When I was in utero, I swallowed meconium. Which probably means I was baking for too long in there. The second I was born and the cord was cut, I was rushed over and my lungs were sucked clean. Ever since then my lungs have been weak.
When I was 2, my lovely grandma, who thought she knew best (about everything), decided to take me and my weak lungs for a walk in the rain to visit my grandpa at work. Me and my weak lungs came down with a nasty case of pneumonia. My grandma’s punishment was to nurse me back to health. That wonderful case of pneumonia developed into full-fledged “Chronic Asthmatic Bronchitis.” It’s different than normal asthma. During an asthma attack I can breath very deeply…I just can’t breath out. It’s a weird feeling.
My regular pediatrician tried to take care of me, but when my lung problems far exceeded his medical knowledge, he sent me to Dr. Anderson, an allergy and asthma specialist. I still see Dr. Anderson on a semi-regular basis. Dr. Anderson took my limp lungs under his wings. I remember many a sick day spent in his office hooked up to oxygen and nebulizer treatments. And that stupid machine that you have to blow into so they can measure your lung functioning. Seriously the phrase, “blow blow blow blow” puts shivers down my spine.
Dr. Anderson made my Abuterol inhaler my constant companion.
I’m not kidding. There has not been a day in almost 30 years where I have not gone anywhere without my inhaler. It would be too risky.
There are a few days that stick out in my mind to when my asthma has gotten the worst of me. In third grade a wonderful little kindergartner thought it would be super cool to pull the fire alarm. I remember standing out in the rain for hours while the fire department tried to figure things out. The next day I was hospitalized for several days with pneumonia. I’ve always hated needles. So much so that whenever I had strep throat, it took several nurses to hold me down to get my penicillin shot. And that day I entered the hospital, the poor nurse stuck every vein in my body in an attempt to find an IV line and I barely noticed. I was THAT sick.
I spent most of my Elementary school years sick because of my asthma. I had to stay inside during recess during the winter months. I never got to go to the Environmental Center and make snow shoes. I had to keep my coat at my desk and my inhaler on me at all times after the fire alarm incident. It basically sucked. I never got to play any sports because my asthma is exercise induced as well as cold weather induced. While all the other kids ran after each other playing tag, I was afraid to because I might have an asthma attack.
My junior year of high school I joined the Key Club for no particular reason. The Key Club and the Science Club paired up and we got to go on an over-night trip (with boys!) up to the Environmental Center. Finally! I got to go! The Environmental Center is up in the Mountains and the school bus drops you off in the parking lot and you have to hike it up to the center. I had my inhaler in my overnight bag and before I could object, a teacher threw my overnight bag into a truck and up it went to the center, and there I was in the freezing dark winter night without my inhaler. The combination of cold weather and exercise was not a good thing for my lungs. Needless to say, I had a really bad asthma attack. A very bad asthma attack. Luckily my very good friend Scott lagged behind the group to make sure I was okay. It was the longest walk of my life with Scott by my side every step. When we were nearing the top, he ran ahead of me and grabbed my inhaler out of my bag. This incident is probably why I developed a crush on this boy and ended up dating him later.
At the end of high school I started walking hoping to improve my lung functioning. Dr. Anderson told me that if I just used my inhaler before I started exercising, I wouldn’t have an asthma attack. This was truly freeing knowledge. Knowledge I wish I had known sooner. I was no longer scared of exercising. Since that time I have loved walking. My inhaler was my gateway to freedom and activity. No longer would I be a couch potato! Okay, I still am, but a decidedly more active one since learning to use my inhaler before activity.
Right after my husband and I were married he screwed up on his insurance and didn’t add me as a dependent. This means when my inhaler ran out, we couldn’t afford the full price for another one. I was working at a grocery store at this time and I probably had pneumonia, or at the very least a very bad cold. I couldn’t breath. We bought one of those OTC inhalers and it didn’t help at all. Remember, I don’t have normal asthma. It is my curse to be special. One day my Mom came into work when I was practically on my deathbed (I got paid by the hour and couldn’t afford a day off and couldn’t find anyone to work for me because it was Christmas time). She said it was the worst she had ever seen me. She marched over to the pharmacy and bought me an inhaler. It probably cost her a pretty penny. But breathing in the Abuterol was like receiving oxygen. After a few days, and being incredibly sick at my sister’s wedding (as was she), I was better. My inhaler was my salvation.
Fast forward a decade or so and we are in present day. Back in January I signed up to do the Ogden half marathon. I must blame my friend Kari for this insanity. I got on a training program with my long walks on Saturday. My inhaler has been by my side every step of the way. We have been attached in some form (because I’ve had a billion different inhalers over the years) almost my entire life. I literally know where my inhaler is at all times.
I told you this story, so I could tell you another one. Yesterday I forgot about my inhaler. I know I left with it in my hand when I went to the gym. I know it entered my car. But when I got to the gym, my inhaler wasn’t there, and I didn’t even notice. I walked inside that gym and proceeded to run 9 miles on the elliptical machine. I didn’t use my inhaler first and I didn’t need it the entire time I was in the gym. I walked out of the gym and got into my car. Still not noticing what had just taken place. When I pulled into my garage I looked to make sure I had everything with me. Wallet? Check. Cell phone? Check. Ipod? Check. Water bottle? Check. Inhaler? Hey! Where the heck is my inhaler? It was then that I realized that I, Marisa – the girl with the asthma stricken lungs and asthma stricken life – had just run 9 miles with no help from my inhaler. I started to tear up. It is truly a miracle for me.
My inhaler made it possible for me to live an almost normal life. And now is it possible that I can live a life away from my inhaler? My inhaler set me free. And now I am set free from my inhaler.