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Monday, November 23, 2009

The new worldwide asthma community

When I was a kid growing up with hardluck asthma it seemed as though I was all alone in my plight. It seemed this way, I suppose, because I was the only one in my family and among my classmates with a similar ailment

When I was admitted to the asthma hospital in 1985 I learned that I was not alone, that there were lots of asthmatics just like me, and a lot of hardluck asthmatics too.

Especialy in the period before the Internet it was difficult for asthmatics to get together. Now, however, thanks to the blogosphere, no asthmatic should feel isolated.

Hey asthmatics! You are not alone!
by Rick Frea Sunday, September 27, 2009 @

It might take another chronic lung-er to understand why I say this, but one of the best days of my life was when I realized I was not the only hard-luck asthmatic in the world.

To this day I still think it's neat to know I am not alone. Just last night at work I was called to the emergency room for a "difficult breather." I rushed down and found one of our regular asthmatics sitting on the edge of the bed gasping for each breath. After two
Xopenex breathing treatments, a shot in the butt of systemic steroids, and an hour of waiting for the steroids to start working, she said, "I feel much better."

I said, "So, how often did you use your rescue inhaler at home?"

She bowed her head, as though she were ashamed, and said, "Well, I'm afraid to say this, but I usually go through about an inhaler a week."

"I can understand that," I said. "I used to go through about that many inhalers or more for about 20 years."

Her eyes lit up. "Really!" she said, "I thought I was the only one."

"Nope! You are not alone."

Why is it that so many asthmatics think they are alone? I think it's because usually there is only one bad asthmatic in a crowd. That was pretty much the case in my family, as I was the only bad asthmatic in the generation. I wrote before how I used to be a
bronchodilatoraholic. I did not abuse the medicine, but I certainly used it so much I thought I held the record for most puffs in a lifetime. At least I thought I held that record until I discovered Breathin' Stephen's blog.

Another thing I did quite a bit when I was having trouble breathing was open my bedroom window late at night when my chest or throat was tight and take in a breath of fresh air. I never understood why, but that air always seemed to provide a modicum of relief. It got to the point in order to get to sleep I had to have the window open, no matter how cold it was outside. Later on I started using a fan. In fact, I became so addicted to having a fan on me at night I eventually needed the soporific drone of the fan to help me get to sleep whether I was tight or not.

I was alone in this love of cool night air and fans, right? Wrong! When I was in respiratory therapy school I met a fellow hard-luck asthmatic who also required a fan to sleep, and to breathe easier. Later on, when I became an RT, I realized this was not just something common among asthmatics, but many with chronic lung problems. Now, as soon as a chronic lung-er comes into the ER, the first thing I do is get him or her a table to lean on and fetch a fan. Many confess as I do that, "I use one all the time at home too."

Another neat thing: chronic lung-ers usually have the room nice and cool, whether via an open window in the winter, or the air conditioning cranked on high in the summer. In fact, if you ever work in a hospital and walk into a room that is ice cold, you are probably safe to assume that patient is a chronic lung-er: either an asthmatic, COPDer, someone with cystic fibrosis, or the like.

Now, one might ask: Is this a mere coincidence, or is there some reason people who have experiences being short of breath like fans and a cool breeze upon their faces? I can't remember where I read this, but some magazine about ten years ago had an article about how your face has receptors that are responsive to the wind. When the wind hits these receptors your lungs dilate ever so slightly. I have never seen any information about this since. It's a nice theory of mine I like to share with my patients who "have to have a fan."

My point here is that it's an awesome feeling for any person to realize that he or she is not alone. You are not alone. Thanks to the Internet, the world is a lot smaller today compared to when I was growing up with asthma. Thanks to the Internet, to great Web sites like this, asthmatics like you and me can come together and share asthma stories. Despite this smaller word, however, I still take care of lots of chronic lungers who love it when I discuss my experiences as an asthmatic, and quite often I get that look of glee as they say, "You do that too!"

"Yep," I say. "You are not alone."

You are not alone either.


Steve said...

Hi Rick, You'd make a great moderator for a national asthma support group that myself and Sally Wenzel are trying to put together. Let me know if you're interested.

Anonymous said...

Hey Rick (and Steve),

If there is a national support group for asthma could you post about it? As someone grateful for the community on the worldwide web, I would want to be part of that community.


Rick Frea said...


Sharon said...


Here at,, we have worked with elite organizations who strive to find a cure for diseases and infections. After reading through your website, it is clear your organization shares the same passion we do for spreading the awareness for Asthma. is a website dedicated to the preventions and treatments of diseases, as well as an established, medical news outlet. If you could, please list us as a resource or host our social book mark button, it would be much appreciated. You fight the cause, we'll spread the awareness.
If you need more information please email me with the subject line as your URL.

Thank You,
Sharon Vegoe