On Some Days, I Feel Invincible
At my last doctor’s appointment, my physician asked me how I felt. I replied, “Some days, I feel invincible.” She gave me the biggest smile and told me how happy she was that I was doing so well.
While I get colds and sometimes contract a virus, when I am free from illness, I feel like my old self — the person I was before my diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and subsequent single-lung transplant. I know I can’t do everything I once did, but I can always do something.
I received a single-lung transplant, so I see myself as functioning on one lung. My pulmonary function test numbers are hovering around 80 percent. Fortunately, the numbers are still rising — not by much, but they are still moving upward. I am four years out from transplant and have yet to attain my plateau.
Before my last trip to California, I suffered from rhinovirus. I was diagnosed in mid-October, and finally was rid of the virus in early December. The rhinovirus is considered a cold virus, and no prescriptions were needed. But due to my immunosuppression, it took longer for my body to rid itself of the infection.
On my California trip, my wife and I walked several miles a day and took in a side trip to Cambria and Morro Bay. I was extremely happy with my stamina. My wife asked me how I felt, and I told her that “on some days, I feel invincible.”
We also visited the Hearst Castle on this side trip. I had read information online and saw that a disability tour was offered because of the 190 steps to the main viewing area. I booked the regular tour and felt anxious as the bus transported us to the castle. I looked up at the castle and the steps and wondered what I had gotten myself into.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to take all of the steps at once. Thankfully, there were several flights of stairs, and the tour guide stopped to talk at each area. Steps are not my strong point, no matter how well I am feeling. I usually get short of breath, so I avoid them whenever I can. But sometimes they are inescapable.
This past weekend in Cleveland, Ohio, we were hit with substantial snowfall that was quickly erased by warmer temperatures and rain. Then we got 5 to 6 inches of lake-effect snow on Monday. I told my wife that we would take care of the snow. I used the snowblower, and she shoveled the smaller areas. This was one of those days when I felt “invincible.” I took care of the sidewalks in a six-house stretch and cleared the driveways for three of my neighbors.
The temperature was in the 20s, with a wind chill in the teens. I wear three masks when I go out in conditions like these: a surgical mask, an NFL-style Under Armour mask, and a fleece mask. We must always wear protection in cold weather. I was out in the cold for approximately 90 minutes and felt invigorated.
The situation brought me back to the times when I was a kid and would shovel snow for hours to make extra money. I enjoyed shoveling. I built up a sweat like I’d had a good workout, and I felt the pride in my accomplishment of the physical endeavor.
I also attended the funeral of my friend this past Saturday. The large attendance in the church showed how beloved he was and the effect he had on so many. It was my first experience in a Baptist church, and I was amazed at the electricity in the air, the extraordinary singing, and the love shown for the Lord. But I did not feel “invincible.” How could I feel invincible at that time? I was there to help bury my friend.
I know the dangers of being a transplant patient. A lung transplant patient will always be cautious about their situation. We are under constant threat due to the environment around us and the air that must be filtered through our lungs. I’m aware that any virus can manifest into something deadly. I have observed it firsthand.
Many of the funeral attendees thanked me. I was asked to stand, the pastor acknowledged my identity to his congregation, and spoke of the bond that my friend and I had shared. He told them that I had been there for him and visited him during the adversity he faced. The attendees clapped their hands and stood. And all I could think about was how my friend was the most selfless of all.
As I said my final goodbyes, I could not help but feel that my friend was now “invincible.”
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