Tuesday, November 15, 2005

supposed to...

be doing research. Actually, I AM doing research right now. And no, you smartasses, "research" is not code for "slacking off". I'm looking up land records to verify that the right stakeholders are notified of an upcoming change so they can voice their feeble objections before we crush them utterly with the weight of good science and boxes (I'm not joking! A report in 5 volumes, each a 3" binder, fills up more than a breadbox!) of charts, graphs, tables, and dry commentary.

The nice thing about the research task is that it affords me a little quiet time in front of a computer while the passive bits are processing. So I can do my own processing...

And now, back to the asthma thing. Yeah, I know, you're probably tired of reading about it. It's okay. You can skip this post and come back later this week. I promise to be more entertaining then.

My sister made an interesting comment last night, when I was describing the suddenness of the attack I had in my office that sent me to the ER. She compared it to being unexpectedly dunked in a swimming pool by a reprobate cousin or bully from up the street. Picture it: you're hanging out, doing your thing, maybe in the middle of a sentence. With maybe half a second's warning, you catch the flash of movement, but before you can react your head is underwater. And there you stay. You struggle, you fight, you push for the surface, for air and breath and light and life. You can't get your feet underneath yourself. You can't reach the side. And here's where asthma differs from a neighborhood bully... Your friends can shove that bully off you and get you to the surface where you start to breathe again and plot your revenge. With asthma, you just stay down there. You know the air is just outside your lungs, just on the other side of the water's surface. You know there's air inside your lungs and you are surviving on it for a while. You also know that the attack can outlast the air you have inside. You could suffocate. Finality.

This round has been different from previous bouts I've had with asthma for three chief reasons: this attack was more severe than any I've ever experienced; there was no clear cause for it; and my inhaler didn't work. Aside from that one time in Aspen, when I was over a mile in altitude and the air was thin and my inhaler was too far away, I've never been scared by my asthma. After the initial, somewhat frightening realization that I had this problem, I realized also that I had a mild and manageable version of it. I knew my triggers, I knew how to treat it.

[Aside: Those of you who know me well should be now puzzling over the fact that I NEVER showed up to rugby without my inhaler. Never a practice, never a game. I sometimes had trouble tracking down the person who was supposed to be standing on the sideline holding it while I played, but I always brought it. In fact, I was likely to be sharing my inhaler with someone who'd forgotten hers. You should also, if you know me, realize that I'm much more likely to forget a detail than I am to attend to all of them. My attention to my inhaler is a fact of grave significance.]

I could never control asthma. I could only recognize when it was coming on and manage my response to it. That was enough for me. I never spent much time in the throes of suffocation, I was always able to get treatment before it got scary. This time, not only do I not know why it came on, all the management tricks I know didn't work. I was doing everything I could do, and I still couldn't breathe.

I said to a lot of people that I thought congestion in my chest caused by that round of flu i had was causing the breathing trouble. Truth is, I was trying to convince myself. I wasn't that congested. I've been lots worse before. And now, because I don't know where it came from, I wake up every day wondering if it's going to sneak up and get me again.

I'm terrified of playing rugby this weekend because I'm afraid that my inhaler will not stop an attack if it comes on. Yes, I know my old inhaler was old and sometimes they lose their potency. However, it worked on Sunday night and then didn't work 16 hours later on Monday. I can't believe the inhaler would go kaput in that time.

No comments: