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Sunday, December 16, 2007

A long agonizing, miserable night with asthma

Growing up with asthma: Chapter 3

I had been short-of-breath like this before, and even had dad take me to the hospital once or twice, but this episode was happening right now. I could make it through the night, I was sure I could.

Time had passed, but I was unsure of how much. I might have slept, but I wasn't sure if I really did. I didn't have a clock. I looked out the window and it was pitch black. How long until the sun comes up? I hope it's not long.

I could hear myself wheeze.

Mom and dad and my brothers were long asleep, and I tried to rest with my head high on the head board.

My mind wandered. For a short while I must have fallen asleep, and when I woke up I was reminded of my misery.

Was I breathing okay for a while, because I sure feel like I can't breath now? How could I have fallen asleep like this? Why couldn't I have just slept until the sun was up so mom would be up and I could tell her. I should have just told her last night.

On the ride home I thought I was feeling better, and dad and mom seemed so happy listening to Christmas music. It was easier just keeping quiet. That was stupid. Stupid!

I'm going to tell her now, I've made up my mind. I can't handle this anymore.

A tear trickled down my cheek.

Calm down. I have to calm down and I'll be fine. I rested my head on the headboard again, and tried to concentrate on anything other than my breathing. I thought of Christmas. I thought of all the presents I'd get.

I woke up again from a nightmare wheezing and sweating. I fell back to sleep and dreamed I was at Doctor Gustafson's office breathing fine. Then I woke again. I looked at the window; it was still dark out. Oh, come on! Why can't it be morning already?

It struck me then that I was still tight. I tried to concentrate on other things, but it was no use now. The time had come for me to tell someone. Mom's going to be mad. I don't care anymore. I can't stand this.

I knew now that I needed to go to the hospital. I needed that shot that I knew would make me feel better instantly.

I sat on the edge of the bed, placed my arms at the edge of the bed by my sides, held my shoulders high, and tried to force air into my lungs: it would only go in half way, if that. I tried again and again and again: it was no use.

I through my fist through the air. I hate this!

I stood and opened the window. The air out there was cold, but refreshing. I still couldn't breathe though. This worked earlier. Why not NOW?

I stood, leaning hard against the window, peering into the pitch black backyard for what seemed a long time, and, when relief still didn't come I made a final decision: this is it, I HAVE to go.

(For part IV click here)


Anonymous said...

Can you comment on why you thought your mom would be mad at your difficulty breathing? I have a 3yo with asthma, and I would feel terrible if he thought I was mad at him for something like that.

Also, any tips on figuring out how much is left in an MDI? His flovent has a handy dandy counter on the back of it (counts down number of puffs 'till empty) but I have lost count on the Albuterol. Don't want to just run out and get another $30 inhaler, but also don't want to be caught without the meds he needs. Thanks!

Love the blog-I'm a nurse, and love to hear things from a coworker's POV.


Rick Frea said...

I'm glad you asked this. I've had this discussion with other asthmatics before, and we all tend to agree.

There really is no simple answer, but I think when we are really sick, stressed or tired we tend to see problems that aren't really there. That might have been the issue with me when I was a kid. It sounds stupid in retrospect, but I know I did it once as an adult once too.

Not only that, but we tend to downplay to ourselves how bad we really are. For example, I knew how bad I was in this story, but when I got in the car with my parents I still didn't tell them. I convinced myself I wasn't "that bad."

In my opinion, I think when people are sick they don't want to make the decision of what to do. They want other people to say, "Hey, you are sick, you need to go to the hospital."

That's why I think it's so very important to know the signs that someone is short-of-breath. If your 3 YO has asthma, you should always be vigilant of these signs.

Rick Frea said...

My advice on the MDI is to not gamble and have another inhaler on standby in case you need it. You sure don't want to go without it.

The good news for you is that most new albuterol inhalers have a counter. However, the generic brands still don't.

Rick Frea said...

Other than the counter, there really is no set way to determine how much is left in an MDI. Some people say to put it in water, and the higher it floats the emptier it is. I never found that to work though. In fact, some experts now frown on teaching this method.

Usually what I do is shake it by my ear, the fuller it is the less the fluid inside you will hear. If you shake it and it's really light and the fluid inside makes a tinkling sound, then you know it's pretty close to empty. Also, you can hit it with your fingernail, and it will sound more hollow as it gets emptier.

I could do this pretty easy when I was a kid, pretty much without even thinking. But it's probably not as easy as I might make it seem, especially if you don't go through a lot of inhalers, or work with a lot of patients with them.