Thursday, July 03, 2014

Breathe In Breathe Out ...

For those of you who don't have asthma and have never had to use an inhaler ... give yourself a clap on the back.  You lucky, lucky bastards.  I envy you.  I really, really do.

I've had asthma for as far back as I can remember.  One of my earliest memories is of sitting on my grandmother's kitchen counter in the middle of the night when I was three or four.  A light bulb had gone off somewhere in my developing brain and I made the connection between not breathing and dying.  It was the first time I felt panic in the middle of an asthma attack.   It wasn't the last.

For the most part, an asthma attack is almost a non-thing to me anymore ... barely a blip on the radar.  Back in grade school, doctors told us that most people "grow out of it."  In my case, that wasn't completely accurate ... but things have definitely improved for me in the breathing department. 

I have dozens of stories involving my gimpy lungs.  Thing were pretty bad when I was little.  I remember going on my first hay ride somewhere out in the country when I was six or seven with my parents ... and winding up in a tub of ice water because they didn't know if I'd make it to the hospital.   I remember my mom having to put my stuffed animals into individual plastic bags because they collected too much dust and I couldn't breath around them.

I remember when I was around fourteen or fifteen, my dad brought home these two gigantic pillows ... meant to lay on and watch television.  They looked so comfortable ... but we discovered they were filled with goose down shortly after I threw myself on top of them and and my throat closed up.  The pillows were banished to the garage.

Things were worse after we moved to the country ... too many fields ... too much pollen.  The windows and doors were never open ... either the furnace or the air conditioner were running at all times.   Autumn was hard ... the frost killed everything off and made breathing easier ... but harvest kicked too much corn dust into the air.  There was only a week or so of optimal weather ... before it got too cold to breath outside.

Everything triggered an attack ... heat ... humidity ... cold ... smoke ... dust ... pollen ... animals.  I was given syrup and shots ... and when I went to grade school I was given an inhaler to carry with me at all times.  Oh yeah ... I was not one of the cool kids in grade school.

These days, I'm a lot better ... a combination of just "growing out of it" and knowing what to avoid.  I still can't sleep with down pillows ... a fact that I find tragic.  Being around a cat is torture ... short visits aren't bad but any amount of time and my nose will close up and I'll be wheezing like a chain smoker.

No, these days ... my asthma attacks mostly come from laughing.   I'll get to laughing ... which triggers wheezing ... which invariably leads to that embarrassing circus seal barking cough.  Ugh ... it's not attractive ... and it's especially frustrating that a cough like that starts with happiness and joy.  It's frustrating to stay the least.

It's alright.  I don't panic anymore.  Fixing that smothering tightness is just a matter of taking my inhaler, knocking that wheeze down, and opening up the airways.  The problem is that the process is utterly and completely exhausting.  I'm not exaggerating.  I'm not sure if it's the coughing or the medicine or a combination of the both ... but after a spell, I just nothing more than to crawl into a ball and sleep.

So last night, I was laughing so hard I was near tears ... and everything kicked in.  I had to take four puffs off my inhaler before I could get a full breath.   I went to my house and crawled into bed ... no shower ... no ice water ... nothing.   I guess the silver lining is that I slept like a baby last night.

So ... small blessings.   I'll take the inconvenience every time ... the laughter is worth it.

Breathe, breathe in the air
Don't be afraid to care
Leave but don't leave me
Look around and chose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be

Pink Floyd - Breathe

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