What Dr. Luke has to Say About Pneumonia

Many people have said, ‘Pneumonia is the old man’s friend.’  Why is this said?  This is because, pneumonia would quickly take an older person suffering from disease and sickness to death.  Why is this and how does this happen?

Pneumonia is still one of the top 5 causes of death of both non-developed countries and in the top 10 causes of death in developed countries.  Thus all over the world it is one of the still great health problems.  Why is this and what can be done about it?

First, pneumonia has been around since people have lived and continues today.  Second, people can die in a matter of hours to days with severe pneumonia.  Third people of all ages from small babies just born to the oldest of adults.  Even young adults in the best of health can die from pneumonia in a day or so. No person of any age, race, sex or geographical location can be speared the potential of getting pneumonia and even dying from having pneumonia.  Thus pneumonia is rightly a very feared disease which demands and commands doctors and patients utmost respect and attention when they get it

How do we get pneumonia?  What causes pneumonia?  Pneumonia is a disease, which we get in our lungs.  It is caused by one of many different organisms, which get into our lungs from the air we breath.  Generally we get this organism from another person who is sick with this.  The problem is that the person whom we get if from may or may not have symptoms of pneumonia when they pass on the organism from them to us.  This may at first seem a bit odd.  However, if you think about it a moment this is not so odd.  Again, why is this?

When a person gets sick from an organism in their lungs, then for 3 or so days they have little to no symptoms such as fever cough, runny nose, headache, muscle aches and pains or any other symptoms.  Then they may develop a very slight cough.  This cough can be so slight that they think nothing of it.  However, during these days with little to no symptoms the sick person can pass on the organism they have in their lungs to another person.  This is what makes pneumonia potentially so deadly.  This very slight cough can pass on the organism to many people in just a few days.  That is why during the winter so many people can get sick with pneumonia.

It is important to realize that not all people who get an infection in their lungs or throat have pneumonia.  They can have a cough but not have pneumonia.  We call the infection pneumonia when the lung has enough infection to show up on an X-ray.  Less than this the person certainly may be sick and not fell well but they do not have pneumonia.  Is this distinction important for doctors and patients to make? Yes, but because it is this increased amount of infection in the lungs, which causes so many people to die from pneumonia.  That is why when a doctor says a patient has pneumonia he should be very serious in telling the patient how sick they are.  Such a patient should not work or other activities but should rest at home.

Zhou Xiao Ming was a 25-year-old recent graduate of a pharmacy school in China.  She was working with a Chinese drug company helping them sell their medical products to hospitals around the country.  She had never been sick except for an occasional cold.  One Friday afternoon after a hard week of work she felt a little more tired than usual. She went to bed early that night because she felt so very tired.  When she awoke the next morning she had a high fever, headache, cough and muscle aches.  By noon she could hardly get out of bed she was so weak.  She was coughing up yellow sputum.  She called a friend who took her to the hospital latter that evening.  By the time they arrived at the hospital she was a little short of breath.  After several blood tests and a chest X-ray, the doctor told her she had pneumonia and needed to be admitted to the hospital.  During the night she got much worse to where she really could not breathe on her own.  She had to be admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit and placed on a mechanical ventilator.  Her parents arrived from their hometown.  During the following several days she almost died.  She was in the hospital for several more weeks and when she was finally released from the hospital she had to stay home with her parents for several months to completely heal from here illness.  Zhou Xiao Ming was fortunate, as many other people just like her did not recover; they went on and died from their illness.

Pneumonia thus can be a devastating illness of both individuals as well as whole societies.  During the year 1917 or so in the United States more than 125,000 people died from one type of pneumonia.  These types of pneumonias have happened often throughout the world.  This type of devastating illness, which can cause rapid death of individuals or death for thousands, is what makes pneumonia so important to consider and not ignore.  King David, who ruled Israel about 1000BC, wrote the following which people who have had pneumonia can identify with:

  ‘Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in the miry depths, where there is not foothold.  I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.  I am work out calling for help; my throat is parched.  My eyes fail, looking for my God…But I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation (Psalms 69.1-3, 13).’

This is a great passage, which tells of David calling out to God in his need for help.  This sounds like what Zhou Xiao Ming said when she was sick.  She was crying out.  David asked God to answer him with his sure salvation.  Later in the same Psalm David says:

  ‘I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with Thanksgiving.  This will please the Lord more than an ox, more than bull with its horns and hoofs.  The poor will see and be glad—you who seek God, may your hearts live!  The Lord hears the needy and does not despise his captive people.  Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and all that move in them, for God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah.  Then people will settle there and possess it; the children of his servants will inherit it, and those who love his name will dwell there (Psalms 69.30-36).’

David surely sees the results of hoping in God. He sees his deliverance and the Lord God helping him out.  What a great hope.  However, later we come to understand this hope more clearly.  David may be delivered from his enemies at that time but what about the future, everyday and into eternity. What hope does David and we have for eternity, that is after we die?

A man named Paul also wrote a book to the people in Rome and discussed this very matter.  He wrote this book about 60 AD.  He wrote that through the person of Jesus Christ we have peace and hope with God.  Here is what Paul said:

‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom (that is Jesus Christ) we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.  And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that sufferings produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he had given us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.1-8).  What an amazing passage.  What does all of this mean?

First, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ.  This peace comes through trusting and believing in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us.  It is not through government, money, work or any other thing that we can have peace with God.  We see here that suffering leads to perseverance to character to hope.  Finally we see that God sent Christ to die for us even when we were doing wrong.  We call this being sinners.  What a great love God has for us.  What a great love and hope God has know and into eternity.

Before we talk exactly about what God has done for us let us talk a bit more about pneumonia.  Why is it that some people get it and others don’t?  Ultimately we cannot answer that question.  However, we do know that some people are more likely to get it that others.  Who are these people?  They tend to fall into several categories of people.  Children under 5 years of age, people of any age with a chronic disease and the elderly.  Let us look at each of these three categories a little more carefully.

Children under five years of age.  They are susceptible simply because their little bodies are not ready for more aggressive illnesses and they simply cannot fight well severe illness.  Pneumonia has been one of the top 1-2 causes of death in the world for children under five, according to the World Health Organization, for years.

Second are people of any age with a chronic disease.  This would include diabetes, chronic kidney disease, arthritis, chronic lung disease from any source (cigarettes, etc), cancer, heart disease.  These diseases make it very hard for these people to fight off infectious organisms, which can cause pneumonia.  Probably the two most important of these are diabetes and chronic lung disease from smoking.  This is very important, as they are so common, especially smoking in China.  Millions of men smoke and thus are more likely to get pneumonia.

Finally, the elderly. Why is it that they are more susceptible to pneumonia?  This relates to several factors.  One is the one just mentioned. That is they may be more likely to have chronic diseases than people younger than them.  However, the very process of growing old makes people more likely to catch infectious diseases.  Why is this?  Because as we grow older our body’s cells do not fight infection as good as they did when we were younger.  This process actually starts when we are younger, that is around 40 years of age but the process slowly worsens so that when we are in our 60’s and 70’s and older it makes people very likely to not only get pneumonia but die from pneumonia.  We know this because young people in their 20’s get the same type of pneumonia and get sick with very few dying, but older people get it and many die.  This is why vaccines to prevent pneumonia are so very important in the elderly.

As we grow older we become more dependent on others for many things.  That is because our physical bodies are frailer.  However, as mentioned above, we are frail spiritually before God all of our lives. The Bible says, ‘in sin did my mother conceive me.’  We are helpless people all the time.  We cannot save ourselves from our sins.  The passage from the book of Romans says, ‘even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5.8).’  Even when we did wrong God still loved us enough to die for us.  This is an amazing story. But why did Christ die for us?  Why did God send Jesus Christ to earth?  The Bible say, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believed in Him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3.16).’  God sent Jesus Christ because he loved his and wanted us to have everlasting life with him for eternity.  Even when we did wrong and went against him.  What exactly did Jesus do for us?  The Bible again says, ‘If we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with the mouth that you confess and are saved (Romans 10.9,10).’

Jesus Christ died on the Cross-to save us from our sins.  Then to show that he had power over sin and death he rose from the dead.  You to can have this same life in Jesus Christ.  All you need to do is believe just what was said.  You can also pray this prayer after me.  ‘Dear Jesus, I know that you died on the Cross-to save me from my sins.  I believe that after you died for my sins you were buried rose from the dead and are alive today.  Thank you for saving me from my sin.  I place my trust in you now.  Thank you.  If you have prayed this prayer, congratulations, for you are a child of God and will live forever.