Managing My Asthma
Out of all the places I’ve lived, I think Grand Junction, Colorado, is my favorite. It’s right in between Denver and Salt Lake City. It’s not a bustling metropolis, but it’s a beautiful setting filled with local shopping and dining, and there’s plenty to do outdoors, too. But the real reason I love it so much is because I haven’t seen the inside of an emergency room since we moved here four years ago.
Four years without a trip to the ER might not seem like cause for celebration, but for me, it sure is. I have severe asthma and the dry, clear air in Colorado has definitely improved my condition. I’m almost 50 now, and have had severe asthma attacks since I was 2. The number of times I’ve been hospitalized for it is in the triple digits. When I have an attack, I feel like I’m drowning. Or suffocating. They’re terrifying--I literally cannot catch my breath.
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I’ve had to be intubated and put on a mechanical ventilator to breathe at least five times in my life during a severe attack. In 2006, I had an anaphylactic reaction to the asthma medication the local ER gave me and was in a medically-induced coma for 10 days. When I woke up, I didn’t recognize my husband and daughter at first.
I used to be a teacher, but left partly because of my asthma, and partly to spend more time with my 14-year-old daughter, Kitty, whom I now homeschool. She loves to read, and so do I, but books have a tendency to build up dust, which can trigger my asthma. So we go to the library often to borrow books rather than keeping them in the house. I’ve made several environmental adjustments like this to avoid asthma attacks.
In fact, another reason I stopped teaching was because being in a germy classroom all day wasn’t good for me. Any cold or cough turns into an asthmatic nightmare. I stay out of large crowds as much as possible for the same reason. At home, we have hardwood floors rather than carpet, as allergens and other triggers tend to get stuck in the carpet more than in a hardwood floor. We don’t have curtains because they tend to gather dust. We keep the windows closed when the pollen count or pollution levels are high, which fortunately is less frequent in Grand Junction than it was in Ohio, Los Angeles, New Mexico and Arizona.
I try to watch what I eat, too, not just because excess weight can exacerbate my breathing problems, but a poor diet with too much sugar can also shut down my immune system, which can lead to sickness. And for me, any sickness immediately goes to my lungs.
In spite of all the precautions I take in my house and with my diet, I still have to be on medication for my asthma. I take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory oral medication every day. I have several different types of inhalers on hand: one for everyday allergies, one with anti-inflammatory steroids, and a rescue inhaler I use 2 to 3 times a week when my symptoms really flare up. When the inhalers don’t work, I use an asthma nebulizer, a little mask hooked up to an air compressor that changes the medication from a liquid to a mist so I can inhale it easier. Other than that, I’ll occasionally take over-the-counter antihistamines.
I monitor how many liters of air I’m blowing out per minute with a peak flow meter, and if it’s at or below a certain level, I know I may need to call my pulmonologist or go to the hospital.
Although my asthma has made life a little more challenging, it has made my faith in God stronger. I’m grateful I haven’t been hospitalized for four years, and am even more grateful for the family, friends and strangers who were there for me when I was. Being in the hospital and caring for a child don’t exactly go hand in hand. When my daughter, Kitty, was younger and I was in the hospital, people would take turns watching her and bringing meals to my husband. That’s my best advice for people with asthma, especially parents: Find a support system wherever you are, and keep it.
Lynne Wolford lives in Grand Junction, Colorado, with her husband, Scott, and their daughter, Kitty. She has had severe asthma since she was a toddler.
THIS CONTENT DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. This content is provided for informational purposes and reflects the opinions of the author. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional regarding your health. If you think you may have a medical emergency, contact your doctor immediately or call 911.