COVID-19: One Patient's Personal Account on the Effects

Posted on May 01, 2020   |   
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Written by patient and advocate John Torrence

Which way is up? In this new crazy world of Coronavirus, we are being told not to go to work, to stay away from everyone, and just sit at home. Meanwhile, the bills keep coming in the mail.

For me, the world changed while I was on a road trip, 450 miles from home. I had been aware of this new virus in China, but suddenly it took over. The only talk on the TV and online was about this new virus, and the president decided it was the national priority. It is hard to know when the press is making a big deal about a small matter, and there is a long history of them doing it. My initial reaction was that things were overblown, and that we just needed to get on with our work and daily lives.

But then the death count started rising. First oversees, then here in the US. Again, I tried to use my rational mind. People die every day, from smoking, from accidents, from heart attacks, from the flu. When the doctors say that 200 people died today – that is in a country of 328 million people. But the next day, the death count doubles, and doubles again. That is something the flu death rate does not do.

I want to believe I am a young, healthy male, capable of doing a full day's work, climbing mountains, enjoying the physical world. In truth, I am a 61-year-old male, with one lobe of my lung removed due to bronchiectasis, and an eleven-year history of nontuberculous mycobacterial and other miscellaneous pulmonary infections. I use a nebulizer and vibrating vest twice a day to keep my lungs clear, and my pulmonary health is always foremost in my mind. I get tired walking across the street, so let's forget climbing mountains.

The first thing I have to master is that I cannot fully understand the extent of this pandemic. It may be overblown, but it may be real. I will never get the true story watching TV. Guessing wrong could cost me my life. And the lives of those around me. Working and accomplishing goals is what gives me my sense of self and sitting at home reminds me that I am sick and weak. Visiting family and friends reminds me that I am part of a society, that I contribute my share, and that I am valuable. Sitting at home tells me the opposite. And sitting at home does not pay the bills. While the government officials tell me, they are going to offer all kinds of financial support, history tells me that they never come through with their promises. Somehow, as a small, independent business owner, I never qualify for all the goodies the government passes out. My employees depend on me to provide them with work and income as well.

All of this leaves me in quite a state of distress. I cannot do any of the things that give me meaning or purpose. I have watched all the self-help, house repair, and learn-a-new-skill videos I can stand, and I face an unknown future waiting for the world to return to normal.

It's time to take a deep breath. As suggested on a recent COPD webinar, it is better to tune out of the moment-by-moment news broadcasts for now. Concentrate on what I can do. Fix something, call a relative, take a short walk. While I cannot buy into all of the craziness, I do agree that it is worthwhile to add a few steps toward better hygiene – more hand washing, less face touching, less contact with public facilities that might be infected, a little more distance between people for now. Maybe it's overkill, maybe it will keep me alive. Time will tell. Be safe out there.

The COPD Foundation advises that before you make any changes to your medication or therapies that you first consult with your doctor. The COPD Foundation recognizes that everyone’s experience is unique, and this is John’s experience.


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  • Hello John,

    Yes, all of us are experiencing challenges in different ways at this point in time. Thank you for sharing your openness with the group. As you mentioned above, we must concentrate on what we can do and take one day at a time. Setting goals for each day and taking whatever action steps we can will propel us forward in the right direction. I wish you the best with your business challenges and hope and pray that the small business loans, supplement will come through for you.
    Please keep us posted . In the interim, reach out to anyone who gives you uplifting energy. You have gone through so much in your lifetime such as your lung surgery ; you must believe that you will get to the other side of this current challenge. Again, one day at a time.:)))
  • Bud
    Thanks for your post and information about your concerns. I was diagnosed with bronchiectasis back in 2009 after 15 years of misdiagnosis by a specialist I had depended on for medical care. One visit to a different person and subsequent different radiologist reading a past and then his CT scan confirmed the initial suspicion upon physical exam. We, my wife, who has mild asthma, and I take some steps to be cautious, our adult daughter shops for us most of the time, but other than that we live a normal retired life - exercise every day, both inside and outside. Walk frequently and avoid meeting people or allowing our dogs to meet people or other dogs. I suspect this will pretty much be our life until and IF a vaccine is developed and even then avoiding crowds will be our new norm - never flying has been my life since 2006 as I realized each time I flew I had an exacerbation, despite having a job that required extensive travel - I drove. I wish you the very best, attitude has an impact so keep pushing and stay well.

    • Bud,
      Hello! Welcome to the site. I wholeheartedly agree that attempting has a major impact on our health and that we must continue to put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving forward. There will be a vaccine within the year.
      The rest of the world, outsiders will see how we have been living with such precautions for so many years.
      We must support one another, take all precautions seriously, boost one another, take one day at a time, hope and pray that we get to the other side of this challenge. We have already overcome so many challenges and we have to stay as strong as possible to defeat this one.
  • Hi there, I'm new to this condition. I'm wondering if surgery is common for Bronchiectasis/NTM.

    • Hello! I do not not have statistics on surgery numbers for NTM. I do not think it is the majority of patients. Most have a bronchoscope for diagnostic purposes. Surgery is often the last resort if medications are not effective. It all depends on the location and extensive ness of the disease.
    • I would suggest speaking to your doctor. My understanding is that surgery is rare for this condition. If it is isolated in a single lobe, it could be a possibility, but surgery is not commonplace. I know this because I have been recently researching it because my doctor has brought up the idea of looking into whether I would be a good candidate for it. I was diagnosed advanced stage about 7 years ago, and medication does not do much for me. It's nothing I am going to jump into, but something I have been thinking and praying about and will get several opinions from lung specialists if they feel removal of my lower lobe would bring me relief from this disease.

      Best of luck to you!

  • Hello John,

    If you are open to it, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences with the surgery of removing a lobe of your lung. That procedure is currently being discussed as something to look into for myself, and hearing from someone who has been through it would be of great benefit.

    I know every case is different, and that even if your results were fabulous, that doesn't mean that mine will be too, but it is a small population of patients who have this surgery, and it would just be nice to hear if it helped you or not, and in what ways, are you glad you did it, how was recovery, etc., etc.

    I appreciate your time!
    Thank you,

    • Erika,
      You most likely read about surgery on the NTMInfo& Research website...- thought I would post it for other members:,other%20treatments%20such%20as%20antibiotics%20may%20be%20recommended.