Jo Ann Rebane: On the Pneumonia Cruise
When you think of taking a cruise, then whale sightings, castles along the Rhine, or an island paradise come to mind.
Just a couple of months ago I unexpectedly became a guest on the great ship HMS Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, to enjoy their Pneumonia Cruise.
It started innocently enough with a cough, then a bad cough. On Saturday, my doctor’s day off, it became a very bad cough. Urgent care professionals at YubaDocs confirmed I was really sick and should not go home but go directly to the hospital’s ER.
The ER was very busy. Doctors and nurses shuttled between treatment rooms and patients to handle all kinds of crises concurrently. In turn I had blood drawn, a chest X-ray, inhalation therapy, intravenous antibiotics, and discussions with a knowledgeable and caring ER doctor. The diagnosis: not bronchitis, not walking pneumonia, but full blown pneumonia requiring hospitalization.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention pneumococcal pneumonia is most common among adults. Pneumococcal meningitis can cause deafness and brain damage, and it kills about 1 child in 10 who get it. About 18,000 older adults die of pneumococcal disease each year in the United States.
Treatment of pneumococcal infections with penicillin and other drugs is not as effective as it used to be because some strains of the disease have become resistant to these drugs. This makes prevention of the disease, through vaccination, even more important.
Consequently, I was immediately enrolled on the Pneumonia Cruise.
The cabin, room if you like, to which I was assigned was large and could easily accommodate two guests. Thankfully it was mine alone. From the large window there were no sunny beaches or palm trees to view. No exotic pyramids. No oceans or river banks.
Counting myself lucky I watched sunrise and sunset on the Nevada County Golf Course and when I couldn’t sleep, the lights of emergency vehicles pulling into the hospital driveway helped pass the time.
Rather than shore excursions, culture lectures, and mixing with other guests in the grand salon, all cruise activities came to me — the phlebotomist, the inhalation therapist, the nurse, the aide, the doctor (hospitalist), and even meals. The crew was very intent on implementing measures to treat the infection which filled my lungs.
As I had no luggage, it was a relief to find there would be no formal Captain’s Dinner and that the dress code was a cruise supplied simple cotton gown. Instead of a printed daily cruise newspaper my progress and discharge goals were maintained and updated on two personalized white boards.
All crew members, the hospital personnel who cared for me were attentive and kind. They all made my Pneumonia Cruise as comfortable and short as possible. Disembarkation went smoothly as I was supplied with enough prescriptions, reading material, and breathing exercises to keep me busy for weeks.
Apparently the pneumonia vaccine Pneumovax I’d received several years prior didn’t completely protect me. Possibly it helped reduce the severity of the infection that hit me. Following my doctor’s orders I’ve now been vaccinated with Prevnar (pneumococcal conjugate called PC W13) which protects against 13 types of pneumococcal bacteria and is the second in the pneumonia prevention series.
The CDC recommends people in certain risk categories and all adults 65 and older receive the pneumonia vaccines. Your doctor can give you details.
According to the CDC, vaccination can protect both children and adults from pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that can spread from person to person through close contact. It can cause ear infections, and it can also lead to more serious infections of the lungs (pneumonia), infections of the blood (bacteremia), and infections of the covering of the brain and spinal cord (meningitis).
Local pharmacies like Rite Aid, CVS and Walgreens have staff who can administer the pneumonia vaccines. If you haven’t started the vaccination series, there’s no better time than right now, unless you want to take the cruise yourself.
Jo Ann Rebane is a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her views are her own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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