Don’t Allow Sarcoidosis to Deter Your Dreams

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by Charlton Harris |

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This weekend I’ll be celebrating an anniversary. Actually, it’s more like a milestone. Although it seems peculiar to celebrate it, I’m doing so with plans to become a better person.

This weekend marks the third anniversary of my first spontaneous pneumothorax thanks to pulmonary sarcoidosis. Each year I acknowledge the day and the circumstances, but this year I plan to celebrate how it has changed my life. Since this happened in 2017, I’ve been hospitalized about five times, each a result of the event

It hit like a ton of bricks

The morning I experienced the spontaneous pneumothorax, I couldn’t breathe upon waking. At first, I tried to remain calm as I got out of bed, but immediately I started gasping for air.

My wife saw that I was in distress and called our son to help me get up. He helped me downstairs to my oxygen concentrator. I turned it on and increased the level. I wasn’t getting any air. At that point, I started to panic. I instructed him to call 911 and calmed myself down by taking short, deliberate breaths.

The emergency techs arrived and immediately hooked me up to their oxygen. To my surprise, it helped a little. On the way to the hospital, they kept monitoring my blood pressure, asking me questions, and feeding me more oxygen. I arrived at the hospital’s emergency room, where they hooked me up to oxygen, gave me an IV, took X-rays and a CAT scan, and told me that my left lung had collapsed.

I thought to myself, “What the (expletive) just happened to me!?”

Within a few minutes, they gave me a shot of fentanyl and my first chest tube.

Once they placed the tube, I thought, “Ahh, I can breathe again … hallelujah!” 

Surprisingly, all I could think about in that moment was my brother, a chemist, and his company, which processes fentanyl. I started laughing to myself because he had told me about all of the protocols and safeties in place for this medication. I couldn’t wait to tell him!

And here we are …

I was in the hospital nearest my house for a week before I was transferred to the hospital with all of my pulmonology records. I was beyond relieved to be at my hospital’s lung center. It was a little farther from my house, but not by much. I felt at ease because they knew about my lung conditions and sarcoidosis. My only complaint was the food, but my family brought me treats each time they visited.

During my two-month stay, I grew close with a respiratory therapist and a nurse. Luckily, one of the overnight respiratory nurses was a family member, so she would visit me in the mornings to make sure I was OK. She also knew several nurses on my floor. I felt relieved that folks were taking good care of me and looking out for me.

I had several good conversations with one particular nurse. She told me that nursing had been on her list of goals, but life got in the way so she ended up working for the transit system. After getting laid off from that job, she was in such a disarray she didn’t know which way to go.

Her husband encouraged her to focus on nursing and pursue her dream. She said she initially felt guilty and selfish fulfilling her dream and leaving her family with one income. Her husband stood his ground. She went to school and became a nurse a few years later.

I’m embarrassed for not keeping the promises I made to myself to pursue the things I want and love to do. Every day I give thanks for a new day and tell myself, “Today’s the day I start … ” Then life gets in the way.

I often think about this nurse and how she buckled down, stayed focused, and did the necessary work to fulfill her dream. We can all do the same thing by doing the uncomfortable work first. She taught me that when life gets in the way, change lanes and move ahead. Time to upset the apple cart! 


Note: Sarcoidosis News 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 Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.


Debra avatar


I recently found your blog and very much enjoy it. I am learning from you so thanks, Charlton! And you're right; we can't let life get in our way. I was diagnosed with Pulmonary Sarc July 2019 and aim to get better. I want to start enjoying life again before I had let stress (from everything) consume me. Your blog helps.

Charlton Harris avatar

Charlton Harris

Thank You so much for reading my column, Debra. I'm so glad I could be some inspiration to you during this time; it's the reason why I love to write. Please continue to read and I hope you'll find more inspiration in the stories of my adventures dealing with this nuisance condition!
Continued Blessings!


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