Once uponce a time in a world far away (Mississippi!), November delivered a nagging cough, and it stayed with me until about March of each year. It arrived with the package of cold weather. Many people scoff and state, “Mississippi doesn’t have cold weather!” – but it does.
Memories of ice storms and snow-swept landscapes marry well with other memories of burst water pipes that matched countless others when temperatures dropped below ten degrees Fahrenheit. I remember Mother awakening me with the words, “Look out your window,” and with joy in my heart I thought, “No school!” as I peered outside and admired the beauty of the snow. I often caught my horse and rode through snow-covered landscape.
I remember attempting to capture the magic of flames flickering up from our neighbor’s fireplace. With pencil and crayons in hand, I failed miserably. I remember the warmth of a wood-burning tool as I etched primitive drawings on discarded scraps of wood.
Strong springtime winds usually triggered allergies, and using fans at night to stay cool produced a stuffy nose. Running during cold weather almost always prompted a cough, which I associated with a burn from the cold air wheezing down my windpipes. The perpetual wintertime cough hopped aboard when I reached my 40’s.
During a particularly-bad winter, the cough set up housekeeping, and nothing budged it from my throat. I often slept sitting straight up in a chair, which gave a little relief. I understood why smokers with chronic coughs were so lean – perpetual coughing is exhausting. (I have never smoked.)
When an ice storm downed power lines, and our home in the Louisiana farmlands was one of many without power, a neighbor knocked on the door one day and handed me a mason jar of clear liquid. “Miss Lisa,” he gently stated, “drink some of this with a little lemon and honey, and you won’t have that cough any more.” I was ready to try all options, so I sipped that White Lightning, but the cough refused to surrender.
I saw a pulmonologist each week throughout that winter, and he often stated that I was his most-difficult patient. Sitting in a hot automobile on a sunny day often gave me the most relief. (Hold that thought!)
Fast forward another four years, and my cough and allergies vanished when I moved to the tropical dry rain forest of Guanacaste, Costa Rica. For another dozen years I was symptom free as I experienced the varied climates and cultures of Latin America.
My old friend the cough returned several years ago and hung around for a month. It struck after a four-month three-museum show of my paintings, and I was tired. I had also spent a lot of time in polluted cities. At home I was again sleeping upright while fighting a strangling cough. The rattle got the local doc’s attention, and after X-rays, the radiologist diagnosed bronchitis and emphysema. The emphysema got my attention, but other doctors waved that diagnosis away. I mended, and the cough quietly faded into the background. Surely the coastal weather helped speed my recovery?
Recently recurring upper respiratory problems, fatigue and an occasional cough have reminded me to be grateful for good health and to be proactive in staying well. My friends at El Matal all but kidnapped me (I went willingly) and I mended at their home. We realized that my symptoms suddenly improved after they turned on the air conditioning one evening. Hmmm. Outside breezes were a definite trigger.
A pulmonologist in Quito sqeezed room in his schedule, and the next week my friend Silvana traveled with me to Quito. We also made some side trips between appointments; there’s always a silver lining!
Specialists agreed that allergens were most likely the trigger. To our disbelief, my body did not react to a single allergen on the skin tests! All blood work was normal.
I’m still mending, am now home and enjoying the birds, the sunshine (the rainy season skipped us so far – not a good sign.) and will be catching up when time and internet permit. Until then I’m taking it easy and will be off line more than on.
Following friends’ and doctors’ orders, I’ll remain in an artistic incubation period here on Rio Jama. My friends and I have decided that I should build a tiny pyramid-shaped room of glass at the top of Casa Loca. I can go there when the congestion is bad, and in that hot sterile environment, I can breathe!
Thanks, as always, for your support and your genuine interest in my life and my work. More stories soon! Z