This summer is truly turning into record breaking asthma for me. As of today:
- I have 22 days of prednisone under my belt with another 27 on the way
- Two courses of anti-biotics
- Two ER visits
- Four PCP visits
- Three Pulmonology visits
- One Allergist visit
- About 120 nebulizer treatments
Wednesday was brutal outside. The temperature hit at least 90F with humidity to add to the heat index. I know the heat index isn’t “real” but it sure does affect people like myself with pulmonary conditions. I’ve been trying to figure out a better parking solution at work because the closest lot with my level of parking access is 880 walking yards away. When I’m feeling ok, that mile of walking every day is great, but I’m not ok right now. Ironically my doctor wrote a letter asking for a parking accommodation and later that day I ended up in the ER due to an exacerbation from walking around campus.
Trips to the emergency room or emergency department are never enjoyed or wanted. I fancy myself as “tough,” never think I’m that bad and in the moment usually suffer from “asthma brain” fueled by a lack of oxygen. It’s good to have someone around to make the decision for you or easily identifiable metrics defined to know when to go. Walking around outside that day was causing my lungs to ache with every breathe which eventually led to dull, then sharp pain. Around 6:30pm I’d rank my inhalation pain around 7/10, was shaking uncontrollably and had tears streaming down my face. And that’s ok cause strong men also cry…right?
Whenever I recount stories like this, they sound ridiculous and of course I would try to force someone else to seek medical attention if they were in my situation. What I had going through my head that night were things like:
- There’s no way it can last that much longer
- I’ve been worse before (it’s true)
- I’d rather wait to incur more medical costs until after 7/1 when I have more FSA funds to pay for it
- I’ll be ok
My wife started threatening to call an ambulance, and while I do respect all my paramedic friends, I hate taking ambulance rides. Eventually I agreed to go if she would drive me, and she did. I had already done four nebulizer treatments at home that day and by the time I finally went to the ER, my pain had dropped from 7/10 to about 4/10. With the heat, humidity and thunderstorms, the ER was packed, however, since I’m a bit of a frequent flyer they recognized me when we walked in the door and let me cut in line. As they were wheeling me to a room I began to notice all the people standing/sitting in the hallways being treated so I was grateful for a bed. They got started on me right away with the standard tests. The “asthma” wasn’t bad, I just wanted to punch a wall every time I breathed.
The respiratory tech was a good one that night. Instead of answering a bunch of questions, I handed over my notebook which is when they start taking me seriously. I’m basically on high doses of every type of maintenance and rescue medication in addition to the anti-biotics and prednisone I’ve been taking. The attending physician ordered blood work, a chest xray and the dreaded ABG. This was the first time a respiratory tech performed a blood gas test on me, usually they bring in a phlebotomist and it goes horribly. This dude got it right away and I can actually move my wrist – major bonus.
Unsurprisingly they didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, well that is from what’s already known, they got me patched up and sent me home. They did pump me full of morphine though which really made it easier to breathe. I’m sure Rick James would tell us it’s one hell of a drug, but that’s a bit rhetorical. At this point my body is just too tired, stressed and worn out from 6 weeks of asthma and not sleeping. I need to start seriously looking out for myself the rest of the summer to avoid any more complications. I sometimes joke about people dying from asthma, but it’s true. I’m fortunate enough to have a special lady friend looking out for me, a good team of doctors and a boss who is accommodating. I don’t know how I became so lucky some days.