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Pneumonia and a dose of mortality

October 3, 2016
by Kathleen Mears
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I am relatively healthy for a quadriplegic. I have concerns about urinary tract infections, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and sepsis because I’m living in long-term care and over 65. But if I do get sick, early fall—and close to my birthday—seems to be the time.

When it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit in August, I got a sore throat and cold symptoms. A few days later, the cold dissipated. However, the next-day I woke congested and achy. A chest X-ray showed pneumonia. 

As a non-smoker, being that congested made me feel like a four-pack-a-day smoker. Having trouble breathing scares me. I was watching other residents dealing with their respiratory infections heading down to lunch one day and thinking about my upcoming birthday. Since I was sick, I felt much older than just one more year.

I felt tired as I waited for my tray. I wanted to be up so the congestion would clear, though lying down in bed sounded inviting. I caught myself drifting as I looked at the back dining room and watched residents eating there and on the patio. I thought it was the lull I normally feel before falling asleep. The intensity and subtlety of that feeling unsettled me, and I pulled myself back to my lunch tray reality.

About once a year I am sick enough to be reminded that I have fewer years ahead of me. Death does not consume my thoughts, but I do ponder it at times. I wonder what those who pass from a bad respiratory infection feel right before the end. Since no one has come back to tell us, we can only surmise.

Later that day, I realized I cannot let my age or my internal and external inventory affect my present. Now that my birthday has passed and I am feeling better, the ominous feelings are going. But I realize I may never know how close I am to death.

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Kathleen Mears

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Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...