Days in the life of an asthmatic

I am currently sitting, well, more like hunched down in front of my laptop. Sometime this morning, I woke up with severe nausea and a terrible backache, somewhere down the middle of my spine. Of course, being the severely paranoid person that I am, the first thing I think of is, no, I can’t be pregnant. Like no way!

And then when the second bout of nausea hits, somewhere deep within my chest, yes, you read that right, chest level did I realize something that did not bode well for my fasting days.

Having an attack is scary, more so when I have recently switched out from an old medication to Symbicort. I was recommended Symbicort by three different doctors, I had refused to take it at first because it was just so hard to get a prescription. Clinics make a fuss, saying they don’t know if insurance would cover it (they do, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) and refuse to prescribe it to me. Eizwan and I called up no less than fourteen clinics to find a clinic willing to prescribe me Symbicort.

I love Symbicort. While before I was on nearly 8 puffs a day of the blue inhaler, I’m now down to just twice a day. I can sleep, I don’t suddenly wake up coughing and I sleep through the night. For once, I feel that I’m managing my asthma, as opposed to letting it manage me.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like when I have an attack. And it’s very frustrating to as well. Unlike in Hollywood, where people start to wheeze, my asthma attacks almost never start with a wheeze. It starts with a deep ache in the middle of my spine. Like I’ve worked my back muscle too hard.

When it gets worst, the nausea hits. It’s a different kind of nausea to food poisoning, or the pill. It’s the kind that makes me want to heave my lungs out, a bit like where my lungs are turning inside out. It’s an awful feeling, alternating between wretching your lungs out and your lungs caving in.

And then there’s the exhaustion. Asthmatics rarely have a good night’s sleep, they randomly wake up and they don’t know why. Sometimes I would have about 8 hours worth of sleep and still wake up tired.

The coughing comes after all that. It’s a cough that comes from the lungs, like you’re choking. I used to cough so often at my old office that my colleagues were able to tell when I was deteriorating. So much so that an old colleague of mine told a friend of hers that she had an undiagnosed asthma just based on her cough. Coughing is bad. Coughing means that you’re just one step away from wheezing.

Wheezing for me, is the final step for a full on attack. When I sart to wheeze, I usually am unable to walk, my lips are blue. I have fantastic lung capacity (100%, a bit uncommon for a chronic asthmatic) and so when I wheeze, I’m usually below 60%, or the danger zone.

The most frustrating thing about my asthma is that a lot of doctors in Malaysia refuse to listen to patients when it comes to asthma. Most GPs think I’m either exaggerating when I beg for the nebulizer only to feel really sheepish when I crawl in 5 days later, wheezing and unable to walk or breathe at all. When I’m at 80%, as far as I’m concerned, that’s an attack for me.

As for today, I was beginning to wheeze. And it’s terrifying not knowing what caused it. I’m quite careful with what I eat and even though I have cats, I know when to play with them and when I have to avoid them.

Despite sleeping in till 12pm, I was still exhausted, there was a strong knot in the back and I was coughing. Eizwan insisted I break fast, I took a strong cup of coffee (it helps a lot) and spent the day resting. It’s frustrating when you have an attack. I feel normal for the most part and even the smallest thing like walking up the staircase exerts me.

It’s frustrating because it means that we have to postpone all our plans. We had an invitation to Eizwan’s aunt’s place for iftar and that had to be shelved – Eizwan was unsure if I was strong enough. It was a good assessment because I was dead asleep by iftar, poor Eizwan broke fast eating cereal. Was still too weak to make dinner,  Eizwan had to cook (and he cooked very well, indeed) and I feel much better.

I do feel that sometimes, this blog will turn into the days in the life and insight of Eizwan, since it’s all I do talk about. I suppose, I am excused since I just got married – so I’m allowed to be irritating and lovey-dovey. But on a more serious note, I am very grateful, on times like these for him. It’s not easy living with someone who is chronic and I can see people getting irritated when I suddenly go down, causing plans to be shelved. I am loved and I am grateful.


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