When I was a kid I quite liked the idea of being asthmatic – in much the same way as I wanted to wear glasses. My best friend at primary school was pretty asthmatic but it meant we got to go inside it if was really cold and I thought her inhaler was pretty fancy…
But as they saying goes, ‘be careful what you wish for‘.
I first started to show symptoms of having asthma when I was about 12 – mainly wheezing when it was really cold. I was prescribed a Bricanyal Turbohaler – this was a blue powder inhaler which was really easy to use and did the trick in terms of managing my symptoms.
I seemed to grow out of it though and in my late teens I don’t think I really used an inhaler at all. This all changed at uni and I blame it on living in a very cold and slightly damp student house – we clearly were terrified of enormous heating bills and just never had the heating on (I seem to remember it wasn’t on a timer either so there was little point putting it on when you got up in the morning as you were leaving anyway.)
Looking back, I breathed my way through a number of asthma attacks in my early twenties – not really knowing the symptoms of an attack and thinking it would be more dramatic and panicky. For me though it’s when my inhaler just isn’t making a difference and when my asthma stops me from sleeping. Over the years I’d discovered a way of breathing (Dave refers to it as hooting!) which seemed to help and I rarely sought medical attention….
The first time I was actually treated for an asthma attack, was in my first year as a newly qualified teacher. I’d ‘breathed’ my way through a full day at school, struggling to hold a sentence together but determined to just get on with my job. Goodness knows why none of my colleagues noticed. I vividly remember calling the Dr after work and asking for an appointment when the receptionist said something along the lines of ‘ok, don’t panic…‘ at which point I actually heard how bad I sounded!
I went straight to the GP and was nebulised for the first time before taking myself home. If I’m honest, by the time I’d got back to my car my breathing was already off again but it didn’t occur to me to go back. I deteriorated through the evening and because I was living on my own I called Dave and asked him to come over. He lived about an hour away though and had work the next morning so said he couldn’t – he didn’t realise quite how poorly I was and thought I was being a bit of a drama queen I think. He ended up phoning 111 for advice who called me back, but when they realised I couldn’t actually speak to them properly they just sent me an ambulance – which of course frightened me even more. I was given medication in the ambulance and then sat in the waiting room for ages – I didn’t even know what hospital I was at! By the time I was taken through to see the Dr, Dave had managed to locate me and arrived just in time for me to be nebulised again. I was discharged and went to stay with Dave for the rest of the week to recover.
Over the coming years my asthma became less well controlled and there were a couple of trips to hospital to be nebulised and times where I narrowly avoided being admitted before everything came to a head in January 2006 when I was blue lighted to hospital with pneumonia.
As you can imagine this took some recovering from, I was off work for about six weeks I think but I had learned that I needed to treat my lungs with more respect. I was prescribed stronger medication (Seretide) and things seemed to be well managed.
In recent years I’ve had the most wonderful asthma nurse (who sadly has left my local Practice now) who has really got my breathing under control. She has tested and checked all sorts of things – discovering I have a significant dust allergy in the process. She swapped and changed my medication until she was happy she had the best possible results – prescribing me Fostair (which combines both a preventer and reliever) as well as teaching me how to take my medication properly and what the effects could be if I don’t. My asthma is now pretty well managed – bar those times where I get a cold which almost immediately drops to my chest leaving me coughing and spluttering and unable to catch my breath.
I used to put up with my dodgy breathing, suffer chest infections and let myself run out of inhalers. Now I won’t tolerate it, if my breathing starts to feel remotely off I get myself to the GP to be checked out and often dosed up with a million little red pills (I still don’t understand why they don’t prescribe Prednisolone in larger dose tablets to save people having to take six at once). The cost of being asthmatic can be quite high – at £8.60 per item on a prescription, a chest infection can soon add up! I must admit it riles me that I have to pay for the privilege of being able to breath comfortably – I’ve always thought that inhalers and medication relating to chest infections etc should be free as the cost of treating asthmatic patients who have to be hospitalised must be far greater?! However, a couple of years ago I invested in a PPC which costs me around £10 a month and means I don’t have to worry about finding money for extra medication at any time. This seems to work as a fair compromise and I would definitely recommend looking into it if you have more than one prescription a month!