Lung Stuff: I Have Bronchiectasis

I have a lung disorder ..and you-oooo, don’t. Yup …lucky me, I had a really, really bad cough back in 2007 and because I assumed I was still Superman, I just tried to cough my way through it and treat it with bottle after bottle of Robitussin. Turns out, it was a massive bacterial infection and, voila, two-week-long hospital stays later, here I am. Living with Bronchiectasis. For long periods of time between “incidences” I have no issues. I run. I bike. I yell and laugh heartily (can you really “yell heartily?”).

At times, I forget I even have Bronchiectasis. But then, out of the blue, at the most random of times, it hits me. I cough and it’s phlegmy. And sometimes I taste blood. And sometimes I see blood …like last night. There I am, minding my own business during Curriculum Night / Meet-the-Teacher Night at my kids’s school and I’m talking about Michigan State football and then I cough …and then my chest gurgles, and I cough some more (like, rather violently) and voila! … I’m coughing up blood. Just a tiny amount, mind you. I would say the equivalent of a 1/4 teaspoon.

This should not alarm me, according to my doctor. People with Bronchiectasis experience this from time to time. Or do they? I don’t know.

You might think this isn’t a very good blog entry for this blog (and my wife would agree with you), but I have an ulterior motive – I want people Google’ing “bronchiectasis” to find this and chat with me.

First, I’m not entirely convinced I have Bronchiectasis. But if I do, is this coughing-up-blood party trick common? Should I be taking a breathing treatment? Are their exercise enthusiasts who live with this condition and still run triathlons and marathons? Is Bronchiectasis, as my doctor says, simply an annoyance but not life-threatening? Or is my life expectancy diminished because when I hit my 60s I’m almost guaranteed to get pneumonia one day and then …curtains?

Or maybe I don’t have Bronchiectasis and some doctor online will give me a second opinion and questions to ask my Pulmonologist?

“But, Don,” you ask, “what is Bronchiectasis?” Here’s a pretty good explanation I found in a 2004 chat room. Most of the chat rooms/discussion threads I found were from 2008 or earlier. I want to start some new conversations.

Here is some information about bronchiectasis that I hope you find helpful.  Inflammation causes damage to the airways of the lungs.  When the airways become dilated this is called bronchiolectasis.  When the airways become distorted with areas where mucus can collect this is called bronchiectasis.  It can be difficult to clear this mucus because of damage to the normal methods that the lungs use to clear mucus.  This can lead to episodes of infection.  Traditionally an ongoing infection can lead to the inflammation.  So it is important that lung infections are treated.  Pulmonary hygiene is very important in preventing and controlling lung infections.  Using an inhaled bronchodilator may help to loosen the mucus.  Many people find the routine use of a mucus clearance device to be very helpful in clearing the mucus from their lungs.  This is a small device that you exhale into causing a vibration in your lungs that loosen mucus so that you can cough it up easier.  The names of 2 types of devices are Flutter Valve and Acapella.  Bronchiectasis can result from airway blockage along with infection, so it may effect only one area of your lung.  If your recurrent lung infections are always in the same area of the lung, surgery to remove that portion of your lung may provide a cure.

It seems to happen after I pig-out. Is that normal? I mean, when I have big, rich meals (like a big steak, or like a second helping of cake & ice cream) I get the cough. When I drink red wine it seems to flare up. Do any other Bronchiectasis sufferers notice a similar correlation? If eating fewer calories and never drinking eliminates most of my symptoms, I’m very cool with that. But if those aren’t triggers for anyone else, I’ll do some more asking.

Oh, and now that it’s turning to autumn in Michigan and temperatures are dropping and there’s cool/damp air, could that be something?

Thanks for reading. Chime in. Offer advice, opinions, encouragement, or simply point and laugh. My next blog entry will be silliness, I swear.

Oh, and here’s some links to some articles mainly because I want trackbacks and get Bronchiectasis hobbyists involved in this dialogue.

UPDATE (9/16/2011): Thanks to my sister and her superior web-search skills, she found a GREAT ARTICLE and a SUPPORT GROUP.

I might also have “Popcorn Lung.” Yes, that’s a real thing. I pop popcorn 2, 3, or 4+ times a week. I use an air-popper (could there be a better way to put popcorn seed particles and dust into the air?). All my flare ups recently have occurred when I drank red wine AND at popcorn. At Disney World, I ate popcorn almost every day (it smells sooooooo good) and what my kids didn’t finish, I’d eat theirs, too. In an August flair-up, I had multiple bowls of popcorn at a fance restaurant before having a glass (or three) of red wine. Yesterday, someone in my office horribly burnt a bag of popcorn in our breakroom (and it made me cough) and I then went out and had two glasses or red wine. 

Stay tuned for more breaking news!


9 Comments on “Lung Stuff: I Have Bronchiectasis

  1. Pingback: Things I Did: Exercise « Kaleidoscopic Raygun

  2. As I am typing this I am coughing up pink phlegm. I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis 8 months ago after 3 bouts of pneumonia. I am a 34 year old female who works out, plays tennis, runs. I got a diagnosis from my pulmonologist and then traveled to mayo in Rochester for a second opinion. I was put on “maintenance” antibiotics for 6 months, cingulair, symbicort and flutter valve. But anytime I get exposed to someone with strep or an illness- it manifests itself with me back on full blown antibiotics, achy, tired, coughing up pink stuff. At that point I am instructed to go to the pharmacy and get the big gun filled- levaquin. I would love to talk to people who are also dealing with this! Please respond!

    • I am 24 years of age and received a medical diagnoses of “severe chronic bronchiectasis” as a child. My symptoms are broad. Only joy and praise brought me this fair but every now and then I feel down. Because my pulmonary disorder affects my quality of life. I am totally fine with the chest pain, coughing up blood, aches, and fatigue. …but too often my sputum produces a foul smell which indicates a reoccurring infection. I am a Mom of a 3 year old, CNA and a nursing student and too often I have to sugarcoat excuses due to humiliation because of this fluid that sits in my lower left lobe that smells terrible. Have you ever held your breathe so long that it results with terrible headaches? I isolate myself from others so they do not have to smell me… this includes skipping class and hiding in my dorm, ditching my friends and this hurts them more so me then them.

      • Tracey-
        You’ve been battling this for a lot longer than I have – from your youth. I’ll pray for you. Wish I had some fix-all bit of advice, but I guess (for now) this thing we have is what it is.

      • I’ve REALLY fixed some things. The right diet and moderate exercise make me feel like a new man. It’s like doctors should’ve told me how important the FOOD I eat is.

  3. Pingback: My Lungs, Chapter 188 and #ResolutionADay – Kaleidoscopic Raygun

  4. Pingback: Bronchiectasis, Part 12 – Don Kowalewski

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