There's an Elephant Sitting on My Chest
March 11, 2012
There are some things we take for granted until we no longer have access to them, like the act of breathing. Turns out, it is somewhat of an important function. On an average, we take anywhere from 17,280 - 23,040 breaths per day. At various times, we hold our breath, take a deep breath, and are left breathless. We worry about bad breath, and can love or hate something with every breath in our body. Breathing is currency to living, and apparently…my account has run a little low.
In the last few years, an ongoing "mild intermittent" asthma issue has bloomed into "severe persistent" asthma for me. It crept up on me with great stealth; I noticed my symptoms cropping up more and more pronounced in the spring and fall and worsening at night. My rarely used albuterol rescue inhaler started getting used a lot and began to have no effect on symptoms. I spent some quality time in the ER trying to assure people around me that I did not have some kind of highly contagious coughing virus. Things came to an ugly head last October when I was hospitalized for an acute episode, and four weeks ago, in early February, when I had a repeat 5 day visit for a flare-up.
Asthma is defined as a disease of the respiratory system, sometimes caused by allergies with symptoms including coughing, sudden difficulty in breathing, and a tight feeling in the chest. And by "tight feeling," I mean it feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest. Over twenty million people in the U.S. have a form of asthma, so I am definitely not alone. Triggers vary for asthma suffers, including a cold and the flu, allergies, animals, dust, pollen, exercise, smoke, and air pollution. I’m working with my doctor and a Pulmonologist to determine my new "normal" in trying to maintain healthy lung function; it involves some daily quality time with a nebulizer and two other daily maintenance medications.
Here’s the problem (beyond the problem I already have); we had a really bizarre winter. Many perennial allergens become dormant by the cold of winter, but due to the weirdly mild winter we had, those allergens didn’t fully hibernate. This coming spring has the potential to be a major hammer for anyone with respiratory issues. The good news is that forewarned is forearmed, and there is a wealth of resources and information available for people to help them deal with the asthma that they or a loved one suffer from. I have found some online sites that are great for helping to understand asthma, and to aid in developing a plan to maintain your health.
Asthma.com features easily accessible information, tools to help you determine an action plan, and a helpful online journal to help you track your asthma’s triggers and symptoms.
WebMD.com has a wonderful asthma section. It features a comprehensive evaluation tool and ongoing access to recent news.
The Mayo Clinic also offers an online list of resources.
And of course, MCPL has several titles available to check out; these are just a few of the many titles available:
- 100 Questions and Answers About Asthma - Plottel, Claudia S.
- Allergies and Asthma: What Every Parent Needs to Know - Welch, Michael A.
- How to Deal with Asthma - Robbins, Lynette
- Asthma Sourcebook - Adams, Francis V
There are also a number of DVDs about asthma available within the MCPL system:
I’ve decided to kick the elephant to the curb. Join me in standing up to what is a potentially serious health threat and take control of your asthma. You’ll breathe a lot easier, and you’ll build that life account back up to overflowing!
North Independence Branch