My Bout with Pneumonia Brings Back Ugly Memories

Ryan Berhar avatar

by Ryan Berhar |

Share this article:

Share article via email
bacterial or viral pneumonia

Photo by Shutterstock Pneumonia diagnosis in SMA patient can mean a lot of bedtime.

Refined By Fire Ryan Berhar

My nearly three-year streak of good health came to a screeching halt at the beginning of March. I guess you could say March Madness came a little early for me. I came down with a nasty virus that quickly turned into pneumonia. While I had pneumonia on roughly a bi-annual basis until my spinal fusion at age 9, I had it only twice since before now.

As of writing this, I’ve been sick for 24 days, and I’m still not entirely well. I still need to use my cough machine a couple of times a day. Even though that’s not a huge deal, it means I can’t go far from home, because I don’t want to risk getting too far from my machines.

Honestly, I largely forgot how miserable pneumonia is because my case in 2015 wasn’t this bad, nor this prolonged. Every four hours, I did treatment cycles that consist of an albuterol nebulizer, the Vest Airway Clearance System, postural drainage, and, of course, cough and suction. This is a great way to combat respiratory illnesses, as it first loosens the junk, then removes it.

Even though it’s an effective treatment, it means I have zero relief until I get better. Doing an hourlong cycle every four hours means I get very little sleep, so I’m too exhausted to even watch TV. I was essentially bedridden for a few days, as it’s easier to breathe lying down. It’s a perfect storm of misery where all I can do is focus on my next breath.

After a few days of this, I went to the doctor, who quickly diagnosed me with pneumonia and prescribed antibiotics. I was hesitant to take the antibiotics, which can be hard on your stomach — the last thing I needed — because whether I actually had bacterial pneumonia wasn’t a sure thing. The doctor simply listened to me. I wasn’t X-rayed. I did take the medicine, but it’s hard to say whether it helped or prevented anything. No stomach issues, though, so nothing lost.

It’s difficult to take away any positives from an illness like this, but in the interest of becoming refined by fire, I will find a silver lining. Being so sick reminds me of life’s fragility, and how unexpected it is that I’m still here. The sickness refreshed my purpose and appreciation for life. Perhaps I needed a reboot, but pneumonia can leave me alone for a while now.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.