Friday, November 18, 2005

Just Breathe

Black coffee, an inhaler, cough syrup with codeine and occasionally steroids, can be on my table usually in the winter months. This time of year gives me anxiety. I usually find myself waking up with croup cough and an asthma attack in the middle of the night. Madelene then rushes me to the ER. On the way up to the hospital, it usually clears out due to the cold air. I’m not sure why this happens, but it’s typical of asthma patients and people who suffer from chronic bronchitis.
Forced air heating systems and smoke, usually cause me to have these attacks. Madelene and I both share a house with my parents. We live upstairs, in a separate apartment which is very spacious, and my parents reside downstairs… Both my mother and father smoke. My father is more like a chain smoker. Even though doors are closed and we are very separate from being near them, the smoke will flow through the air ducts and/or doors, making me cough my lungs out. On top of that, we have vents that shoot out hot air---which leaves my throat and lungs dry. Even though the house is quite large, I can detect anyone lighting up anywhere in my house.

When I was younger, my parents would smoke around me all the time. I remember every night while eating dinner with the family, my father would light up a cigarette—even before we were done. I never thought anything of it, because that was all I knew. Even when my mother was pregnant, she still smoked.

One night, I woke up coughing up a lung. I couldn’t even talk, and if I did, I sounded much like the exorcist. You could hear me breathing in and out—but through that croupy windpipe that was closing up each second. Madelene would turn the hot water on in the shower so I could get some steam. Moisture usually helps me. In this particular case, it wasn’t working. Mom would always hear the ruckus and come up to my pad and see what was going on. Mom would be making me black coffee, while Madelene would be rubbing my shoulders giving me my inhaler. This should definitely do it.


It got even worse--my throat was closing up…I couldn’t get air in or out almost. Madelene threw some sneakers on me, and rushed me off to the emergency room. It was cold, probably about twenty degrees outside. My breathing was calming down a tad, due to the cold air, but not much.

I sounded like a mule walking into the hospital as my coughs wailed throughout the corridors. We finally get into the emergency room, and Madelene flags down a nurse.

“Excuse me? Can you help us? She’s having an asthma attack!”
“Sure…just sit right at this desk, and someone will be with you to fill out your insurance information.”
“Maam!!! She’s having an attack now! Can we get to that after the doctor gives her something? This is an emergency!”
Madelene cries out to her.
“Well then—sit right here and we’ll be right with you.”

We sat down on a chair in the emergency room. To my surprise, there was only one person in the whole ER! An old lady who was sleeping. There weren’t ANY emergencies. People are walking around; doctors are strolling about, and nurses passing me by—hearing my croup cough, not saying one word. Not one person looked my way.

“Deb!!! Are you okay??? Deb!!! Help! Someone help us!” Madelene screams out.

I fell on the floor because my breathing was making me dizzy. My windpipes were closing and I had hardly any oxygen left. It was then, that the doctors thought it may be a good idea to take a look at me… Finally. Sorry to interrupt their coffee clutch.

They carried me on to a bed, and put an IV in me full of muscle relaxants. The doctor gave me a cup of cough syrup with codeine, and the other nurse filled the IV bag up with steroids. Between the codeine, steroids, muscle relaxants and the coffee I had prior, I didn’t know whether to relax, or bounce off the walls. The muscle relaxants took over, and my throat began to open up. The doctor also had me sucking on a nebulizer pump full of albuterol. Another stimulant--great...

I go through this almost every year. I don’t even have ‘the typical asthma’----it’s only smoke induced and it happens when the air is way too dry. My parents always say, “Oh you were brought up with smoke around you—this shouldn’t bother you…” HELLO? Maybe this is the reason why I’m having more and more ER trips? Naw…they don’t think so. It’s “all in my head”… I’m just crazy and I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Now---someone in my family may get upset over this next topic because I’m airing this out on my blog---but “I’m upset” over this.

Family members: Feel free to make a rebuttal if you wish, or debate me on my next topic.

My sister brings over her daughter---my little niece who I love & adore… My mother watches her, because my sister goes on business trips frequently. It’s nice having my niece over, and getting to see her in the middle of the week…but I have a major concern.

Both my mother and father smoke in front of her. She is only three years old. Her lungs are impressionable and shouldn’t be exposed to that kind of environment. They’ll sit in this one room where the TV is, smoking up a storm. I’ll walk in to say hello---and walk right back out coughing my lungs up.

How can my little niece sit there in that cloud full of smoke? The question is----how can my parents smoke that much around her----or at all for that matter?

“Oh you grew up on cigarettes…” My mother will always debate with me.

Now yesterday morning, I got really upset. My niece was up, I walked downstairs to say hello, get my coffee and head back upstairs… My niece was coughing so much. She had this croupy cough---the one that sounds way too familiar. My heart broke right there.

Then I hear my mother on the phone.

“I don’t know why she’s coughing so much…She doesn’t look sick…What can I do?”


I love my niece, and I don’t want her growing up to develop what I have. My other sister has two kids. A son and daughter who are adorable…same age range too. She doesn’t come over that much, because she knows that the smoke is bad. I don’t blame her. I find it extremely sad that my parents are letting their smoking habit interfere with their relationship with their grandchildren. Can’t you at least stop smoking during their visit- or just go outside if you need a cigarette? I don’t get it. It’s a blessing now that my sisters all have holiday dinners at their house. Smoke-free and you can actually breathe!

Please don’t get me wrong, I love my parents with all my heart, but I wish they would realize how much this can affect their grandkids…They should know by what I go through. Or is it ‘all in my head’?...
Here's a picture of my niece. She's already trying to grow up way too fast--wearing my high heels and drinking Bailey's on the rocks.

(It's chocolate milk in a huge sniftor glass)

As long as she doesn't play with candy cigarettes, I'm okay with it.