Just last week I had my second chest infection of the year thus far. It’s not fun, but being sick often is something you kind of get used to when you have an immune system that doesn’t want to do its full job. That sounds bad and people often give me pitiful looks as if I’m some sort of defeatist when I talk about it, but it’s just a fact of life for me, so there’s no point in sugarcoating it.
Anyway, being asthmatic I’m keenly aware of when something is going horribly wrong in my chest. Usually when I get wheezy or out of breath I’ll use my reliever inhaler. Sometimes it takes a few minutes, but I’ll eventually feel better and be able to carry on with whatever I was doing. On this particular day, however, relief could not be found.
I’m used to chest tightness as it’s a big symptom of my anxiety attacks, but this was a whole other level of tight I had never felt before. I felt like a belt was wrapped around my chest, forcing me to breathe in small, quick bursts full of horrible wheezing. I felt like I just wasn’t getting enough air. This was fairly early in the morning, so we managed to set up an emergency appointment in the afternoon with the nurse who regularly checks on my asthma.
The afternoon appointment was quite fast for all the wrong reasons. She did confirm that I have a bad chest infection, but she didn’t seem to acknowledge me when I repeatedly told her about how I couldn’t breathe, and that my inhalers weren’t giving me any relief. She just made sure I had the right inhalers, gave me some antibiotics, and sent me on my way.
My parents had some extra business in town that I sat in the car for, and in that time I reluctantly decided that I wanted – maybe even needed – to go to the hospital. This was a big decision for me, as I have a lot of feelings about seeking medical attention even if I need it, but that’s another talk for another time.
We ended up in A&E for almost five hours in total. There was roughly an hour of waiting before I could be seen but I didn’t mind, honestly. It was busy due to some other emergencies, and even then if anything did suddenly get worse for me, I was already in the right place.
I was first checked out by a nurse who took my blood pressure and some blood for testing and then by a Doctor who re-confirmed that I did have a bad chest infection. I told him how I’d already been with my asthma nurse earlier in the day, and how I felt like I needed a bit of extra help than just antibiotics. After a quick peak flow test with the lowest results I’ve ever had, he recommended I get some steroids in me to open my airways and sit on a nebuliser for a while.
I’d never used a nebuliser before so it looked a little intimidating. The noise it made combined with all the bright lights did absolutely nothing for my budding migraine. Within a short period of time, though, I could breathe. It was such a weird feeling, regaining the ability to breathe. The only mental image I can conjure up is one where you need to use a crumpled up plastic bag, and you put your hand in it to make it bigger before putting your things in it. A weird way to put it, but it fits.
We repeated the peak flow test and nebuliser combo until they felt my results were good enough to send me home. Before leaving I was given steroids to take with my antibiotics, instructed to set an appointment with my doctor for five days from this event, and it was recommended that I get a smaller nebuliser for the house just in case this happens again.
I landed home at 11pm exhausted, but happy, and able to breathe.
In hindsight, we could have just marched right on back into my GP, explained the situation, and asked to use the nebuliser in the treatment room, but we didn’t think of that until we got home. Still, we know what to do in the future now should something scary like this happen again.