Sunday, April 24, 2016

Clearing the Lungs

Keeping your lungs free of contaminants is an important part of a life with new lungs. We avoid the obvious airborne contaminants like dust, smoke, pollen, bird dander, chemical fumes and the like as much as we can.  We also avoid the not so obvious, things like stomach acid and post nasal drip.  For the obvious we wear masks and avoid situations where we might be exposed to contaminants, and for the second we take prophylactic medications like Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI's) to prevent GERD, acid reflux and micro-asperations, and allergy medications to prevent congestion and post nasal drip.

These precautions usually keep my lungs fairly clear, but every once in awhile I have an issue with phlegm buildup.  I usually notice it during my daily Pulmonary Function Testing (PFT).  My FVC and FEV1 (basically lung capacity and amount of air I can forcibly expel during the first second of an exhalation) will slowly start dropping off, then I will start noticing the mucus in my lungs.  It usually takes 2 or 3 days of working at it to cough this stuff up and then I'm go to go.

Well my PFT's started dropping off three days ago.  There are lots of reasons for the PFT results to drop off a bit, and without any other issues or indications it is hard to tell why.  Last night during my second attempt at getting good numbers in the PFT, something broke free and I started whistling with each breath.  I tried to cough it out, but it just turned rattly.  It was loud enough that my Sweetie could hear it across the room.  I was pretty sure that it was just a phlegm buildup, but it was worse than usual.  I was finally able to cough it up this afternoon and feel back to normal.

I've mentioned these episodes to my Team and they indicate that it is a fairly normal part of post-transplant life.  It doesn't happen enough (thank goodness) for me to readily identify any triggers and it doesn't really affect my exercise capacity or blood oxygen saturation.  It's just something to note and try to clear up as quickly as possible.

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