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Pneumonia, Severe Asthma, & Substitute Doctors.

Pneumonia, Severe Asthma, & Substitute Doctors

When you know your own body, it can be so frustrating to deal with doctors who do not know your detailed medical history. During the holiday times, many doctors take their own vacations and have ‘substitute’ doctors who are meant to fill in for them while they are gone. Occasionally these doctors do not care as much as the specialist you regularly see. Unfortunately for my husband and myself, this is an issue I ran into this holiday season when my overall specialist was out of the country for Thanksgiving. My pulmonary doctor for my asthma was supposed to be talking to my specialist but we still ended up with an extremely frustrating nightmare.

Existing Damage

I have asthma and extreme lung damage that has not yet repaired itself from a round of pcp pneumonia that almost killed me in October – November of 2016. This hospitalization kept me in ICU on a ventilator for 15 days and then in a regular room for another two weeks. Since then I have kept this specialist and anytime anything goes haywire, he puts everything into taking care of the infection. Apparently while organs like your heart recover quickly from damage other organs like your lungs takes much longer because despite trying to recover from the damage they are dealt, the encounter a continuous amount of work by filtering out what you breathe in every day.

Lacking in Substitutes Doctors

So once my primary care realized she was in over her head and that my specialist was on vacation, she reached out to the pulmonary doctor in order to have her take over. The pulmonary doctor gave me a steroid shot and sent me for a ton of cat scans, and discussed doing a bronchoscopy (which apparently was specially apparently requested by my specialist). The pulmonary doctor specifically told my husband and I that the scans showed nothing and despite my systems, left me on my own, miserably sick, until my specialist returned. As soon as he did, I made an emergency appointment with him. His nurse was instantly worried by just looking at me and went to go get him right away. When he came in and caught up on everything that had been going on and what was and was not done while he was gone, he wrote direct orders for me to be admitted to the hospital. The chest x-rays and chest cat scans showed my lungs were completely infiltrated with pneumonia. This was another case where I knew my body and knew I was sick yet my primary care and pulmonary doctor could either not figure out the problem or did not want to take the time to accurately diagnose and handle the situation.

The Battle of Treating Pneumonia with Asthma

The pneumonia cough can trigger the asthma lack of air flow. I can honestly say there is a fear that sets in when you are coughing but cannot get enough oxygen in on your own. I ended up finally getting them to approve the nebulizer breathing treatment scheduled like I do at home, use my own rescue inhaler from home, and was put on two liters of oxygen while I was at the hospital. After I was released, my oxygen still remained low at 93 and is only now at about 95. Even coming home was complicated because a conversation or a shower would take my breath away. While the recovery was not as bad as last year, it still has not been an easy journey and once again ruined the holidays.

My Lesson

I definitely think the next time my specialist plans to go out of town for any kind of vacation, he is going to have to give me an alternative doctor to turn to that is on his team of partners, since I no longer trust my regular primary care and pulmonary doctor who treats my asthma to handle any severe issues that may arise while he is gone so that this case does not occur again.

Has anything like this happened to you when your regular doctor was unavailable to you or your doctor did not believe your symptoms?  

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Sarahkate
    11 months ago

    I am SO HAPPY that by pure chance I happened upon this website as the articles and comments validate my own recent experiences including one where I went to the ER with a severe asthma attack and was told I had “post nasal drip” causing my coughing and was advised to “take Claritin and avoid caffeine and sugar.” When I was able to see my regular doctor two days later after having a second attack he got me immediately in to see an asthma specialist and we are now working together to prevent these attacks. I truly do not “get” why health care providers don’t listen to you, don’t bother to look at your medical records, don’t bother to correct misinformation brought to their attention, etc. Goodness knows they are certainly paid well enough to mean they should be doing their jobs. I felt like I was not only battling my disease I was having to battle the medical system to and it sure is disheartening, even depressing, to be treated as though you are a semi-competent five-year-old by having your symptoms denied and disrespected!

  • lond0036
    1 year ago

    So…what kind of specialist do you see? A pulmonologist?

  • AWorkman moderator author
    1 year ago

    Actually I see a specialist for my asthma and other lung issues not a primary care. I see a pulmonologist. They focus specifically on health issues regarding the respiratory system. I did see a couple before I found the one I that I liked. In my case, a primary care physician is not capable enough to handle my case. Everyone is different, you could try your primary care physician or an internist. They need to have the equipment to do the pulmonary function tests to see how your lung function is, so the proper treatment can be done
    Amanda Workman (author & moderator got team)

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi lond0036 and thanks for your post. In addition to the posts by AWorkman (above), and our own Sam Taylor (below), I thought you might find it interesting to read about the type of professionals who generally comprise a health care team for treating pulmonary disease. It is from our sister site,
    Wishing you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • SamuelTaylor moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi lond0036,
    Thank you for the question! In many cases, yes, you would seek the help of a pulmonologist, typically recommended by a primary physician. However, with asthma you may see multiple healthcare professionals for treatment.

    You may seek the help of respiratory therapists in some cases. Or, if your asthma is triggered seasonally or by allergies, you may seek out help from an allergist as well. It depends on your needs with asthma, how sever it is and how you’d like to manage it. I hope this information helped you. Please reach out if you have other questions. I wish you the best.

    -Samuel, Team

  • saltmom1155
    1 year ago

    Whenever anyone is admitted to the hospital here, they are turned over to doctors who have no idea who you are. In the case of a specialist they are usually residents. The attending dr who would be following you is a hospitalist. These drs have no clue how to reduce a dose of steroids and think it is perfectly e states ok to reduce the dose from say 180 mg intravenous to 60 mg in one day then send you home with no monitoring. I live in the US in one of the states known for their medical expertise. I have had to educate more than 1 dr on how to reduce a steroid dose.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    1 year ago

    Hi saltmom1155 and thanks for your post. Sadly, your experience is similar to that of other members who expressed similar situations with ‘substitute’ doctors who are not familiar with them as patients. Your approach underscores just how important it is to be our own best advocates when it comes to our medical care. It’s sad but it can be reality. We wish you the best, Leon (site moderator)

  • AWorkman moderator author
    1 year ago

    Sadly, you are both accurate. We definitely have to be advocates for ourselves and it’s even better if we also have a friend or family member to be an advocate for you as well. So there are two of you to advocate for your health and occasionally challenge a doctor when it is needed. I’m extremely sorry you are having the same issues with the medical community as I have experienced here in south Texas. Stay strong and keep your head up. You are definitely not alone.
    Amanda Workman
    Author & Moderator, team member

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