How Asthma changes your life

I recently wrote a little bit about my son's experience with Asthma and it made me think of my own battle with it from the age of 9-16. It really is a life altering disease and it's forever changed my outlook, my body, and my thinking.
Between the ages of 9 and 16, I had "bronchitis" or "pneumonia" at least 6 or 7 times a year. And those were just the times I actually went to the doctor. It lasted for months and I was on endless amounts of antibiotics and oral steroids. Oh yeah, and the endless inhalers.

My parents always thought I was just a whiner and that I should toughen up and deal with it. So they didn't take me to the clinic as often as I should have gone. And every time we were there, my mom reminded me of how much it cost. Yes, it was expensive, but what can you do when you are sick?

With that in mind, things got really bad around the age of 13. I was having a tough time breathing and my parents told me to suck it up. We visited my grandparents over the weekend (translation: smokers pit) and I went downhill very quickly after that. My mom said she would take me to the doctor if I wasn't better in a few days. That Monday, our school was conducting the Presidential fitness test. We were running the mile. It was a damp and cold day. I told the teacher that I was'nt feeling well and couldn't run. He looked at me like I was an idiot and asked for my note. I didn't have a note. So I ran the mile. I finished in 10 1/2 minutes. Not the fastest, but I could barely breathe. And things got progressively worse.

I coughed through all my classes. I was weak and my chest hurt. I complained to my mom when I got home and she was annoyed. It wasn't until I stopped breathing that night that she drove me to the ER. The nearest ER was over a half an hour away. I don't remember a lot of the ER because I wasn't really coherent. I do remember a mask on my face, the doctor's admonishing my mom, and my mom apologizing. I was admitted to a nearby hospital (another 1/2 hour drive) and I stayed there for 2 weeks.

The first few days, I hardly improved at all. I had 4 IVs in my arms. My body couldn't eat. They tried to give me juice but I'd just vomit it out. I was taking steroids, antibiotics, bronchodilators, and who knows what else. I was 13 years old. By the end of my hospital stay, I was 49 pounds. I was 5'1" at the time.

When I left the hospital, I was still coughing, a lot. I took medicine around the clock for the next few months. I coughed during all my classes and had to spend a lot of time in the hallway. My social studies teacher told me I needed to "get that coughing under control" or I wouldn't be able to be in her class. I was already taking so much medicine!

I was also so behind on homework. While I was in the hospital, my homework piled up. I wasn't able to do it in the hospital because I wasn't allowed to move my arms. Both arms had 2 IV lines and my arms were attached to foam boards to keep them straight. If I moved my arms, the IVs would beep and the nurses would come readjust them. It was a constant annoyance. I'm surprised I didn't get bed sores.

I was never hospitalized again, but I made many trips to the clinic and was continually put on antibiotics and steroids. I would cough and cough and cough. It was horrible.

Aside from being embarrassing, having asthma really limited my life. I didn't feel like I could be in sports or be very active because I'd start coughing and my chest would get so tight. I also hated taking so much medicine.

I blame my asthma medication for my low bone mass (osteopenia at 30, wahoo!) and my short height. I only made it to 5'4" and am the shortest in my family. I took the most steroids when I was in the peak growing years.

I have a couple of theories as to why I had asthma. We lived in an old home with a wood stove and had wet moldy ceilings and closets. The worst ceilings were in the closet of my and my sister's room (my sisters all had asthma as well). My brothers (who shared a different room) did not get asthma.

My parents got better at taking all of us to the clinic. One of my sisters was hospitalized for about a week and my youngest sister had many late night attacks that required emergency medicine.

I moved out of my parent's house a few days before I turned 17. I left to go to college. I didn't have any lung issues that year. And I never really did again. I always felt like I couldn't run or do anything physical because asthma was always in the back of my mind, but I kicked asthma's butt when I became a marathon rollerblader and more recently a runner.

My sisters also "outgrew" their asthma. My youngest sister still has issues and has attacks if she is near cats. One of my sisters has children with asthma and my older brother's daughters also have asthma.

My son ended up having asthma in response to our dog. Even when she was gone, so many allergens remained. He had to be on steroids around the clock. I wanted him off of those steroids so bad and did everything I could to resist the oral ones. I blame the steroids for my low bone mass, but I also credit them for saving mine and my son's lives.

Since moving from our "dog house", my son's asthma has went away. Let's hope it stays that way!


Melissa + Tiffany @ Home Grown Families said...

Wow! It's so bad that you were treated the way you were! I wonder what it was about adults in the 1980's. It's not like our parents are a 'stupider' generation but I would NEVER pull some of the crap my parents pulled!! Maybe science is more available to us now. IDK. I think about that all the time.
You keep moving and keep your son moving when he can!
Best of luck!

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