on thursday night, i had an unplanned visit from an unwelcomed (but seasonally appropriate) guest. it had been a long workday, i went abnormally long without a vest/albuterol/hypertonic saline treatment, i was fighting a head cold... the list goes on, but the point is there were a bunch of factors that likely contributed. it has happened before and it will happen again, but i don't think anything really prepares you or makes you used to the unexpected bleeding of your lungs.
after a bad cough, i spit the secretions that filled my mouth into the sink. the deep, rich red color left no second guessing. i felt like i was starring in the gory scene of a horror flick as i peered down into the blood-soaked sink. as the blood from a broken vessel flooded my airway, my heart sank. it sank with a reverberating thud felt 'round my body.
as you may know, lung bleeds or hemoptysis are relatively common among people with CF. they are divided into two categories: massive and mild. unless you produce enough blood to qualify as a massive bleed, in which case you immediately go to the emergency room, you're instructed to take it easy, modify/abstain from daily treatments, suppress coughs, take extra vitamin k, sleep sitting up and, well, just wait. you wait for the blood vessel to repair itself. you wait as your chest gurgles with blood and you turn bright red in the face trying your damnedest to swallow the cough or clear your throat without erupting into a full-force cough. it doesn't always work, but you hope to successfully lessen the blow of a cough and allow the blood vessels to heal. this can take minutes or days. the wait is agonizing.
hemoptysis is often associated with lung infections although i had ironically been feeling particularly fine in the days leading up to my lung bleed. as is the case with many CFers, i'm acutely attuned to my body and so my doctor unquestionably trusted me when i assured him that i wasn't feeling sick and i didn't think this was the sign of a brewing infection.
truthfully, the hardest part for me wasn't the spewing of blood or the gurgling in my chest. those parts i could handle. what really got me was the need to alter my treatments -- my key to "success" -- and purposefully abstain from the very things that i believe help keep my healthy. that part was absolutely grueling. my poor doctor had to reassure me that i should stop my pulmozyne and hypertonic saline even if i insisted on still doing albuterol, the vest and colistin. quite the reversal of roles, wouldn't you say?
let me tell you, a weekend has never felt longer and i've never been more happy to see the return of my normal, chronically-infected green secretions, which thankfully started to re-appear today. so tomorrow night, as kids around the country transform themselves into vampires, zombies and the like and playfully enjoy the goriness of costume blood, i'll be relishing my boring green mucus. after all, while blood in the fake form might be awesome for scary costumes, the real deal is far less fun -- even on halloween!