best you would expect your lung function to be would be around 80%.  So, this is a pretty amazing number.  Just like our brains, most of us who have never had any kind of lung disease, etc. never use our total lung capacity.  This information is from the pulmonary doctors, not me.

Here’s a little further education, during the Pulmonary Functions Tests (a.k.a. PFTs) they mainly look at 3 areas to determine how your lungs are functioning.

First of all, they look at the FEF.  The FEF, or Forced Expiratory Flow, is a measure of how much air can be expired from the lungs.  This is one of the first numbers they look at to help determine if Chronic Rejection, the bad kind, is possibly occurring.  The FEF gives the pulmonologist a reading of what’s going on in the smaller airways.  My FEF was at 30%, which was an increase of 15% from the last time!  Duke is real pleased if that value is anywhere from 30-40%, so I’m getting there.

Secondly, they look at the FVC.  The FVC, or Forced Vital Capacity, is after you’ve taken in the deepest breath, the volume of air which can be forcibly and maximally exhaled out of the lungs until no more can be expired.  This is kind of the overall measure of lung capacity and again, mine was at 73%, which was an increase of 11% from the last time!

And finally, they look at your FEVs, which are your Forced Expulsion Volumes.  This is the volume of air which can be forcibly exhaled from the lungs in the first second of a forced expiratory maneuver, or how much air you can blow out in the first second.  This measurement is expressed in liters and is used to help diagnose obstructive and restrictive airway diseases.  (Like COPD, Emphysema, Asthma, etc.)  They take several readings for FEVs and my FEV1 reading was at 58%, which was an increase of 14%.

Overall, the doctor said this was one of the best PFTs I’ve had!  Thanks be to God!

The other component, the white blood cell count has been resolved too.  My white blood count was 46!!  The normal range is 3.5-10.  So, no more Neupogen shots!!  PTL!

I go back in about a week for another bronchoscopy and we should have a final word on any rejection at that point.

Thank you for ALL of your prayers!  Our God still heals and He definitely still answers prayer!  I know that it is only by His Word and the faithful prayers of SO many that I can still testify today of His goodness and faithfulness.  However, I still know that no matter what happens it doesn’t change the fact that God is God and He is still good!

I have several friends who are going through some really tough times right now with their health and I would appreciate you lifting them up to the Father when you get a chance.  I’ll only share their first names because of privacy but I would REALLY appreciate you remembering them.  The Father knows who they are and knows the specific details of their situation.  They are Emmett, Mitchell, Mr. Greene, Bruce and Lottie.

Thank you and may God richly bless you!  It feels good to have some wind back in my sails!  At least for now!

Gilligan’s Island Revisited

If you’re old enough, and maybe if you’re not, you remember the TV sitcom Gilligan’s Island, and how their little boat set sail for what its passengers thought was going to be a three-hour tour.   Of course, we all know how it turned out, they all wound up being castaways on a small deserted island.  Each week the show’s theme song began with these lyrics, “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…” Well, for me my trip to Duke last week wasn’t from a tropic port or aboard a tiny ship, but it was nevertheless fateful, eventful and pivotal!

What started out as a planned one day visit to Duke for some issues I was having turned into a 6-day hospital stay with multiple tests and new drugs!  I’ve finally come to the point where I always pack an overnight bag when I go because you just never know.  But this time, I ran out of clothes!  However, some precious friends came to my rescue and brought me some much-needed clothing articles!  Duke even let me have a pass to go to another doctor’s visit off-campus and I made a Target run to supplement too!  Who knew that going to Target could be SO liberating!

Now on to the “what’s happening” part of this blog/update.

Following yet another bronchoscopy on Friday, September 3, I started having some shortness of breath and thought I was experiencing another collapsed lung episode.  Since it was Labor Day weekend I endured it and hoped and prayed it would get better.  By Sunday, it hadn’t.  In fact, I didn’t even make it to church that day.  We called Duke and the local pulmonary doctor here, and on Tuesday night after Labor Day went to the hospital for an X-ray.  The good news, no collapsed lung.  The bad news, I still didn’t feel well.  By that point I had begun to have a pretty significant cough that I couldn’t shake.

So, Duke had me come over on Thursday, September 9 for labs, X-ray and clinic just to check some things out.  Yeah, right.  I was admitted that evening “for a few days.”  You know, I’ve learned some things about hospital lingo.  Whenever they say to you, “we just want to keep you for a few days,” what they’re really saying is, “you belong to us for an indefinite period of time!”  And whenever they tell you, “the doctor will be here shortly,” what they’re really saying is, “plan to be waiting for hours!”  And if they give you a time for a test or procedure, it’s really just an arbitrary guess within a 24-hour period.

I truly believe we have another time-zone that doesn’t get a lot of press.  Along with EST, CST, MST, PST and others, we now have HST (Hospital Standard Time)  which doesn’t exist on any kind of time-continuum!

Okay, sorry for the diversion, where were we?  Oh yeah, I was admitted on Thursday night.  Had a CT scan that night, around midnight, another bronchoscopy on Friday and a blood culture on Friday night.  The doctors were suspecting an infection so I began a round of 2 IV antibiotics along with the current IV I’m on.  More fun!

The docs were also concerned about some “irregularities” in my chest X-ray and were treating me for some possible pneumonia as well.  The CT scan did reveal a very small pneumothorax, although the lung wasn’t collapsed.  They felt like it was air in the subcutaneous tissue.  That is the tissue between the skin and the muscle, like where your fat hangs out.  No real concern, they feel like it will heal on its own.

While in the hospital, they also informed me that my white blood cell count was very low due to some of the meds I’m on.  So, they have begun a round of Neupogen injections (Sandy loves this part!) to help bring that up.  Could explain why I’ve been pretty tired lately too.

Against the backdrop of ALL of that there is some very exciting news.  So far, the results from the last two bronchoscopies have shown NO more rejection!!  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!  I think they will have to have one more bronchoscopy result before that is 100% confirmed, but they feel pretty confident that has been brought under control!

That’s about it for now.  As always, your prayers and encouragement mean SO much to me and my family!

God is sovereign and still in control of each and every part of what is going on throughout this journey!  And above all, I’m still very grateful and blessed to have the life the Lord has given me and to have the ability to work and minister to others all for His glory!

I’m thankful that the Skipper of my tiny ship is brave and sure and a very present help in times of trouble!