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Friday, May 8, 2009

Slippage of the Gallant Asthmatic

I have written about the gallant asthmatic on several occasions on this blog, and how every asthmatic should strive to be like him. Yet, I have also written (see here) how perfection in itself is not obtainable.

That said, it should always be the goal of all asthmatics to strive for perfection -- to strive to become gallant asthmatics. The best asthmatics never stop trying.

That said, even the best asthmatics are prone to slippage. Before you read on, perhaps you'll want to freshen up on what slippage is, I wrote about it in greater detail here.

In short, slippage is when you slip out of your normal character. When you do something that isn't you. When the taciturn, well respected uncle gets drunk and runs around outside screaming. That, my friends, is slippage.

Slippage is normal; we all do it from time to time. However, most of the time our slippage moments are harmless. Sure they might embarrass us in retrospect, but they are usually harmless.

But these moments can also be harmful. For example, the teacher who slips out of character and cusses at his student. Not only is this type of slippage stupid, it could cost him his job.

Or consider the well respected member of the community getting drunk and running over the neighbor's kid. That kind of slippage is obviously not good.

Now, consider the asthmatic who has worked so hard to educate himself about asthma, work with his physician, and get on all the right medicines. He then takes all his meds compliantly. He, in essence, has become a gallant asthmatic.

I can provide you two examples of this. First, I wrote about myself and my battle with bronchodilatoraholism. As I became educated I turned into the gallant asthmatic I am today (or, as I said, I strive to be a gallant asthmatic).

Second, I wrote about the Jen, the Sometimer Asthmatic. Jen is the prototypical asthmatic who decided on her own she didn't need to take her meds unless she was having an attack. Then one day her asthma hit her hard, and she learned her lesson. Jen is now striving to be a gallant.

Now for some slippage. I have recently been very busy at work. One day I realized my Advair had nothing in it. Then my Singulair ran out. All of a sudden I was sneezing and coughing and (as a sign of my bronchodilatoraholic past) I found myself puffing on my rescue inhaler more often.

Yes, I was participating in slippage.

My friend Jen came to me today and said, "Rick, you are going to be disappointed in me, but I have let my Advair inhaler go empty. I haven't taken it in two days. And, worse of all, I can tell the difference."

Yes, Jen is participating in slippage.

A little slippage is okay so long as we catch ourselves and quickly get back into our normal character. In my case, and in Jen's case, that normal character is in the mold of a gallant asthmatic.

Sad to say, though, as I wrote above, sometimes slippage can be serious. I had an asthmatic patient recently in the emergency room who, when he was feeling better, told me he slipped up. He forgot to take his medicine for two weeks. "And now this," he said.

He promised me he would never slip up again. Well, I have said that too, and so has Jen.

What makes asthma such a hard disease to live with is that most of the time the asthmatic feels no symptoms. It's easy to forget we have asthma. It's easy to slip into the mould of a Goofus Asthmatic.

To be a Gallant Asthmatic is a never ending battle. To avoid making that unnecessary trip to the ER, we must always strive to be the best asthmatic we can be.

Yet, as we can all attest, a little slippage from time to time is normal. Yet the periods between these weak moments should become further and further apart.

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