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01 August 2006

Breathe easy

When I was a little kid, maybe 4 or 5 years old, I had a horrific asthma attack that sent me to the hospital for adrenaline shots several times in the course of the week. My poor mother nearly died worrying about me, since no one in my family had ever dealt with asthma before and hearing your small child wheeze pitifully is apparently a terrible terrible thing for a parent (so she tells me.) For about 10 years after that, I would get wheezy pretty much at the drop of a hat- I would wheeze when I exercised, when the spring trees bloomed, when in the presence of a cat. I managed to contract pneumonia three times by the time I was 15. I was, in short, a respiratorially challenged child. I was also, as it happens, spectacularly unathletic. All those trite stories of childhood athletic trauma – getting picked last for kickball, being unable to climb the rope, having to stop and walk in the middle of the mile run – I experienced them all. Typically, I would attribute my poor athletic skills to my asthma, because if you have a medical condition kids are not supposed to make fun of you for being slow and pudgy and lacking upper body strength. It doesn’t really stop the kids from thinking you’re uncool and hoping you get assigned to the other kickball team, but it means the teachers give you a little break when you collapse into a coughing, exhausted pile at the end of the 800-yard dash. Then, in high school, something interesting happened. I decided that I didn’t really have to be unathletic. I was pretty good at tennis, and I wasn’t bad at volleyball, and I was getting pretty good at ultimate Frisbee. I decided (well, my mom’s cajoling probably played a role, but I was receptive) I should try out for sports. Since I went to one of those crazy wacked-out high schools where competition to get onto sports teams rivals that at D1 colleges, I selected as my chosen high school sport…badminton. (Don’t laugh. Badminton is really big in the rest of the world! It’s the fastest racquet sport on earth! It is very challenging! Shut UP!) I loved playing badminton, loved being on a team, and especially loved that I was, for once, not the worst player of the group. I played my freshman and sophomore year, then got involved in theater (I know! Such a shock! Since I’m so low-key and have such an aversion to all things dramatic!) and quit sports. But something important had happened: I had concluded that I wasn’t destined to be terrible at sports forever, and in the process I had somehow convinced myself that I didn’t really have asthma anymore. Sure, I got pneumonia and bronchitis my freshman year and spent the better part of that winter and spring gasping for breath. Yes, technically, I could still not run a mile outdoors without seriously compromising my peak flow. But the breathing problems no longer prevented me from being minimally athletic. As I grew up and became an adult, I adopted the position that “I used to have asthma,” and for the most part that is correct. I stopped getting bronchitis every year and started jogging (on a treadmill, but still! Jogging!) several times a week. But then, at the beginning of this summer, I contracted some sort of chest cold, and that chest cold turned into a dry wheezy cough. Initially I assumed it was part of the cold, then after two or three weeks I started cracking jokes that I was allergic to my office mate and it was his fault (he was not amused,) and then I blamed it on my dirty New York apartment, and then on the oppressive heat, and eventually, eight weeks after I first started wheezing, I found myself in a doctor’s office in Manhattan patiently explaining to the doctor that “I don’t have breathing problems, I used to have breathing problems!” The doctor sighed, measured my peak flow, listened to me breathe, and promptly prescribed an Advair inhaler. And people, let me tell you: inhalers are wonderful. I’d forgotten what it is like to breathe deeply and properly. It is fantastic. No moral to this story, really, just pseudostoops reporting that breathing is back on track. You’re enthralled.


At 8/01/2006 10:10:00 PM, Anonymous samantha Jo Campen said...

I 'used' to have asthma too. Forgot all about it. Then I went backpacking in Yellowstone and BAM! my old nemesis was back. Sucked ass. Felt like I was going to die. But then I looked around and everyone else was breathing like me too. Turns out we were at 18,000 feet and the air was a bit thin up there. Huh. Yeah, that would do it.

Glad you're breathing better. Don't get high from all that O2.

At 8/06/2006 01:32:00 PM, Blogger Green said...

I'm glad you got better, even if it took you two months. I don't officially have asthma but I do have an inhaler and when I breathe in and feel like my lungs can't process all the air that came in and I cough some out, that's when I fire up the inhaler. Tastes awful, works within 30 seconds.


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