Thursday, April 28, 2011

Doctor Visits 101

I had my doctors appointment today and it went pretty well, but before I go into more detail, here is some vocabulary and medical terms to help when I go into more detail. 
PFT - Pulmonary Function Test - A series of usually 3 breathing tests to assess my lung function.
FVC - Forced Vital Capacity - Measures the amount of air exhaled when lungs are full to when they're empty.
FEV1 - Forced Expiratory Volume - Measures the amount of air you can forcefully blow out in the first second of the FVC (
Chest X-ray - I get these to see how much mucus is built up in my lungs - I'll have to see if I can get a digital copy of one to show you.
Blood work - I get blood drawn annually to check my vitamin levels. When I was younger, I never took my vitamins and my levels were very low, but now I am taking them everyday thanks to my lovely pill organizer. Seriously, if I didn't get one, it would make taking all of my vitamins and other oral medications so much more difficult! (People with cystic fibrosis have a hard time absorbing nutrients and vitamins, so I am on a high-calorie diet and take lots of vitamins -A, D, E, and K- to maintain my health and weight.)

Having cystic fibrosis means that I need to see a CF specialist every three to four months to make sure that my lungs (and everything else) are doing well and that I'm staying healthy. When I was younger and in the children's clinic, I only had to go to the hospital for my appointments once a year to get all of my major testing done including my blood work, PFTs and a chest x-ray. My dad used to call this my "thousand-mile check up" because I had to go to the University of Chicago Medical Center in Chicago which was at least an hour away -without traffic - from where we lived. For the other appointments in the year, I was lucky enough to only have to go to a small clinic which was about 30 minutes away and not in the city. 
Now, I still see my doctor (and nurses!) every three to four months, but I am part of the adult clinic and have been since I turned 18. Since the number of patients in the adult clinic is much smaller than the pediatric clinic, I have to go into Chicago for every appointment, even if it's just to see the doctor. It takes me about an hour and a half from where we're living now, with no traffic, and it's about 150 miles round-trip. Today at the doctor, I didn't have to get any major tests do so I thought I'd be in and out, but of course I had to wait forever. I arrived about 45 minutes early because I never know how much traffic I'm going to run into driving into Chicago, so I always give myself an extra hour. 

Here's today's PFT results:
FVC: 2.98 L/second, or 76%, FEV1: 2.61 L/second, or 82%
This is pretty good, the number I usually look at is the FEV1 or the 82% which to me is a B-.

Last doctor's visit on December 9th, my FVC was 4.43 (113% = A++!) and FEV1 was 2.72 (86% - solid B). 

So I obviously decreased which I'm not happy about but I kind of expected, but I'm also getting over my nasty chest cold and I'm on antibiotics so I'm really hoping the next appointment will be a lot better. My last doctors appointment, I was very excited about my results and that's where I'd like them to be so I just need to keep kicking my butt and making sure I'm doing my treatments twice a day and coughing as much as possible to get everything out. I am planning on starting to exercise (which I should be doing, but I'm too lazy) this summer, so hopefully that will also help.
Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of why my doctor appointments are so important and why I do my treatments...and how much one chest cold can affect my lung function. I am always curious to know what "normal" people's PFT results would be just to see how I compare. 
Well, that's all for now. Tim's waiting for me to finish writing this so we can go bring some garage sale stuff to his aunt and uncle's house...he's reading over my shoulder waiting for me! :-) 

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