Pardon Me While My Life Blows Up

It seems as though during the last three months I was buried by an avalanche.

Posted Jul 26, 2017

I realize that I haven’t posted in a while but life continues to explode.  Zoe is doing well; I finally got her to the vet last week on the fourth try.  I swear she has a sixth sense because as soon as I get into the shower before the appointment she zips under the bed and won’t come out.  Then right after I hang up the phone, having rescheduled for the next week, out she comes, strolling with a smirk on her cute face.

The vet said she gained a couple of ounces which is unheard of for a cat with kidney disease.  When I told the vet that Zoe has been having diarrhea, she prescribed yet another medication which I have to give her through a syringe into the side of her mouth twice a day.  The vet acknowledged that it’s not the best tasting stuff.  Zoe has caught on and now when I put her down to give it to her, she fights; she yowls and hisses, bites and digs her claws into my thighs.

© Dreamstime stock-photo
Source: © Dreamstime stock-photo

About three months ago I began to notice that whenever I drove more than twenty minutes in my car with the heat or air conditioning on, I felt sleepy and dizzy.  The longer the trip was, the worse it got.  I hesitated to bring the car into the shop because I was so used to being told that everything I was feeling or noticing was “in my head.”  Finally, after three close calls having served out of my line and being honked at, I brought it in.  The dealer looked at me in as though I was nuts (a familiar experience) as I described what was happening with the car.  Several hours later he called me.

      “You were right.  The gaskets were leaking and carbon monoxide was leaking when the air conditioning and heating was turned on.”

That was bad news, but at least it could be fixed — for a lot of money.  I picked up the car thinking that all was well.  A week later, I was driving back home from New York City and fell asleep at the wheel.  I hit another car and the impact woke me up.

       “Didn’t you see me?” he asked.

       “Umm, no,” I muttered.

Thank goodness neither of us were hurt and unbelievably there was no damage to either vehicle.  I called the dealer from the side of the highway screaming at him. It was a Saturday afternoon and they were closing in thirty minutes.  All he could tell me was to bring the car in Monday morning.

They called me just before closing on Monday.  The manifold was cracked and it would be even more money than the first time. I asked why the technicians failed to find this issue the first time and he told me when they found the problem with the gaskets, they stopped looking. I told them not to do any work and I’d call them back in the morning.  I called my brother, who advised me to “go to the top,” meaning demand to speak to the owner of the dealership.

That’s what I did the next morning and calmly I said that the workers at his dealership had put my life in danger and I had an issue with paying the additional charge.  He agreed with me saying that the safety of his customers was his first priority.  This was nice to hear, but at the same time, I thought that he was saying what I wanted to hear and giving me a line that was the identical bull that he delivered to all his customers.

He did offer to try to offset the additional cost, to see if there were any existing recalls on my vehicle and he said he would try to call his supplier and negotiate a lower price on the parts.  The price of labor he said was under his control, because it was his shop, but he tole me that the job was almost ninety percent parts, unfortunately.

I called him once a day for several days but each time I called, I was told that he was still working on it.  The entire service department recognized my voice.  Finally, he called me back.

            “I think I have good news for you.”

            “Yeah?” I raised my voice slightly with a hint of cautious optimism.

             “Your car has an eight-year emissions warranty, so the work on the engine is still covered.  You don’t have pay anything.”

I sank as far into my chair as the soft leather would allow.  “Really?”  I needed to  double-check what I’d just heard.

            “Yes,” he repeated.  “We’ll have it for you at the end of the week.”

No, he didn’t have a loaner for me.  He could see get me the corporate rate with the rental car company that the dealership uses.  Crushing my five minutes of euphoria,

            “No, the work from last week isn’t covered,” he explained.  “That was not considered an emissions problem so it’s not covered.” I went to the car rental agency on my own, got the economy rate, with up upgrade to a mid-size car for the rest of the week.  On a Friday evening after work, I picked up my car.  Tentatively, I drove short distances at first and when that proved safe, I ventured on longer drives.  But it took at least a month for me to be convinced that the carbon monoxide hadn’t slowly built up somehow in the vents or car or somewhere.

 I don’t know exactly when the leak started, how gradually the colorless and odorless fumes were building up in my car until they started to affect me.  I had three severe asthma attacks, one of which sent me to the ER. Although I despise oral steroids, it was necessary for me to be on them at least three, perhaps four times during this the time that this was all happening.  Prednisone is prescribed starting with a high dose — usually 60 or 40 milligrams, which you take for three days, then you “taper” down the dose by 20 milligrams and remain on that dose for three days and so on.  When I’m on this medication for a short period of time, my usually pleasant self becomes irritable and I snap at anyone who crosses my path.  I find myself apologizing and explaining fifty times a day, but that doesn’t negate the words that impulsively shoot from my mouth.

 I was on the phone around 9 :00 PM one evening with my pulmonologist, Dr. L.  and I guess, as pulmonologiists do, was listening to my breathing.  She wanted me to go to the ER, but I just didn’t have the energy to move.  I kept saying to her that my chest was really tight and I realized afterwards that I was having a coronary artery spasm which is a direct outcome of my diagnosis of Prinzmetal’s Angina.  My cardiologist told me that these attacks can be caused by low oxygenation.  Additionally, there were a lot of days where I didn’t have outright asthma attacks, I’d just feel short of breath and need to use my rescue inhaler once or twice to settle my breathing down.

It wasn’t until I was having a conversation with Dr. L. after I had gotten my car back and was reassured that it was fixed for good that I made the connection between the carbon monoxide leak and the string of asthma attacks and verbalized this epiphany to her. 

            “Oh my God,” was all she could say.  That definitely could have caused all the problems with your asthma.  Did you ever have your levels checked?  How are you feeling now?”

I told her that I didn’t have a PCP, so I wouldn’t have known where to go to get my level checked. I added that yes, I was feeling much better now that the car was definitely fixed.

This debacle put my life in danger in more ways than one.  I fell asleep while driving and although I did have an accident, the outcome could have been much worse.  The effect of the accumulation of the carbon monoxide in my lungs caused my asthma to worsen and provoked an incident of the angina.  A friend told me that I needed to let the owner of the dealership know about these “secondary” dangers, though they were actually just as dangerous to my life as the accident because asthma has the potential to become fatal.

I agreed, however I never quite got around to calling or e-mailing and I don’t know why.

Stay tuned.  There's more.