Monday, September 14, 2009

Pneumonia aftermath

After my hospitalization for pneumonia, I had several follow-up reviews by the consultant. The follow-up CXRs showed the lungs clearing more at each review. However, my consultant's experienced eyes spotted a shadow line that escaped even the radiologist's initial assessment. My consultant advised a CT scan if I wanted a more definitive evaluation.

Perhaps it's psychological, I felt and still feel some degradation to my general health and performance since my pneumonia episode. For example,
  • I seem to have shorter attention span when chatting with friends. Sometimes I could only be alert for the first 2 hours, then my attention degrades significantly thereafter. I was wondering if it was just me, being known to have short attention span in school. Or was it a sign of ageing? Or the after effects of illness?
  • I seem to pant more easily upon physical exertion. Previously I would simply ascribe this to a lack of exercise.
  • I seem to feel faint more easily upon heavy physical exertion or standing at a spot for too long.
  • Occasionally, I seem to feel a stabbing pain from my left lung when I breath deeply.
  • I seem to catch a runny nose more easily. Previously I would simply ascribe this to a temporary drop in immunity levels or sudden exposure to new pathogens.
  • My quick thinking seems to have slowed down. I wondered if it is because I am now in an unfamiliar field. Or that my brain power had deteriorated.

Initially I kept delaying having the CT scan done and hoping to avoid it altogether to save cost. Then one week after I started working at the ward, I suddenly felt dizzy while I was standing and listening my ward manager's briefing for about 20 minutes. Apparently, I was pale to my lips which surprised my ward manager. She quickly sat me down, told me to rest my head at knee level and took my pulse using her skills in traditional chinese medicine. Then she told me that my pulse was very weak. That got me worried if there was a limit to my recovery. Thus I decided to bite the bullet and scheduled for a CT scan in mid-August. I decided to do blood tests for haemoglobin and vitamin B12 levels too. These are known problems for some long-term vegetarians. During the interim, I started taking daily iron and vitamin B supplements to boost my low haemoglobin count (upon my hospital admission) and to balance any lack of vitamin B.

Finally I did my CT scan and follow-up blood tests. The CT scan report indicated minor subsegmental atelactasis and mild scaring in inferior lingular segment. Both haemoglobin and vitamin B12 levels were within normal range. Based on that, my consultant discharged me from further follow-up. Thank goodness for the results.

Today I did a free online IQ test to address the final outstanding doubt -- whether the short period of under-oxygenation had any long term impact on my brain power. According to the test, my IQ level is still pretty much the same as the supervised test that I took 15 years ago. Thank goodness for that too!

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