Breathing is one of them. People are another. I live very much in the present as so much of life is unpredictable and the further into the future I plan, the less likely it is to happen. Sometimes, asthma attacks develop slowly across a day or two, other times, it happens in minutes, seconds and the latter can be rather frightening. I was still half asleep and hadn’t had my morning coffee when I realized that my breathing was worsening rapidly. I tried not to panic, checked my peak flow 45%, then used my inhaler once every minute for five minutes. Checked my peak flow, 33%, really not good. Think about working out my respiratory rate – stopped when I realised it was above 30. Thought if this was one of those times where I should be calling an ambulance. Guidelines say I should have done that a while ago, but I still can’t help having more faith in my own judgement. I know I am likely to underestimate the severity of the issue, but I also know that I understand my condition and know my body and guidelines aren’t shaped for individuals.
Weighing up the increased stress of having to call Chris at work to dial 999 and then waiting for an ambulance which I know would take me to hospital in my PJs as they would not leave me here alone against taking the chance that I was right and I could fix this myself, I decided that me being in control was a less riskier choice. It didn’t feel that urgent. I started to doubt my decision a little when I got to the lips turning blue and airways collapsing part. There is a certain calm in the midst of the storm when you get to the point where you realize that you cannot breath at all. It’s a little like suddenly having your head pushed underneath water without having had the opportunity to take a deep breath first and having just swam half a mile which has left you rather short of breath to begin with. I tried to stay calm.
I’m not sure if I could stay calm in a moment like that if there wasn’t someone around to keep me thinking more clearly. It’s nice when someone is physically there so I don’t have to dislocate my wrist injecting myself, but that’s a luxury. Staying calm is not. I hope that if I was all by myself without anybody to ask for help that I would be able to stay calm, but I’m just not sure. I can barely keep the facts straight in my head – check BP, check pulse, check PEF, check respiratory rate, check skin colour, but somehow I can’t keep all the pieces together enough to not feel like I need to start thrashing because someone is holding my head down underwater and I’m no longer breathing air. There’s an inherent compulsion to struggle against it that I can’t seem to stop unless I am told to stay calm and try and breathe slowly. I need someone else to tell me that it will be okay.
I did stay calm. I unwrapped my Epi-Pen, took a few seconds to work up the courage to stab myself in the thigh with it and then did that. Held it for 10 seconds, pulled out the needle, massaged my thigh for 10 seconds then put the needle somewhere the cat can’t reach. It didn’t take long to feel air rushing into my lungs. I could use my inhaler again and breathing got even easier. Adrenaline side-effects kicked in and the hour afterwards are always rather unpleasant with shivering, muscle twitches, headache (as if I hadn’t already had enough of that), heart rate erratic and fast, me feeling very very cold. I get tingling, numbness and a blue tinge that reminds of one of the Night Elf skin tones, just not as pretty. Once the rush wears off, I’m exhausted. I slept all afternoon.
Chris came home late-afternoon, woke me up, stroked my cheek and then went to his office. He emerged shortly after, picked me up and carried me off to bed. There is a certain pleasure in being taken care of. I blog on the laptop whilst he prepares dinner and as the sounds drift up from the kitchen, it reminds me of that relaxed aftermath of a particular bad spell. I’ve been lucky enough to almost always have people around me that care and I still do. I read my e-mail, pop onto msn for a little while, have a quick look to see where the guild is going tonight as that always cheers me up and it reminds me that there’s usually good with the bad. Nothing is ever just black and white. And I can fixate on the bad parts of the day or relax into the good parts of the day. I pick a funny movie to watch whilst we lounge in bed eating ice-cream and try to forget all about the bad parts. It’s never really forgotten, but there’s nothing wrong with happiness laced with a twinge of sadness. Life is generally just bitter sweet.