This writer has discussed living with COPD and asthma in past articles, and she has talked about the weather conditions in the greater metro-Richmond area, and the impact of the ozone level on people with respiratory illnesses.
But now, this writer wants to tell her readers just what they can expect if they don't take warnings and symptoms of respiratory distress seriously. She wants to assure readers that ignoring the warnings could kill you.
Several weeks ago
The Central Virginia area is famous for it's heat and humidity, lasting all summer, often into the waning days of September or even longer. Add to the heat and humidity the thick, soupy ozone layer that comes creeping across the Richmond skyline, and you have a recipe for acute respiratory distress.
The warnings can be seen on the local news reports, asking people to stay inside if they have COPD, asthma, are very young or elderly. And most allergy and asthma sufferers are well aware of the consequences of not heeding the warnings. And this examiner has had asthma and COPD long enough to know what to do. This summer was not the time for excuses.
But regardless of what the trigger was, I woke up one morning with "allergy eyes," and a slight wheezing in the lungs. Knowing what to do, I started nebulizer treatments every 4-6 hours, as instructed with a combination of two medications, sure to do the trick and clear up the muddled mess in my lungs.
Ten days ago, and things are no better
When do we ever think we will learn from past experience? First lesson for my readers is to tell you to not let an asthma attack or exacerbation of COPD symptoms carry on for more than a few days.
This writer let it go, and soon she was too ill to cook a meal or take care of her small apartment, let alone herself. TV dinners or chicken noodle soup became standard fare, and then she was reduced to toast with peanut butter and a bottle of Gatorade as things got even worse.
It must have been pride, along with the need to let her daughter believe she was alright, that kept the writer from telling her the truth. Yes, she really needed to go to the doctor, or at least the emergency room, but it seemed important that no one know she wasn't strong in mind and body.
September 11 was the day I thought I would die
September 11 dawned hot and hazy. It had also been another night of very little sleep, with coughing so hard that it hurt to take in a breath. But by 10 a.m., the writer had talked herself into thinking she was actually feeling better.
An egg and cheese sandwich on toast with a cup of coffee tasted awfully good, and after eating, she sat back in her recliner chair, thinking she would take a short nap. This thought was interrupted by a violent coughing spell that went on and on, without ever coming close to ending.
The frightening part that followed this spell of coughing slipped up on me rather slowly, and I almost didn't catch what was happening. Not being able to draw in a breath of air is the most frightening thing imaginable. Your chest feels as if it is locked in a neutral position where you are unable to exhale, yet you can't inhale. Nothing is happening.
It was then I asked God to let me live, just one more chance, please. My daughter had lost her husband to kidney failure and heart disease in August of 2012, and two daughters, one 3 years old and an older step-daughter were still grappling with the mystery of death. I just couldn't add to their grief.
After what seemed like the longest hour I have ever endured, I inhaled, just a little. I quickly wrote out my name and other necessary information for the EMT's on a piece of notebook paper, gathered my wallet and keys, carefully got up and unlocked my front door. Only then did I call 9-1-1. Before the call was ended, the paramedics were coming through my door.
The hospital is about three miles from my front door, which is lucky for me. I don't remember all of the details of my first 24 hours after getting to Henrico Doctor's Hospital, but the stress and severity of the asthma attack caused a precipitous drop in oxygen going to my heart, and that resulted in my having a heart attack.
I am sharing this story only because I want others, especially those suffering with asthma, COPD and other respiratory diseases, along with seniors already dealing with diabetes or heart disease to know that the impact of the regions heat and humidity can be very dangerous. Don't ignore the warnings, and if you do become ill, do not put off seeing a doctor or going to the emergency room.
What happened to this examiner has become nothing less than a life-altering experience. It has changed the way I look at my mortality, and I have been given a second chance;.