Monthly Archives: April 2010

Tracheal What? Part 2

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Now I understood why I wasn’t able to catch my breath when working out. It wasn’t that I was that out of shape, I had a physical deformity that kept me from getting the air I needed. So, I dropped all sorts of exercise. Why should I exercise when I can’t breathe? It’s not like I could improve my lung capacity and everything would be better. I made an appointment with Dr. D but wasn’t able to see him for a month. In that month I gained about 10 pounds because I had stopped exercising and given up on watching my food. I had done nothing to grab on to an excuse and used that to explain why I was being lazy and cruel to my own body.

I went and had a CT scan done so I could take the results with me. Finally, the month drew to a close and I was able to go see what the specialist had to say. Dr. D confirmed what my allergist had found and asked me several questions to try to get to the bottom of why I had this problem. I explained about the allergies and asked if that could have had anything to do with it. He didn’t think so, but nothing else fit either. He explained my options to me: 1) I could have my trachea dilated to increase the size, 2) I could have reconstructive surgery, or 3) I could have a tracheotomy and breathe through the tube the rest of my life.

None of those sounded exactly appealing but of the 3, number 1 was my first choice. He explained that I would be put under a general anesthesia and they would put a balloon down my throat and stretch the narrowed portion out. Basically, the narrowed portion was a scar. On your body, a scar will normally have some slight puckering or be raised because scar tissue shrinks up a bit. In my case, the scar is a circle around my trachea so when it shrank it started closing off my airway. The dilation would “break” the scar tissue up and with luck healthy new tissue would grow and the airway would stay open.

“Ok…let’s do it” was my reply. The surgery was set for a month after that and I tried my best to wait patiently. Up to this point, I had never had any surgery. I had never been put under or had an IV. However, I was ready. I was tired of dealing with it.

The day of surgery I had to be at the medical center downtown at 6:45 AM. They walked me into my room and asked me to change into the gown. I was doing ok on the outside but inside I was doing flip flops and wondering how far I could get if I bolted for the door right then. Dr. D came in and said good morning. He was ready to get things started.  Once he left, a nurse came in to insert the IV.

All I could think is “OMG…this is really happening…omg…omg…omg…”

The nurse explained that the IV would be used for saline and to administer the anesthesia. As she was getting everything ready the Anesthesiologist came in with her assistant and introduced herself. In my head, this was a whole lotta commotion for me. I had met about 10 different people and really couldn’t remember what any of them said because I was too busy trying to remember to breathe. The nurse did a great job with the IV. It really didn’t hurt much at all.

Soon, the room was empty except for Mike. We talked for a bit and he tried to make me laugh. Thank goodness he was there. He definitely helped me calm down a bit. After about 1o more minutes the nurse came back and said “Ok, we’re ready to go!” She was all cheery like we were going on a ride in Disney World.

Mike was led out to the waiting room and I was rolled into the cold operation room. The anesthesiologist told me I’d feel a little burn then would get tired. I started counting from 10 and before I knew it I heard someone saying “Tammy? Tammy? Can you breathe for me honey?”

I tried to obey the voice but I couldn’t. I wasn’t able to breathe in or out. I opened my eyes but everything was blurry. There was something goopy blocking my vision. Panic was about to set in. “What had they done to me? I can’t breathe at all now…that can’t be right.” I kept trying to grab whatever was stopping me from breathing but steady hands kept pushing my hands back down on the table.

I recognized the anesthesiologists voice and Dr. D. “It’s ok Tammy. You can breathe…just take a breath for me.” What she didn’t understand was I could NOT breathe. I heard Dr. D say “Her lungs may still be paralyzed” then I dropped back off into blackness.

“Tammy? Tammy, honey? Can you hear me?” *headshake* “Good…breathe for me”

Ahhh….this time I had no problem complying with her request. They moved me back to the gurney then took me to a holding room where I was supposed to recover before going back to my room. Dr. D came in and explained that he could hear some wheezing during the operation and wanted to do a chest x ray to make sure everything was ok. They brought in this huge machine and did the x rays, then I went back to sleep.

Mike was waiting for me when they rolled me back into my room. I was a little groggy still but remember seeing Dr. D in another patient’s room and laughing at myself that they had no idea what was coming. When I finally woke up enough to remember to see if I was hurting, I was pleasantly surprised to realize I wasn’t. My throat didn’t hurt at all.

The best part? I could breathe deeply! It felt like I had finally broken the surface of the pool and was able to get a lung full of air. They brought me several boxes of apple juice and told me not to talk for 24 hours. The experience in the operating room was terrifying and I hope to never experience that again, but the results of the surgery were fantastic!

The lung xrays were clean, which is good news. However, now we have a mysterious wheezy noise that Dr. D was hearing and can’t figure out why since I’m not asthmatic. He gave me an inhaler and sent me home.

Mike and I went to a couple of stores while we waited for my prescriptions to be filled. I was feeling fantastic! I even enjoyed not having to talk. It was a little difficult when I was trying to ask questions, but otherwise it felt nice not to have to say anything. We stopped by IHop where I got Strawberry Pancakes then headed home. I never had to use my pain killers or the cough syrup. Interestingly, my allergies were completely gone for a week after my surgery as well.

I went back to Dr. D for a check up a week later. He said everything looked good and explained that I would probably have to have this done 2 or 3 more times for it stay like this. If it kept narrowing each time, then we’d have to consider reconstructive surgery.

Then it happened. He started wiggling in his seat and fiddling with his clipboard.

“You know, every cell in your body requires oxygen.”

Uh huh….

“That includes fat cells. I don’t mean to be rude, but the more fat cells you have the more oxygen your body is going to require to function daily.”

Oh….

“So, if you could lose some weight that would be a big help to you. Your body wouldn’t need as much oxygen, which is good because you aren’t able to pull in as much oxygen as a normal person. I’m not saying you have to be skinny, but you do need to be healthy.”

I was getting the fat talk. I smiled and tried to make him feel as comfortable as possible because he was obviously NOT comfortable with this conversation. Most people would have probably gotten offended, but I knew he was right. I was obese and needed to do something about that.

“I know exercise is hard for you because of your breathing but it should be easier now, at least for a little while. Just do what you can to get yourself healthy.”

This was in September 2009. After that date, I started trying to get serious with my exercising and eating again. I started blogging about my workouts and eating with a friend. That helped some, however I still found myself avoiding pushing myself too much because I didn’t like the way I sounded. It was embarrassing and more times than not caused people to stare at me. Right after the surgery I sounded fine. As time went on though, my throat started closing back up some and I was back to being Ms. Wheezy.

I kept pushing though. I had completed 3 races with this problem, surely I could workout on a normal basis now. It was time for me to let go of my excuses and start taking responsibility for my actions.

Part 3

What's That Noise?

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*warning, possible long post*

That would be me…wheezing…coughing…sounding like a 70 year old smoker.  The past few days have been bad breathing days for me, with today being the worst so far. For those of you that don’t know (like I have more than a couple of people reading this!) I have Tracheal Stenosis. It sounds all fancy, but it basically just means that my trachea (throat) is restricted (just under my vocal cords) so that breathing is difficult.

The trachea on the left is normal, the other two are examples of the narrowing. This is usually caused by damage to the trachea through intubation, from repeated heartburn, or an illness such as bronchitis that went untreated. In some cases it is a birth defect, but these are typically found soon after birth. In my case, my doctor has no idea what caused it. I had never had any sort of surgery so I’d never been intubated. I don’t have heartburn and I didn’t remember having any sort of bad respiratory infection that went untreated.

About 2 years ago (or 3…I’ve lost count) I started having horrible allergies. I also didn’t know that allergies could just start for the fun of it. I had never had any breathing problems or allergy issues before so why after 34 years am I suddenly sneezing my head off and coughing all the time? At first I thought I had a cold so I didn’t do anything about it. I could feel drainage in the back of my throat and would have to cough from time to time to clear my airway. Again, I didn’t think much of it. I figured it would go away before too long. Unfortunately, it didn’t go away. I went to North Carolina to visit my parents and brother’s family when I noticed there was something wrong with my breathing. I couldn’t hardly walk up a hill without huffing and puffing. I just wasn’t able to get much oxygen into my lungs.

When we got back I went to a doctor to see what was going on. He told me I had asthma. My brother had asthma and my mother did, so I didn’t doubt that it was possible but I also know how it manifests itself and my symptoms were not asthmatic. He gave me an inhaler and told me to use it when I needed to. That meant I used it nearly every day; However, it didn’t do much for me. Of course, that didn’t surprise me because I knew it wasn’t asthma. I wasn’t feeling the problem in my lungs, it was in my throat. You know that little divot in your neck right between your collarbones? That’s where it was.

I went another doctor for a second opinion. He told me it was allergies and asthma. I explained why I didn’t think it was asthma, only to have him pat my hand and explain why I was wrong. So, I decided “Fine…let’s test this out”. When I got home, I made an appointment with an allergist. I was going to get to the bottom of this no matter what it was. By this point I’d been having breathing issues and allergies for over a year with no relief. After my allergy testing was done I found out that I am most allergic to dogs (yeah…I have two dogs), then cats, feathers (the feather comforter had to go), dust, and Thompson grass. He started me on allergy drops and sent me home.

I decided I’d give the allergy drops 6 months to see if they worked, if not then I may have to consider sending my dogs to new homes.

 I know! How could I get rid of those lovely babies?! I had been trying to lose weight and exercise more but every time I exerted myself at all I started sounding horrible. It was very embarrassing to have people look at me like I was about to die. In truth, my legs weren’t tired and my body felt like I could push harder but I just couldn’t breathe. I just wanted AIR! So, I stopped exercising and settled into a bout of self-pity. Yeah, like that helps anyone! My allergy drops weren’t working and I was just about to give up and learn to live with it. However, I decided I’d go back to my allergist and explain my breathing issues to him and see what he said.

He listened to my lungs, then my throat through a stethoscope and he confirmed what I had known all along. It was in my throat, not my lungs, that I was having my problems. At that point, I felt 2 things: 1) Relief that I wasn’t crazy and a doctor was finally listening to me and 2) Scared to death because I had no idea how they would fix that. He put a scope down my throat (not pleasant) and confirmed that I had tracheal stenosis. After looking at him like he’d just told me aliens had planted a pod in my body, he explained that the reason I wasn’t getting the oxygen I needed was because my throat was closed off to about 3mm, so it was effectively like breathing through a drinking straw. AAhhh….well, that explains that. I also had a persistent cough because my body felt there was something lodged there. He referred me to Dr. D in the Medical Center and assured me that he was the best person to deal with this sort of thing.

I left my allergist’s office feeling better than I had in a long time.

To keep this post from being a novel, I’m dividing it into parts.

Part 2

Weigh In Wednesday

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Today’s weigh in was not good. I’m up a pound. So, my number for this week is 215. *sigh* It’s all my doing, so I can’t place the blame anywhere else. I started writing a life list where I’m making a list of things I want to do in the course of my life. I’ve never seen the bucket list, but some refer to it as that. One of my list items is to be an active person. I’m on my way to getting there! I’m working out more than I have in a long time and I’m working on finding new hobbies that include some sort of exercise! I may post some of my other items on the list later this week.

I went to the gym today with the intentions of walking 3 miles with some running in there. Well, I ran a few times but I had to stop after 20 minutes. The blister on my foot was really bothering me so I found myself walking/running on the edge of my foot to avoid hitting the blister. So, I decided to call it a day. There is no sense in risking injury or irritating my foot further. I still have a 5K to run a week from Saturday.

I started reading “Running for Mortals” by John Bingham. So far I’m really enjoying it. He (and his wife) has written the book in a very conversational tone and makes sure all the concepts are written in layman’s terms. As silly as it sounds, I had always walked slowly after my minutes running (1 run, 2 walk, etc) in order to catch my breath. Well, according to John, you’re supposed to keep walking as a brisk pace (slightly slower than your run). It’s not time to recover, it’s just a time to slow down a bit until your body is able to handle running for extended periods. So, I was actually doing myself a great disservice by slowing down so much. No wonder I hardly got anywhere!

Treadmill Tuesday

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Today was a gym workout. I didn’t do any running, strictly walking. The blister on my foot is bothering me and I’m hoping it heals up soon. I want to try to run more for the pear run. In fact, I’d like to try doing intervals throughout the race. I figure I can run a minute and walk a few but I need some days to practice so I know what I’m capable of!

On another note, I want one of these.



I think it would be a lot of fun to ride bikes around the greenbelt trails in the Woodlands or Kingwood. Of course, I need a nice wide seat! Mike said he’d be happy to ride bikes with me, so I may start looking around this weekend!

Rise & Shine 5K 2010

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What a beautiful day we had today for our race! When we got up it was still raining a bit, but once the race started it was a bright blue sky. The sun got a little warm here and there!

The race took place at the George R Brown Convention Center (GRB) and the money benefits the Rise School in downtown. Inside the GRB they had a bunch of things for kids to enjoy. For example, they had the moonwalk (blow up bouncing thing), a walk climbing wall, and a blow up basketball game.

They also had a Wizard of Oz game area (love the witch legs!) and some Rescued Greyhounds to promote Greyhound adoption!

There is a great little park across from the GRB:

I was told they freeze this pond during Winter for an outdoor ice skating rink

You would never guess there's a parking garage under there would you?!

You would never guess there's a parking garage under there would you?!

There were quite a few people ready to get the race started! It began (and ended) at the Minute Maid Park. While waiting for the race to start I was greeted by fellow blogger Danie! That was a nice surprise.

I was feeling pretty good. One of my problems I need to work on is getting so nervous before a race. I looked at my HR monitor and my heart rate was already at 150 before the race started! Wonder if I can lose weight by putting myself in nervous situations! They finished the count down and we were off! A friend of mine told me we had 1 hill we’d have to go up, but this year it appears there was more than 1 hill! I do believe there were about 3 that we had to cross going and coming!

I ran some, mostly downhill because gravity is my friend! I also finished the race running/jogging/crawling across the finish line. Many of my Woodlands Fit crew were there to cheer me on. This was our last race and last time to workout together. I’ve met some great people! My cousin Kelly (left) talked me into joining. I became good friends with her co-worker Clara (middle) as well. They are both joining the Summer/Fall fit, but I’m going to have to think about that!

After the race I got to meet Junction Jack! You’ll notice I’m wearing my racing fanny pack (as Mike calls it). It was one of the best things I’ve bought!

Toro (The Texans’ Mascot) was at the start of the race, but I didn’t see him afterward. I didn’t think I had gotten a personal record on this race, but I did (50 minutes and 20 seconds)! Of course it was only by a few seconds, but no matter!

Mike also got a PR on this race with 21 minutes and 59 seconds! I’m so proud of him!

My foot was bothering me on the last mile of the race. I had gotten a blister on Tuesday but thought it had gone away. Unfortunately, I just exacerbated it during the 5K. I may have to take Monday off from working out if it’s down again by then.

Sorry for the nasty looking foot...I just finished a race!

After the race I went to a Crawfish party for my Grandma’s birthday. Then on the way home I stopped at Best Buy to pick up my reward for today’s race!

Yes, I'm a dork...I love me some Madonna!

Enjoy the Silence

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I’m sitting on a bench at Town Green Park waiting for the rest of my fit club to get here. I’m an introverted person so alone time doesn’t bother me; however, I’m finding that I enjoy my time alone more. I’ve become a more positive person over the past few weeks (ok, maybe not while driving) and with that my internal chatter has become more calm. I find I’m not fretting so much over things I can’t control. I still have a ways to go, but all in all I’m happy with where I am so far.