The Golf Ball in My Lung

Today seems like as good a time as any to tell you about the golf ball in my lung. It’s why I’m taking the selfish and willfully ignorant attitudes of people going about their lives unconcerned with spreading the virus so personally. Welcome to Camp Corona Day 2, my second day of using self-isolation as a writer’s retreat.

The Golf Ball in My Lung

In 1989 I caught whatever strain of H3N2 was going around that year. It wasn’t as bad as the so-called “Hong Kong flu” of 1968-69 nor the “swine flu” of 2007 (both H3N2) but it wasn’t fun. I ended up with interstitial pneumonia, which I want to try to explain in layman’s terms. Most people seem to understand that when you get pneumonia, you can’t breathe. The assumption, which is partially correct, is that your lungs full up with fluid. Interstitial pneumonia is a bit different. It’s an infection of the lung tissue itself.

Your body tries to repair the damage done by the infection, but does a poor job of it. This leads to scarring, called fibrosis. The air sacs affected are unable to expand and contract, making it more difficult to breathe. It also makes you more susceptible to future respiratory problems.

The “just plain ordinary flu“, which people were trying to dismiss COVID19 as a few weeks ago, left me with a mass of scar tissue in my left lung the size of a gold ball. Part of the reason going up and down the stairs, or going on long walks, leaves me with so few spoons? The metaphorical golf ball in my lung. The reason why I’ve had pneumonia 14 times over the course of 30 years? Also the golf ball.

Protect Yourself and Others

The reports I’ve read state that the worst cases of COVID19, the ones that result in permanent damage and death, are the ones the result in bilateral interstitial pneumonia. That means fibrosis in both lungs. People who think that because they’re young and healthy they’ll make a full recovery if they get this… you might be wrong. I was 26 years old. Currently I’m 56. This is something that I’ve had to deal with for over half of my life.

Katie joked yesterday that she knows she’s not infected because I don’t have it yet. She knows that with every cold she’s brought home, because elementary schools are basically free-range Petri dishes, I show symptoms at least a day before she does. Because I’m susceptible to freaking everything respiratory-related, the likelihood that I will get a bad case if I’m infected is high.

Taking basic precautions doesn’t just protect you. It protects people like me, and I’m honestly not that fragile compared to cancer patients, people on immunosuppressants because they’ve had organ transplants, the genuinely elderly, and infants. Selfishness kills.


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