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Sunday, June 14, 2009

My Goofus Asthma Attack

The original plan today was for me to write about my experience at the asthma hospital when I was a kid, although I am going to defer those plans for the time being. First I have to tell you about my Goofus Asthmatic move of last night.

Obviously the goal of all asthmatics is to strive to be Jake Gallant. However, once reality sets in, we learn perfection is not achievable. As when I teach my patients to use an inhaler, I always teach them to use a spacer too. And then I give them a peak flow meter and teach them the importance of using it as part of an Asthma Action Plan.

Likewise, I teach that no matter how good your asthma is you should always take your preventative medicines, and you should always take your rescue inhaler with you wherever you go.

Well, even the best of us miss some of these steps. So, I suppose if an asthma expert as myself messes up on one of these steps you could call me a hypocrite. And, I suppose to be fair, I probably am a hypocrite. (or maybe it's just a little slippage).

I carry an inhaler around with me all day as I work, and I use it without a spacer. If you think about it, there's no way I can fit a spacer in my pocket anyway. That's my excuse. However, the truth is, carrying a spacer with me to work is an inconvenience.

So, anyway, for some reason last week when I picked up my new Albuterol inhaler from the pharmacy I only got one inhaler instead of two or three. I usually have my doctor write the script for three because we asthmatics are prone to lose inhalers. You know the routine, they get stuffed inside couch cushions, under the bed, in the freezer, under the front porch, under the car seat, etc.

So, for some reason when my doctor renewed my Ventolin prescription he wrote for only one inhaler. It was a little slippage on his paft. And, of course, two days after I picked it up I lost it.

Yesterday I went to my mothers. My asthma has been great for the past year or so, so I figured it would be no big deal if I went without my rescue inhaler. Well, guess what happened. Dad decided to make a campfire for the kids to make Smores. And, voila, the asthma struck.

It was totally unexpected. I was sitting on a bench near the fire and, the swirling wind wafted my way sending the smoke with it. It wasn't a mild attack. It was a full blown I-couldn't-even-take-half-a-breath asthma attack.

I was sitting their all frogged up on the bench thinking, "Well, maybe it will get better." It didn't. The agony continued. The kids were having fun, so I decided I wasn't going to be able to go home. My mom had an inhaler somewhere in her house, but I didn't want to bother her.

Then it struck me: I'm being a Goofus Asthmatic. I'm making excuses. I'm sitting here suffering and I didn't need to. I was acting like I acted when I was 10 years old. I was doing what I tell you guys never to do.

The ironic thing about this whole moment was that my mom was sitting next to me. Literally, there was no need for me to suffer -- well, assuming my mom still had a rescue inhaler somewhere in her house.

Finally I couldn't suffer anymore: "Mom," I whispered, "can I borrow your inhaler."

"Oh, yeah," she said, "no problem." What! Was I actually thinking she would tell me no? Perhaps an irrational part of me did. Perhaps that's the irrationality we asthmatics get sometimes when we can't breath. (Although I could have been downplaying my asthma as I describe in this post).

Perhaps this is a new type of asthma called Irrational Asthma. It's called doubt. It's called stupidity. It's called normal. And this is the exact reason that it's nice for other people to know you have asthma, and be able to pick up on the signs you are having an attack.

Mom lead me to my old bedroom. The inhaler was in the same spot. I took six quick puffs. Mom watched as I did this and I waited for her to lecture me. She didn't. She was probably happy she could help. The breath came back. It is such a great feeling when you all of a sudden can catch your breath. I took six more puffs for good measure.

Sure this is against recommendations, but studies show eight puffs of an inhaler without a spacer is equivalent to one breathing treatment (four puffs with a spacer is equal to one breathing treatment).

So, anyway, that's what happened to me last night. I suppose I could have avoided sitting by the fire, but everyone else was sitting around the fire and I didn't want to be the party pooper.

One more confession by your humble RT/asthmatic. I also drank beer last night, and that probably didn't help matters much. Drinking always causes me to increase my inhaler use. Although it has never stopped me from being normal and having a little fun from time to time.

After all, the goal for us asthmatics is to live a normal active life. And that's exactly what this humble RT plans to do.

So, after this was all done and I was feeling better (and again sitting on the bench by the fire drinking a beer), I leaned over to my mom and said, "Pssst, mom. By the way, your inhaler in their tastes like rotten mints. I think it's expired."

It was a goofus asthma day all the way.


kerri said...

Thanks for sharing that story, Rick. I'm glad you were okay.
It's good to know even asthma pros make mistakes.

Looking forward to your recap about the asthma hospital--was wondering when that was going to get posted.

Steve said...

It figures! the moment you don't have your inhaler close by, you have an attack. Well, Im glad the 8 puffs did the trick, even if the meds were old and minty.

What would you have done if your Mom didn't have an inhaler laying around? Always good to have a back-up plan.

Freadom said...

In that case I probably would have had to spoil the fam night out and return home.