I had my appointment with a respiratory specialist yesterday. When I got the appointment, I was told it could take up to two hours. I found myself wondering what they heck was going to be done to me for two hours!
It turned out they meant I might have to *wait* up to two hours for my appointment. It's a very busy office, it turns out. My appointment was just a consultation.
One of the things the dr. did was go over past test results with me. I had some X-rays done and, as expected, everything came back normal. Whatever it is that's causing my cough, it doesn't show up on X-rays.
The X-rays had been quick and easy - I spent more time in the waiting room than getting the X-rays done, and I didn't have long to wait.
The breathing tests, on the other hand, were a lot less fun. I got to sit in this little glass booth and breath into a hose (while wearing a nose clip) in different ways. The hardest one was when the tech had to shut me in and had me do these short little puffs that made my cheeks go in and out. Part way through, she shut the air off, and I had to keep puffing, as if I were still breathing. Except I had no air. I was supposed to keep doing this until she told me to stop, and it was all I could do not to rip the mouthpiece off and gasp for air before she did.
Now, one of the things that triggers my cough is deep breathing, or anything that puts pressure on my breathing, like laughing and singing. Which means I normally tend to breath shallow now. It's something I don't even think about. During the test, I had to do a lot of deep breathing, holding the breath, exhaling as hard as I could for as long as I could - in other words, doing all sorts of things that trigger my cough. I even had to puff on an inhaler, just like the ones asthmatics use, which irritated things even more. By the end of the test, I would start coughing part way through the tests (right into the hose... ew). The tech started giving me longer and longer times between tests so I could recover.
So picture me going over the test results with the respiratory specialist. He starts off saying how everything was normal, except for two tests. These measured lung capacity. According to the tests, my lungs can hold less air than they should. He then told me it was because...
wait for it... can you guess?
... of "the obesity."
That's right. My lungs hold less air because I'm fat.
When I saw the number, I asked him if these two tests were done at the end or at the beginning of the series. He told me they were at the end. So I told him about how, by the end of the testing, I was coughing badly *because* of the test themselves. We'd already discussed what my cough was like, what the triggers were, etc.
He pretty much ignored me. He said something about how this was normal for people with obesity. Then moved on because my lung capacity has nothing to do with my coughing. Meanwhile, he listened to my lungs (nothing unusual there, either) and went over a few more thing.
Towards the end, he started dictating a letter to my GP, stopping along the way to ask me more questions, the answers to which he'd include in the letter.
I did have an eyebrow raising moment over one of his questions. He asked me if I ever found myself out of breath if I take "3 or 4 flights of stairs." I don't know *anyone* that doesn't get out of breath after taking 3 or 4 flights of stairs! Just as an example, at work we have to take a lot of stairs. Going from the staff area on the lowest level to the hall at the upper level, while being only 3 floors, means taking 5 sets of stairs. Pretty much everyone is at least a little out of breath just with those. Throw in walking about half a mile of hallways and another ...
... oops. I just realized, I miscounted. It's 5 flights of stairs between the middle and top floors. So counting the stairs between the middle and lowest level, it's 7 flights total.
Then there's the hallways in between. This is NOT a small complex, and the elevators are to be used with freight only.
Yeah, after all that, we're all out of breath. I do have a harder time than others, I admit that. My cardio sucks. With my damaged knees and feet, I avoid stairs as much as possible. Up isn't too bad, but down is often precarious. Never mind painful, too!
So when he asked about being out of breath after taking "3 or 4 flights of stairs," I told him yes, because I have bad knees and I'm not in as good shape as I should be, and that being out of breath does sometimes trigger the coughing (if I breath really shallow, I can sometimes prevent the coughing from starting - which makes it harder for me to get my breath back).
Unfortunately, with his earlier comment about "the obesity," I am now suspicious that he's going to blame my "bad knees" on my being fat. I never got a chance to tell him *why* my knees are bad. If he's blaming my low lung capacity on being fat, even though I was having coughing fits *during* the tests, and ALL other tests came back showing my lungs are normal, it's a pretty easy assumption to think he's blaming other things on my size, too.
In fact, I partly suspect that my size is why sleep apnea is one of the things I'm going to be tested for. When he started asking me questions about snoring, being tired during the day (sometimes yes, sometimes no), I told him that my husband has severe sleep apnea, so we are very much aware of apnea. I do snore - loudly - but I don't stop breathing. He wants a reading of my oxygen levels as I sleep, though. He did do a quick check with the machine on his desk - my oxygen levels were at 97%, which is where it should be. My heart rate was good, too, which I was a bit surprised by. While my blood pressure is usually normal, my heart rate tends to be high.
I'm really hoping I'm wrong about my suspicions, though.
Now we're on to the next step. All the usual suspects are rules out. No asthma, acid reflux, allergies, etc. can be blamed for my cough. Along with the apnea test, I'm going to have another special X-ray done, this time with barium (oh, joy. I had several barium X-rays done back in Manitoba. The fizzy one down the throat was must unpleasant). I'm going to get a CAT scan done eventually - whoever's doing the scan will contact me directly about that. Oh, and yes, they'll be looking into my lungs directly. I've got a date at a local hospital to have things stuck down my tracea. I've already asked my husband to book that day off work, as I'm going to be drugged up for that one and will need help getting home.
There's another test I'm not remembering. The nurse said she'd call me with an appointment when she had one for me. There were so many different tests, I've lost track, and I don't have paperwork for all of them.
Well, at least two of them are this month, and I can make the appointment for the barium X-rays whenever I want.
I sometimes wonder if all this is worth it. It's just a cough, right? It's not that much of a problem, is it? *sigh* I have to keep reminding myself that a cough that last years really ought to be taken seriously. Easy enough to remember when I'm having one of my bad spells, but not when it's just that little tickle behind my sternum - an annoyance, but not much more.
That and I really hate having to wonder if a doctor is taking me seriously or not because I'm fat.