I’ve spent the last 11 days in the beautiful state of Montana. Montana is in the midst of their worst wildfire season ever. There have been air quality alerts in effect daily as well as red flag warnings concerning fire-starting regulations and likelihood for new fires to start. Right now it is so dry and fire conditions so optimal that you cannot light a cigarette outside in any natural area.

I’m no stranger to visiting this state in the summer, but the smoke has been nothing like my husband and I have ever experienced. And boy can it make life unpleasant and ruin a view!

Montana life mostly happens in the valleys’ towns and cities between mountain ranges. Here where we are, in the southwest, almost every place you go you are surrounded by mountains on all sides. That’s how Montana got the name “Big Sky Country,” because the sky stretches horizon to horizon landing on the many mountain ranges. The first day the smoke came into the valley, I said to my husband as we headed for town, “It’s pretty bad when it’s so smoky that you can’t even tell you’re surrounded by mountains!”

In an attempt to escape the smokiness that had enveloped the town of Dillon, where we’re staying, my husband, brother-in-law and canine nephew set off for four nights near Yellowstone Park. We stayed in a small cabin with a beautiful view – that is, until the smoke rolled in! We had a few days of sightseeing and one day on the river. The weather was clear for about half the trip. The night before we returned to Dillon, the smoke here was practically as bad as it’s been all summer. It ended up clearing out on our drive home – yay! – and today it’s back. Which is why I’ve opted for an inside day.

New Challenges
Life after transplant still has its challenges. While my lungs are great, my sinuses have become much more of a challenge. I have had chronic sinusitis for years but transplant has increased my sinus congestion and infections. Even though I rinse twice a day, the smoke and dryness have been killing me!

 My sinus problems on this trip actually started without smoke, just a major shift in humidity from my usual 80-90% in Raleigh to Dillon’s 10%. I had a crazy dry and bloody nose the first few days. Just when I’d adjusted, the smoke came in and made everything worse. The peak of discomfort came after I tried some Afrin-type moisturizing nasal spray, the result of which left me in unbelievable, burning sinus and face pain that lasted well over 12 hours. It was one of the worst days of my life, pain wise. But hey, we were driving through Yellowstone, so at least I had great scenery!

We fly back to NC tomorrow. While in many ways I’m not looking forward to hot, humid days, I am most certainly looking forward to a more nasal friendly environment.

 Readers, has transplant exacerbated any other of your health issues?

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…what an amazingly generous opportunity!