After my doctor started to treat my coughing with an albuterol sulfate inhaler, I did feel better initially. I went back in for a follow up on Wednesday and told him that I was feeling better, although I found myself wanting to use the inhaler every four hours instead of six. He suggested that I add a daily dose of Clariton (10 mg) to my routine hoping that the cause of my breathing problems were related to seasonal allergies.
I started to feel worse sooner and sooner. I wished I could take the inhaler every two hours now instead of four. The wheezing and the coughing were unbearable. I couldn’t lay down to sleep again. I was just miserable but I persevered.
Late Thursday, I noticed how increasingly tired I was. I couldn’t even finish a sentence without having to think for the right word. On Friday, I couldn’t bear the thought of doing work. All I could do was take care of Wren, but even Okey had to cover for me. I thought maybe going to a friend’s Mary Kay debut party would give my body a break if I was somehow allergic to something in my own home. Still I coughed and coughed, and I had to apologize letting people who were concerned enough to ask about me know that I wasn’t contagious.
Saturday morning was much the same, and in the afternoon came a birthday party for my friend and walking partner’s husband. I shouldn’t have carried my daughter up that flight of steps. I spent the rest of the evening glued to the couch in the corner, hoping to not make anyone awkward. (Fortunately? my walking partner had pulled her back, so we two invalids could keep each other company.)
We left the party early, and after walking the dog around the block once, I went straight to bed. Only the problem was I couldn’t fall asleep. I wanted to use my inhaler again, but it was too soon. At ten o’clock I took two more puffs and was able to fall asleep until two hours later, when I woke up short of breath.
I sat up. I knew something was wrong. I could breath, but it wasn’t right. I had to deliberately inhale, then exhale. The breaths were also very short. I knew I wasn’t get much oxygen because I was very light-headed. With a gentle nudge, at least to my recollection, I awoke my husband.
“I’m” *labored breath* “not do-” *labored breath* “ing” *labored breath* “well.”
With assurance, he held my hand as the breathing got harder to do.
I tried to tell him I needed to go to urgent care, but I couldn’t get the words out. I started to cry — this was not good. If you can’t breath, you can’t really cry. And if you do manage to sob, then you’re definitely not taking the very breaths your body is screaming for.
Butterflies in a meadow. Butterflies in a meadow.
That imagery helped, and the panic stopped.
However, the breathing problems persisted. And again I struggled to get a single sentence out: “I” “need” “urgent” “care.” And then realizing I couldn’t breath because I was talking, and then I couldn’t breath because I was crying, it all became unbear-
Butterflies in a meadow. Butterflies in a meadow. Why isn’t this working? Butterflies in a meadow.
Okey gave me the inhaler, and I might have said, “not” “time,” but I took it. I am glad I did. I could communicate. I could stop crying. I could breathe.
Knowing that the inhaler was a very temporary solution, we prepped the diaper bag for Wren (and myself just in case). Off we went at 1:15 a.m. to the urgent care facility. [She did not appreciate being awoken at such an early hour. We parents laughed at the irony.]
The staff took me in right away. The nurse was taking down my symptoms when another offered to take my vitals.
“Have you listened to her with a stethoscope yet?” He asked.
“I didn’t need to,” she said. “I can hear her wheezing from here.”
After the doctor came, I was given three tiny steroid pills. I asked if winning the Tour de France was listed among the side effects. (I’m still laughing at that one. If you’re not laughing, don’t worry. Neither did the nurse.) My heart raced, and my whole body was jumpy – apparently these are the side effects. Then I was put on a nebulizer with albuterol sulfate and atrovent for ten minutes. I could finally really breathe. I continued to stay for observation, but I was finally released home with a list of prescribed inhalers to add to my arsenal.
I’m staying home from church this morning. I’m waiting for my drugs to come. I’m taking care of Wren, but I’m going to let her go up the steps (instead of my carrying her), she’s going to get a little more independent play (that doesn’t make me sound like a bad mum, does it?), and we’re just going to enjoy the calm that comes from easy breathing.
Tomorrow I will give my doctor a call, and I will go to his office for the umpteenth time this year. As my primary care physician, he is the one who will officially determine if I do in fact have that dreaded a-word: asthma.