Saturday, March 14, 2015

I CAN'T BREATHE!

When dealing with a chronic illness or illnesses, that condition slowly becomes a person's entire life and effects everything a person does and doesn't do.  Sadly, it's how you identify yourself because all the other parts even the outstanding, wonderful parts seem to dwarf in its presence.  Since 2002, my list of illnesses has grown immensely.  It's as if my body and its functions have been kidnapped and ransacked by some perverse domino effect.  I jokingly tell people that I've inherited all the worst genes from both sides of my family, but the truth is that it isn't a joke at all.

A few years ago after a returning from a trip to Central America, I came down with the swine flu.  It was at a time when the flu was just gaining momentum and was in the news everywhere.  The swine flu itself wasn't that bad, but it left me with a cough so bad that it hung on for 3 months after all the other flu symptoms subsided.  After countless rounds of ineffective antibiotics, I was finally diagnosed with adult onset asthma.  I was told that sometimes a virus like the flu will bring on asthma in an adult.  Although I was relieved to find out what was wrong with me, struggling to breathe on a regular basis wasn't something I wanted to deal with, but I have to admit it was better than thinking I had something far worse than asthma.  During my 3 month fiasco, I had many breathing treatments because the cough I had was so bad at times I couldn't catch my breath.  It felt like I was trying to cough up a lung and because the cough was so severe I even broke a rib from the strain coughing put on my chest.  When this episode finally passed, I rarely had to use my inhalers and I got to the point that I questioned if my diagnosis had been accurate.

I questioned that diagnosis right up until Tuesday night.  I had gone upstairs to get ready for bed which included taking all my nighttime meds.  Shortly after doing my normal routine, I started feeling a tightness around my mid-section.  That tightness increased and as it increased my breathing became more labored.  My son and I scurried to find my inhalers.  Oh my God, (not an OMG, but a full blown OH MY GOD) where had I put them?  It had been so long since the last time I had to use them.  I religiously to carried them in my purse, but I had failed to put them in my new purse when I had bought it a few months earlier.  Thank goodness, I had unopened ones in my nightstand.  By this time, I was in a full blown panic and I was really struggling to breathe, but the 2 inhalers (Symbicort and Pro Air) didn't seem to be do anything to relive my symptoms.

It became obvious that I needed medical attention because nothing I did was helping.  As I struggled to breathe, the anxiety I felt deepened.  I had lost all ability to calm myself down.  My son finally made the decision to call 911 and by the time the EMT's arrived my heart rate was over 130 and my vision had stars in it...I'm assuming that was from lack of oxygen.  But regardless of my condition, I was unable to sit down or lay down.  All I could do was pace and walk in circles while talking and flapping my arms so nothing could get close to me.  I insisted that I walk to the ambulance because laying on a gurney seemed to be an impossible task to accomplish.  Once inside I felt trapped, but the EMT's were versed in how to deal with difficult people making little to no sense. 

They convinced me to at least sit on the gurney while they examined me, hooked me up to oxygen and started an IV.  Before reaching the ER, I received a breathing treatment which helped open everything up and improved my oxygen levels. By the time I reached the ER, I had both feet on the gurney and although I couldn't lay flat and relax, I had lost that overwhelming need to pace and act like a crazy person.  As my anxiety started to subsided, the albuterol left me wired up and dried out so I still was having trouble relaxing.  After being released from the ER in a stable condition and being told I had most likely experienced an asthma attack and a panic attack on top of it, I was left with the difficult task of winding down enough to go to sleep for the remainder of the night.  One might think after all I had been through, I'd be totally worn out and ready to sleep, but you see, leading up to this attack I hadn't slept for over 2 nights.  Insomnia and I have a quite intimate, ongoing abusive relationship.  It's not one that I like or want, but like any person in an abusive relationship, it's a situation I feel trapped in without any clear way out. 

I stayed awake until sometime into the next day when I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.  Since then I've struggled with sleeping, eating and staying calm.  I have to admit I'm frightened a lot of the time and start to feel anxious, but one good thing has come from this experience and that's that it's left me more in-tuned to what my body is trying to tell me. In the past, I have continually ignored all the indicators that I was doing things the wrong way.  Just call me stubborn, foolish and hard-headed! Because I have to push myself to eat now, my blood sugar has been better than it has been in awhile.  Also, actually sleeping has helped bring my blood sugar down.  Most people don't realize that many factors effect a person's blood sugar. Yes, a proper diet is essential, but stress, sleep, exercise, medications and other factors effect a person's blood sugar as well.  The trick is to get everything in harmony so your body can function normally.  Although the "N" word is normally negative, NORMAL in regards to body functions is a good thing and in this area normalcy is something I need to strive harder to obtain.  With that said, it's 9:03pm and I'm going to get ready for bed. Let the sheep counting begin...

8 comments:

  1. I was thrilled to see you pop up in my reader.
    Premature joy.
    I am so sorry, and hope your body starts to treat you nicely soon.
    And yes, insomnia is a truly sucky beast. I hope stampeding sheep kill it. Permanently.

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    1. Thank you for your kind words...they really help!

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  2. I went thru something similar around the same time, 2002, and began a process that identified problems. Yes, I had adult-onset asthma, also allergies and went to a therapist who taught me how to handle panic attacks. Helped a lot, mainly got me looking for more solutions to remaining symptoms. Cardiologist found a golf-ball sized tumor inside my heart, which was successfully removed in 2006. Point is, until I eliminated as many symptoms as I could, it was impossible for me to distinguish between anxiety-related problems and problems that were strictly physical. It's a tough search but worth it. All my best wishes on your success.

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    1. I'm so glad you found what was causing your problems and it was something that could be fixed. You're an amazing man!

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  3. So glad you came through your last attack on the 'positive' side. It's so hard when our bodies develop a mind of their own and we feel we are losing control. Here's to a good nights sleep for you and many more.

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    1. Thank you Delores...I haven't given up yet. I'm still hoping for some much needed sleep.

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  4. What a scary experience!!! The inhalers you tried didn't work b/c they are steroid ones and meant to be used over time, they aren't rescue inhalers. I hope you are feeling better now!

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    1. Thanks for the info. I need to ask my doctor about that...and I haven't had another asthma attack since then, but a rescue inhaler might be a great thing to have.

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