I have had lung issues for many years, many improperly diagnosed.
The first time I had an exacerbation experience the specialist told me it was panic attacks. Not knowing much about panic attacks and trusting the doctor... I just continued life as normal as possible. The "panic attacks" came and went for a couple of years.
Then the diagnosis of asthma came along. I didn't really understand that one either, because I never had to use a rescue inhaler or the things one relates to the illness without knowing better.
After that came pneumonia repeatedly, like 3-4 times a year... all progressively getting worse and all improperly diagnosed.
But, I had no idea how sick I really was. Single mom working 50+ hours a week just trying to make ends meet... you know, living the dream. I didn't have time to be sick. I didn't have time to follow up with doctors and keep looking until I figured out what was wrong. For a year or so, it was go to work... get sick... go to hospital... stay for a couple days... get out of hospital and go directly back to work. I couldn't afford to take the extra 3 days off between hospital and going back to work. Then it happened. The crash.
One morning, I was at work. Usual routine: open the business by 7am... then I noticed a humming sound in my ears... realized I couldn't catch my breath, my heart was racing, head spinning, lights flashing... definitely knew something was wrong!
I knew my lungs weren't working right the day before and had already scheduled an appointment with my doctor to get the usual steroid shot during lunch, but there was no way I could wait until then. So I drove myself to the office where I was told he was making rounds at the hospital. So I drove to the hospital... made it to the ER and collapsed.
I spent 5 days in the ICU getting breathing treatments and shots of blood thinner in the belly... wondering how this is all related to pneumonia.
Little did I know that when your oxygen levels get so low in your blood, it becomes acidic, kinda like a battery, and my EKGs were all over the place. I was on the verge of a massive heart attack or major stroke.
Waking up in ICU and being told I had to be transported to another hospital to undergo a heart cath (on Valentine's Day, ironically) changed that perspective.
Finally my new doctor diagnosed me with COPD. I asked what that was. Basically I was told it is a 'blanket term' for disease of the lungs. He would send me to a specialist to get it figured out. My actual diagnosis would come later... pulmonary fibrosis.
I should've taken the time and searched for answers years ago. Honestly, I figured it was some thing a bit more than the previous diagnosis I was given early on... but I was too busy. I went from doctor to doctor never keeping one long enough to find the problem - just treat the symptoms so I could go back to my busy life.
Now I have all the time in the world... in between naps. The damage is done and there's no going back. I might have a better quality of life right now if only I hadn't been so hard headed... too busy. If I had taken the time to find out what was wrong and treat it. The responsibility lies squarely on my shoulders. I didn't really give the doctors a chance. They didn't really know the half of it...
Call me Ms. Diagnosis.
Do you have questions about your COPD diagnosis?