My asthma story has its ups and downs. When people hear that I have asthma they’ll tell you how they or a friend have it bad. Usually, they’ll mention a friend that has to take allergy medicines or inhalers. I simultaneously feel bad for them and I wish that’s all that I had to do.
Two years ago bronchial asthma became pneumonia and tossed me in the hospital. It happened the day before an event took place that we’d planned for months.
My asthma story includes several round trip tickets to the hospital. During the worst attack that ticket was almost turned into a one-way trip. A machine helped me breathe in the ICU. Fortunately, death wasn’t home when I knocked on his door.
Unless I’m hospitalized most people don’t know my asthma story. My listeners haven’t mentioned the times my voice has been weak on the Blog Talk Radio show. Ditto with the times I’ve run short of air while speaking up a meeting or presentation.
As a child, asthma was never considered. Coughing gave me almost constant sore throats and bronchitis. The doctor would hand mother my prescriptions for cheap antibiotics and cough syrup. Without health insurance this was the best he could do.
After my second child was born a cold became bronchitis and hit me like a ton of bricks. It turned into “a touch” of pneumonia that took weeks to get over. My new doctor sent me for testing. The diagnosis was asthma.
That’s when my asthma story improved. I still have problems but we know what we were dealing with. The wonder drug named albuterol gave me a new lease on life. For my asthma story to be successful it means constant monitoring. To do this my doctor and I developed an asthma action plan.
I was given a meter and taught how to use it. A needle on the scale tells me how my lungs are functioning. The color codes work like a traffic light. Green is “go”. Nothing is needed beyond my usual medications. At yellow, I add nebulizer treatments. Going deeper into the yellow zone means steroids. Red is an immediate call to the doctor for instructions.
My asthma story includes dealing with medication side effects and challenges with my other health issues. I have epilepsy. A dose of the powerful solumedrol always triggers a seizure.
High dose steroids have a wicked twist. Diabetes is another steroid complication. The drugs that save my life push my blood sugar into the danger zone. I always have to be given insulin a few hours after the first big steroid dose is given to stabilize me. In between all this the respiratory therapists bring on the breathing treatments.
Another twist in my asthma story is the degenerative disc disease in my back and neck. Everyone does this as we age but (assuming my doctor is accurate) chronic steroid use depletes your bones and cartilage faster than does the normal aging process. One doctor estimated that my back is about 10 years older than it should be.
Growing up without health insurance took its toll. Two different pulmonologists have told me that undertreated asthma as a child leads to worse asthma as an adult.
Because of my asthma story, I wanted to get my children tested. My family participated in a research study at Duke University. Both of my children were positive for asthma. They each have their own action plan and asthma story.
When you deal with a chronic disease you get used to juggling things. You learn to think outside the box. When I can’t talk I can write. Part of my asthma story is that some of my best articles have come from sleep deprivation due caused by medications.
My asthma story is a success because I’ve been able to realize some of my dreams. Monitoring the health challenge is key.
In the summer of 2009 I drove to Alaska with my daughter. We did some extra planning but we made it. My asthma story and plan meant packing a second albuterol inhaler, nebulizer solution, steroid prescription, diabetes medication and a meter.
I took a letter from my doctor, emergency contact sheet and a list of my medications. As an added precaution, we opened a Skype account and took a cell phone. Similar measures are followed every time I go out of town.
Few people achieve all of their dreams. That’s not my asthma story. That’s life. Everyone has something that we can allow to hold us captive. Whether we face a disease, abuse, broken home, war or other atrocity we have to learn accept our limitations while continuing to push ourselves to expand past them.
We can either choose to live in fear or we can learn how to manage our disease and follow our dreams. Everyone has limitations. My asthma story is that it’s how we deal with these challenges that define who we are and not the health challenge itself.
Health challenges or not, my asthma story is that I have a life and plan to live it. My hope for you is that you’ll find a way to do the same.
Lots of doctors