Archive for February 2014

Smoke

From time to time I’ve talked about tobacco smoke and smoke in general.  At times I declare that I hate smokers, when really I’m just having an extreme reaction against the smoke they’re generating.  I truly try to avoid smoking-designated areas and stay in my no-smoking designated places, but when the smoke comes into my safe-zone it’s hard to stay Dude-like.  For example…

This morning on my way into the building at work I started to smell cigarette smoke as I approached one of the side-doors.  I work on a no-smoking campus so people aren’t supposed to be smoking anywhere on the property.  If you pay attention you’ll notice pathetic huddles of people puffing literally feet away from the property line in certain places.  This winter they’ve been reminding me of that I.T. Crowd episode where Jen is still smoking.

Anyway, I really have no option but to breathe in this lung irritant for about 40 feet and then as I get close to the door I see someone left a lit cigarette burning on the stairs.  Because of the placement of the door, overhang and direction of the wind, this cigarette has continued to burn and there’s a giant pocket of smoke trapped at the entrance along with smoke in the entryway being sucked in every time the door opens.

For most this is no big deal.  I have friends and family who would not even noticed the smell.  For the past 4 hours this morning:

  • I can’t breathe in as deeply as before
  • There’s a sharp pain on the left side of my chest below my collar bone every time I breathe in, which almost always means I’m wheezy
  • I’m coughing
  • My voice is affected
  • My sinuses hurt
  • I feel like crap

I got into my office took some meds, have been taking it easy and have taken more meds in the meantime.  I’m in no way bad enough to warrant urgent medical care by any means, but this is what people like me go through just from smelling cigarette smoke for about 15 seconds in their day from a single, abandoned cigarette on the ground where it’s not supposed to be.

Last week I read a post on Asth.ma where Dr. Wu, the blog’s author, was surprised to learn people smoke outside the entrance to the hospital where she works.  This is something I feel like I’ve been dealing with my entire life.  As a kid my dad used to smoke around me, people smoked in planes, people smoked in most businesses, and there were always crowds of people smoking outside of a hospital.  I think I can even remember people smoking inside of hospitals.  The worst situations are when I’m heading to a doctor’s office or going to the hospital for emergency care and I have to encounter this, at times, life-threatening smell before getting inside the building.  I take the risk of sounding whiny here, but it’s really not fair.

The crazy part is other than last night when I saw someone smoking close to this entrance, perhaps the same person who left their cancer-stick this morning, I haven’t even encountered smoke for weeks.  I feel very fortunate to work at a place where smoking is banned.  No one smokes in my household, for obvious reasons, and I can fairly easily avoid smoke when I want to in my town and state.  The hard part is when I’m away from home and traveling, staying at hotels, and flying on planes.  Even though people can’t smoke on planes or in most airports anymore, 3rd-hand smoke from people who were around smokers or were previously smoking is just as detrimental.  I’ve had to ask for a different seat on a plane or move on a bus before due to this.  I understand people have the right to smoke, I just wish there was a way to keep the smoke away.

Some days asthma makes me cross

My breathing problems affect my life on a daily basis.  Every morning when I wake up I take a handful of pills and puffs off inhalers.  I track peakflow numbers and sometimes take note of my oxygen saturation.  I must pay attention to my body and symptoms in an attempt to catch any flare up, attack or exacerbation before it gets bad.  I have to avoid smoke.  I can’t hang out around cats.  I have to stay out of musty/moldy buildings.  I have to limit my activity in extreme temperatures.  I must pay attention to the weather.  I must manage my stress levels.  I can’t let myself become too worn out or tired.

If I fail to stay on track with these things and others things can quickly go downhill for me.  I may not notice right away, but the longer I wait the worse it gets.  My rate of inhalation increases.  I may breathe shallowly.  I don’t always breathe with my abdomen well.  I over-utilize my auxiliary muscles to breathe.  I act irritated about everything.  I become sluggish and less responsive.  I slouch.  I become still.  I quit talking and start using other means of communication.  Oh yeah, and I can become irritable like a 3 year old who desperately needs a nap.

I’ve snapped at my wife, yelled at my daughter, blown people off, acted rude and have probably looked like an idiot at times.  I don’t like being this way and don’t try to act this way.  It’s just what happens sometimes when I can’t keep a lid on it anymore.  That stabbing pain every time I inhale or the constant struggle just to appear like I’m breathing normally without gasping for air in the middle of a meeting.  It can be rough sometimes.  I haven’t had a day where I’ve felt great since 2005 or so.  Invisible diseases are tough.

Asthma stats

Did you know 9 people die of asthma every day in the U.S.?  Here are a bunch of asthma stats from AAAAI.  I came across this link while catching the latest at My Life as an Asthma Mom.

Flying on planes

Do any of you have trouble breathing on airplanes?  I know if I will have trouble as soon as they shut the door and I start breathing the nasty, recycled air.  On top of that you have an insane amount of dust and dust mites, smells from fellow passengers, cramped spaces, hot and stuffy when sitting on the tarmac in July, cabin pressure isn’t always great and fellow passengers hacking and coughing.

Sounds like a great environment for a severe asthmatic with severe allergies, right?  I’m going to be flying in the near future and have been thinking about how to make sure I stay “ok.”  I was thinking about maybe wearing a mask.  I’ve always heard nothing paper/cloth you buy works very well because it doesn’t seal to your face.  I emailed one of my lung docs who confirmed this for me in about 5 minutes.  Doesn’t seem worth it to go buy something, get stared at for 3 hrs and have it not be effective.  Probably my best bet is to drink lots of water, stay hydrated, and rinse my sinuses out as soon as I get to the hotel.  Does anyone have any good tips for avoiding bad breathing episodes on planes?

February

A lot of things have been happening this past month

  • I had several asthma attacks due to over exerting myself in the snow outside in sub-zero temperatures
  • My prednisone in-take is finally back down to 5mg again
  • I’m finally starting to lose some water weight from the lower prednisone dose
  • I’m not feeling great, but also not feeling awful every day
  • We have a new kid in the house
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman died
  • I heard I might get off the prednisone in 6 to 12 months
  • Jimmy Fallon finally kicked Leno out
  • OLYMPICS

Prednisone:

While I’ve always had at least moderate asthma, there were always a few things that separated me from those with serious asthma problems.  Prednisone was something I had to take every so often, but never longer than a week, two at the most.  Last year I did a taper or two and then have basically been on it since late May.  While it drives me nuts and has some unpleasant side effects, I strongly believe it’s keeping helping me breathe better and I’d rather take these pills every day than end up in the ER on a regular basis like I was doing just a few months ago.  I know some people who have been on prednisone for years and can’t really relate to that.  There’s a good chance I’ll be on these steroids for a while, but at lest there’s a chance I can stop taking them before 2015.

Exercise and activity levels:

You never quite understand exactly what you have until you don’t have it anymore.  I’ve heard this statement so many times, but it’s never rang truer this past year.

  • I used to park half a mile away from my building at work and do the one mile round trip 1-3x a day.
  • I never had to consider just how far away something was on campus before deciding to walk, catch the shuttle, drive or not go.
  • I have to carry a man-purse with all my medical necessities everywhere I go.
  • At some point in time, every day, I feel kind of awful.
  • I try to make plans but often have to cancel them.

I’m trying to walk around as much as possible and not worry too much about doing anything heavy duty.  I think Liz enjoys yelling at me whenever I try to do anything outside.  Last week my local lung doc told me to stop breathing the cold air, so I guess I should probably listen.  Fortunately Spring is on its way so as long as allergies don’t kill me, I’ll be able to start walking outside more as well.

New Baby

Yes, we have a new baby in the house.  I recently listed off a list of possible nicknames for the little dude, but Liz is calling him Neville on the internets so it seems I should too.  Chuck has been great.  She’s very helpful in an appropriate way without bugging or pestering the little guy.  He’s pretty chill and Dude-like, which we appreciate.  He’s also not up every hour all night long so we have been getting some sleep.  While there is a certain amount of stress with taking care of a new baby, the worst is getting busy and forgetting to take my medicine, which doesn’t help at the end of the day when I sometimes crash out of nowhere.

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It’s hard to stay mad at him too long for forgetting to take my meds.  The kid already loves beards.  THE KID LOVES BEARDS.  He also likes taking it easy and folding his arms like he’s in a 90s boy band.

Brandt Died

It was a real shock for me to learn Philip Seymour Hoffman died.  The New York Times posted the story and I learned about it a mere three minutes later.  He was truly one of the few great actors of his generation.  We’ve tried to come up with other actors who are at the same level he was…it was hard to come up with a list of names.  I haven’t been affected this strongly from a celebrity dying since Heath Ledger died, only Hoffman passing is a much bigger deal.  It’s weird to think Jackie Treehorn and Brandt are no longer with us.  I can’t even imagine what kind of roles and performances could have come out of Hoffman in the next 20+ years.