Breathing is a Gift

As a lifelong asthmatic, I’ve always appreciated being able to breath.  In the last year I’ve had two nephews who have been hospitalized and in the ICU for breathing problems and it been ever more clear to me how much we take for granted this autonomic instinct.  When you don’t have to consciously think about breathing, you never really realize how vitally important it is.

When I was born, I had swallowed meconium and was immediately taken from my mother and had my lungs sucked clean.  So you can say from the minute I was born, I’ve had breathing problems.  I was diagnosed at age 2 with asthmatic bronchitis (a rare form of asthma that when I have an attack I can breath as deeply as I want, I can’t just exhale).  My breathing issues were so significant, my pediatrician could no longer treat me and I was referred to a specialist I still see to this day.  In fact, the only time I ever saw my pediatrician was when I had strep throat, because almost always if I was sick it had something to do with my limp lungs.

As a child I never really comprehended why my parents were so over protective of my health until my second child was hospitalized with RSV when he was only 6 weeks old.  He was born 4 weeks early so his adjusted age was just 2 weeks old.  The nurses told my friend, who’s daughter was in the hospital room two doors down also with RSV, that he was the smallest baby they had ever seen there.  I’m glad they didn’t tell me that.  He had an IV in his head, various monitors were stuck all over his chest, and his pulse oxygen was measured through something taped to his foot.  Nursing him meant unraveling him through all these different wires, and if one detached, several nurses came running.  It was, undoubtedly, the scariest week of my life.

After that experience I thought for sure my poor baby would have to deal with asthma for the rest of his life.  I grieved for him because I knew all the things I have had to deal with throughout my life and wanted to spare him from that pain.  And for whatever reason, by the time we went for his kindergarten immunizations, he no longer had any trace of asthma.  I believe it’s because we started taking him for regular chiropractic adjustments from the time he was almost 2, but I have no proof of it.  Just my own instincts and improved lung health since I started getting adjustments 7 years ago.

Since that awful time, I’ve watched two of my sisters deal with their own sons having asthma issues, and also being hospitalized.  And I hope that I can in some way help my nephews deal with this wonderful disease of asthma through my own experiences.  If I can spare them any pain, some of what I’ve been through will be worth it.  Some people might be thinking, “it’s just asthma, it’s not that bad…it’s not like it’s childhood cancer.”  And I agree, there are worse diseases to have, but it is a disease and it has seriously impacted my life.  If this were the show Intervention and I was confronting Asthma, I would say, “Asthma, you have negatively impacted my life in the following ways:”

  • Since the age of two, I cannot go anywhere without my rescue inhaler.  I have exercise induced asthma and with a little unforeseen physical activity, I could have an asthma attack at any time.
  • I also have cold weather induced asthma, so even though I have lived in Utah my whole life and a 1/2 hour away from some pretty great ski resorts, I have never, not once, been skiing.
  • And because my asthma is also cold weather induced, winter is a horrible time of year for me.  And the inversion we tend to get every winter wreaks havoc on my lungs.
  • I was so sickly as a child, I never engaged in any physical activities.  I never played sports because I was afraid of having an asthma attack and PE was hell on earth for me.  Especially when I had a 9th grade PE teacher who didn’t believe that asthma was a real disease and thought I was just lazy.  (Until my Mom called her and opened a can of whoop-ass).
  • In 3rd grade, I was hospitalized with pneumonia for several days.  A kindergartner pulled the fire alarm on a rainy day and we were made to stand outside for hours in the rain while the school figured it out.  By that night I was in the hospital.
  • And because of that dang kindergartener, my parents had a meeting with my teacher and Principal who all agreed that I had to keep my coat on the back of my chair all the time. Which made me, the weird kid, already weirder.
  • In elementary school I wasn’t allowed to play outside during recess in the winter.  I think by 5th grade I rebelled and did what I wanted.
  • I get bronchitis almost every winter.  A few times my breathing has been so bad, my doctor has threatened to hospitalize me if it doesn’t improve with a nebulizer treatment.
  • I can’t exercise without using my rescue inhaler first.
  • When I was first married and not on my husband’s insurance for a couple months, I got so sick, maybe even pneumonia, and my inhaler ran out.  I couldn’t afford a new one without insurance and went for days at the edge of almost death before my mom refilled my prescription for me.
  • Wheezing sucks.

So yeah, it’s not cancer but it’s a debilitating disease I have to deal with on a daily basis.  I started looking up some facts about asthma to see how prevalent it is.  This webpage has some great facts and figures about asthma.  I was surprised to learn that 9 Americans die a day because of asthma.  So it’s a serious disease that can cause death if not treated correctly and swiftly.  That statistic gave me a sort of wake-up call to not treat my asthma so flippantly.

I can’t take breathing for granted. Most of the time I can breathe really well and kind of pretend that I have normal lung functioning.  Until I have to remember to pack my inhaler in my purse before I can go anywhere.  Or like the last week when we were blessed from all the smoke from the Idaho fires and suddenly I felt like I was coming down with bronchitis and was coughing constantly.  Or if I run up a flight of stairs and suddenly I can’t breath.

If you have normal lung functioning, you are blessed.  It is a gift.

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3 thoughts on “Breathing is a Gift

  1. Wish I could have been there to hear your mom ‘open a can of whoop-ass’ on that teacher. I love your mom, and If I can be half so dedicated to my kids’ well-being, I’ll be doing all right.

  2. As long as you’re just watching Mom open that can, you’re fine, but when you’re on the receiving end – not fun. Obviously this week I gained a great new sense of the terror M&D lived with when you were young Rissa. But the medications now are so much better than they were in the 80s.

    Just took a big deep breath in honor of everybody.

  3. It’s nothing like the can she opened up on the school counselor who wouldn’t let me transfer out of Mr. Peterson’s calculus class into another calculus class. The counselor was kind of mad at me for getting my mom involved, but I couldn’t stand one more day in that sexist piece of crap’s class. I had had enough of his arrogance and patronizing. He doesn’t teach there anymore and I heard he had a sexual harassment file against him 2 inches thick.

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