Last year, I caught a very bad cough that caused me endless amounts of pain and misery. I couldn’t breathe properly, my chest muscles were in agony and I sounded like I was losing parts of my lung with each cough.
When I got to see the doctor, the nurse checked me over in case it was whooping cough. It wasn’t. It was just an horrendous chesty cough that was exacerbated by my asthma.
“Yeah, your asthma”
“But I don’t have asthma?”
“You do now”
Until that point, I’d always thought you were either born with asthma, or you weren’t. Some kids just had it.
Nope! Wrong again!
Apparently you can give yourself asthma by smoking for seventeen years.
The doctor explained to me that my complaint about “when I breathe out, it feels as if I’m breathing through spiderwebs” was the asthma, which means I’d been living with it untreated for around 2 years or so. Clearly, it had only really been “annoying” and not life threatening.
I’ve spent the time between then and now with an inhaler generally at my fingertips. I haven’t needed it constantly, but I’ve always had one somewhere in the house or in my bag for the moments when the spiderwebs were around.
Which is why I was very scared, sad and angry on Saturday morning, when my body clock woke me at boycat’s usual “let me in the blankets” time.
I was actually out camping with my family, and boycat was miles away at home, curled up on the electric blanket, but it seems my bladder didn’t care about that – all it knows is at that time each day, boycat wakes me and I end up needing to pee within a few seconds of my eyes being open.
When I got back into the tent, it started – that spiderweb rattle of flapping lung-holes that wouldn’t push the air out.
I rummaged desperately through my handbag, knowing my inhaler wouldn’t be there. I’d seen it that morning and told myself not to forget it. I know myself well, so I knew that there’s no way I went back for it.
I laid down next to Sid, shivering and burrowing into his back while my breath whistled on the way in and rattled on the way out. I alternated between gulping air or slowly sucking it. I tried sitting up, which gave a few moments relief before that rattle came back and my eyes grew heavy.
All I wanted was to sleep. It was dark, and cold and I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. I knew my mum would have some ventolin, but I couldn’t hear her coughing in her tent, which meant, for the first time in a long time, she’d been able to sleep most of the night through – I wasn’t going to go in there and wake her up.
Instead, I lay there for another two hours, keeping Sid from his sleep, while my breathing noises threatened to wake the entire camp.
Somewhere into that second hour, I began to cry. Genuine sadness and fear tears. The fundamental function that all human beings require – the ability to breathe – was now something that I could no longer count on as something that I could do at all times.
Through my own actions, I have stolen my life from myself. What a dick!
By this point, I no longer had the luxury of alternating between mouth and nose breathing. My crying had generated enough snot to make the latter impossible. My constant coughing, the only way I could clear my chest enough to breathe at all, was grating on me. I felt guilty for waking others up, for keeping Sid from sleep, and I was so tired and sad and scared that all I wanted was for the sun to come up so I could find mum’s ventolin.
… and this is all absolutely ridiculous. Unnecessary. Stupid.
So, when the shops open up again on Tuesday, I’ll pay them a visit.
And also pay them for the quitting patches I intend to walk out with.