Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Childhood Asthma

I've mentioned before that I had severe asthma when I was a child, but never described what that was like.
I never coughed and was surprised to learn that was considered an asthma symptom in other people. Instead I always wheezed. Sometimes the wheezing was so quiet that it could only be heard with a stethoscope, although I could feel the gentle grating sensation in my lungs. Often the wheezing was so loud that it could be heard from the other side of the classroom. My wheezing made other kids uncomfortable and was probably one reason why I was often teased, although the mean kids never mentioned it.
But when I was having a severe asthma attack I'd not only wheeze loudly, but have to strain with all my strength to force air in and out of my lungs. Imagine what it must be like to use any muscle with all your strength for hours at a time and never take a break. Sometimes I'd even get painful cramps in my diaphragm, but I'd have to continue straining that muscle as hard as I could with every breath. Of course I'd get exhausted, but sleep was impossible.
Sometimes my meds would help reduce the severity of the asthma attack, but at other times my grandfather or mother would call the doctor. He'd drive to our home, which was a little cabin up a steep path from the road, and give me a "shot of adrenaline." Usually that worked and the relief of being able to take a clear breath was the best feeling I ever experienced.
But sometimes there would be no improvement for fifteen minutes. In that case the doctor would have to give me a second shot. And if that one didn't help, he would pick me up in his arms, carry me down the hill to his car, and drive me to the hospital where I'd be put on oxygen.
Now there are much more effective asthma medicines available and people can have EpiPens at home to use in case of serious allergic reactions. Since doctors no longer make house calls, that's important. But more people have asthma than in the past. I hope there aren't many who have asthma attacks as serious as mine used to be.

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