I was co-teaching a seminar the other day in a disgustingly dirty room. It’s supposed to be the crown jewel of the business college, but I was almost afraid to touch anything. The allergies and asthma almost immediately revved up and I knew the day might be a long one. Later in the morning I took a puff off an inhaler from the back of the room and heard one of the attendees say, “…you have asthma?” “Oh great,” I thought and braced myself for some friendly advice.
Lady: Do you have it bad?
Me: Somewhat bad
Lady: I have some breathing problems. I technically don’t have asthma, but my allergies are bad enough it’s as if I do. Do you have allergies as well?
Me: Yeah, pollen’s already getting bad this year.
Lady: So do you take medicine regularly?
Me: Yeah, I’m on 13 medications (waiting for that advice on how to be instantly healed)
Lady: I’m on a bunch of stuff too. I had to have most of a lung removed…
Me: Oh wow! (my eyes probably got big here)
Lady:..there was a tumor and stuff. Anyway, I feel fine most of the time but my kids always let me know when I’m working too hard.
Me: I know exactly what you mean.
Well that conversation went in an entirely different direction than I thought it would. Sometimes my thinking is a bit too uptight when it comes to chats about my health. I felt as though I met a kindred spirit that day. Someone else with a bad lung who sits in the back row during presentations.
I had the pleasure of performing a pulmonary function test (PFT), chilling with my lung doc and getting chest x-rays Wednesday. A PFT can feel like running a marathon while sitting in a chair with a tube coming out of your mouth. I’d much rather go running than do these things, but you get used to them. At one point in my life I was having to do PFTs every few weeks and sometimes multiple times in a single doctor visit.
If you’ve never done a PFT or are going to and wonder what happens, I’ll give you the cliff notes.
- Your weight and height should be measured
- You sit in a chair
- Some clips are put on your nose so you’re only breathing through your mouth
- You’ll be asked to breathe into a tube at varying rates, take a deep breath and hold it, etc
I’ve had some doctors give me a “PFT” which consisted of me simply exhaling into a tube. To me this just seems like a Peak Flow meter. The important thing to remember when doing one of these is to play it cool like the Fonz. If you’re uptight and try to fight it, you’ll just have to repeat everything.
Once you’re done there will be different numbers your doctor will go over with you. The easiest value for me to understand is the FEV1/FVC ratio. Based on your age, height and weight there’s be an expected ratio compared to how you actually performed. FEV stands for forced expiratory volume and FEV1 is the most air you can breathe out in one second. FVC stands for forced vital capacity or the most air you can exhale after inhaling as much as possible.
Like everything else, there are multiple ways to interpret this ratio, but if you’re within 80%-120% of expected, things are supposed to be normal. The hard thing for some doctors to realize is “your normal” may have nothing to do with textbook normal. Over the past 6 years I’ve gone from 135% to about 95%. I’m still “normal,” but have lost 40% of my lung function and it keeps decreasing every time it’s measured.
The good news is that I am coughing less, wheezing less and hurting less when breathing. I feel like I’ve been able to do more in the past six months than I have in the past couple years. I can’t really say I feel good, but things aren’t nearly as bad as last fall.
I just found an article talking about the FDA’s review of a new drug developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Theravance. It’s called Breo and is targeted towards COPD patients. If you’ve always heard “COPD” but don’t know what it is, the acronym stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema or both. It’s a scary thing. Now if you don’t have COPD, but do suffer from asthma or related lung condition, this drug could still be for you.
Breo is a combination drug containing both fluticasone furoate (corticosteroid) and vilanterol (long-acting beta-agonist). Other drugs similar to this on the market include:
- Advair (fluticasone propionate and salmeterol)
- Symbicort (budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate)
- Dulera (mometasone furoate and formoterol fumarate dihydrate).
Lots of big words in there, but these are all comprised of a steroid and a long-acting bronchodilator or beta-agonist. I tend to always be prescribed the latest and greatest, so I’m wondering if I’ll be switching to this some time in the future. One change Breo brings to the game is one dose a day. Many patients using combo drug inhalers are needing to take them both morning and night.
Also mentioned in the article is Anoro which could be competing with Spiriva. Anoro contains both vilanterol and umeclidinium. Vilanterol, a LABA, is one-half of Breo and umedlidinium is a long-acting muscarinic receptor antagonist. Supposedly this is the first LABA-LAMA combination drug.
In 2010 I was finally fed up with trying to lug my giant nebulizer compressor from home to work and anywhere else I needed it. After a lot of research and internet searching, I came across the Trek S offered by Pari Respiratory Equipment.
Some of the first things that stuck out to me:
- I could power this with a standard electrical outlet (AC), car adapter (DC) or a battery pack (DC)
- Weighs 0.8lbs by itself or 1.2lbs with the battery
- Comes with a carrying case
- Comes with two Pari LC Sprint Reusable nebulizers and two sets of tubing
- Produces decent air flow (14.5psi standard and 35psi max)
- Has great reviews on Amazon
I ended up purchasing it for an upcoming trip and LOVED it. Since then I’ve pretty much carried it with me everywhere I go. The small size and compact carrying case allows me to carry it or drop it into any backpack, messenger back, etc that I’m also traveling with at the moment. The compressor comes with a three year warranty and the battery pack has a six month warranty. I’m going on three years of use and haven’t had any hiccups with either the battery or the compressor.
This unit ships with two Pari LC Sprint nebuilzers that are good for six months. Pari also provides a sticker indicator that will let you know when six months is up. To make it easy on myself I replace mine in January and July every year. I have two in use at a time so I always have one at home and one wherever else I happen to be.
If you or a family member has serious asthma like myself and you’re getting tired (pun intended) of dragging that giant compressor around I highly recommend getting something more portable. General complaints I’ve heard and read about other hand-held models are noise levels and lack of air pressure creating a longer wait to complete a treatment. I’ve had neither issues with the Trek S. I’ve used this many times on airplanes where variations in the cabin pressure make it difficult for me to breathe, in cars, outdoors, indoors and anywhere else I happen to find myself.
Amazon used to have several vendors selling this, but they happen to only have one for sale at the moment. If you’re interested in getting the deluxe package with the car adapter and the battery pack, I’d suggest trying JustNebulizers.com. This is where I purchase all of my Pari LC Sprint nebulizers, filters, tubing, etc. There was one time I had a slight glitch in my order and they fixed it for me immediately. They also email coupons and sales periodically so you can get a good deal on whatever you’re buying.
When I was in high school there was an English teacher who was really into Julius Ceasar by Shakespeare. She did this whole “beware the ides of March” thing trying to prank other teachers. I think it was my senior year that a biology teacher left a dissection tray with eyeballs on it and a note saying, “BEWARE THE EYES OF MARCH.”
I kind of forgot about the whole mid-March thing until a few years ago when I started getting sick every March. This is the also the time of year allergy seasons start because winter is usually slipping away and trees are starting to pollinate. The first time I wasn’t feeling so great and coughing a fair amount. Out of no where I coughed up some blood. My wife has this rule that if I cough up blood I HAVE to go to the hospital. I ended up missing a work trip and staying home a few days recovering.
Last year I came home early from a workout at the gym because I was having some weird chest pains when exerting myself. Not too long after I started coughing profusely and was coughing up mouthfuls of blood for the next 30 minutes or so. Another trip to the hospital and another few days spend at home trying to recover.
This year I “almost” came down with bronchitis. I spent the better part of a week hanging out at home watching my oxygen saturation levels dip below 90% and trying to decide how I’d get to the hospital if I needed to. Maybe there is something to this whole Ides of March thing because this always happens to me between the 14th and 16th of March. That old soothsayer wasn’t so crazy after all and if nothing else, I can say I have something in common with Doc Holiday.