Archive for SOB

Hospice and the Next Breath

One of our hospice patients was SOB. No, I didn’t say that patient was a son-of-a . . .!

Like scuba (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) or a laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), the hospice/medical use of SOB is an acronym.

Which is to say the patient was short of breath. When a patient’s medical history is recorded, acronyms play a key role in sharing and keeping information brief. Until I started working at hospice, I hadn’t seen MOM used for milk of magnesia . . . but there it was, betwixt lasix (a medication dealing with water retention in the body) and MSIR (morphine sulfate instant release).

Under any circumstances, being short of breath is scary.

Once, in a middle school football game, I had breath knocked out of me. Yes, I remember that far back, and that experience! For several precious seconds, I struggled to breathe. As kids, we may feel indestructible—but in that long, literally breathless moment, a hint of mortality created fear. In my late twenties, in prime physical health, I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney. At 14,505 feet it’s the highest peak in California’s Sierra Nevada (and outside of Alaska, taller than any other mountain in the United States). Nearing 13,000 feet, I wondered why my breath felt labored and my stride had slowed. It was like trudging through molasses. Less oxygen! Read More →

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SOB, Once Again

Take a big breath!

Take a big breath!

Many hospice patients have MOM for one of their prescribed medications. And who wouldn’t want a mother’s love when entering into hospice care? Mom knows best, right? But wait! MOM is one of our hospice’s many acronyms, an abbreviation for the familiar Milk of Magnesia.

Then there’s SOB, which I’ve mentioned in past essays. But whenever SOB is one of the medical concerns for a patient, I’m one part amused and one part saddened. The acronym is for Short Of Breath and not the curse, “You son of a _ _ _ _ _!”

Being SOB represents many patients greatest fear. A number of illnesses compromise the lungs and regular breathing becomes a struggle. No one wants to gasp for air. No one wants to pause for long seconds between each word as they slowly, slowly, slowly try to communicate. No one wants to go to sleep at night, dreading a lack of air will force him or her awake or, fatally worse, that they will never wake. Another acronym linked to SOB is COPD. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, according to the Mayo Clinic website, “refers to a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult.” That’s a simple and a terrifying definition. On too many occasions, COPD is the primary diagnosis for a patient entering hospice and having “six months or less to live.” Bluntly, cigarette smokers are high on the bad scale for a future with COPD and SOB. Read More →

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