I remember the cold, crisp feeling of the O2 combined with Albuterol and the antiseptic scent that flooded my senses as the nervous Pulmonary Tech put the mask on me with his shaking hands. How my nose would drip from a combination of the cold O2 and my allergies. I remember the cold, bright, florescent, lights, sharp like the prick of the needle that shot epinephrine into my bloodstream. The quick, nervous flurry of movements as a team of ER Dr.s, Nurses and PT worked, feverishly poking, pinning, prodding, lifting shirt, listening to lungs, counting breaths, counting beats per minute, assessing the shade of blue in my fingers and around my mouth and nose, asking me questions, asking each other questions, hyper focused or looking concerned or veiling concerned looks. It was a choreographed chaos we all participated in with wide open, wide awake, hyper awareness. At times I saw stars, my head felt floaty and I had to concentrate to stay conscious. I was highly aware of the connection to the team as connection to life itself- to survival. I was gripping life's edge in the ER.
When I was wearing a mask it was because my lung capacity was not enough to hold a nebulizer to my face. A thing that weighed ounces and yet, it was too much for me to hold up at that point. I know exactly how much breath one needs to stay conscious, I know exactly how to slow my breathing down and use my diaphram and I know how to ignore lung pain. I could feel the drugs entering my veins, feel it in my kidneys. Eventually, I knew I would feel it (as relief) in my lungs. I visualized the inflammation in my lungs easing as I felt the adrenaline based meds expand what had been constricted. It required patience, confidence and calm. It required a sense of denial. I know how to fight for my life while at the same time remaining in denial about the fact that I could die. Later, in the hospital room or recovering at home, I knew I was not afraid of death, I simply I had more living to do in this incarnation. In the ER, I never really thought of death, it wasn't an option. There my concentration was on getting enough breath together to tell the Dr.s, Nurses and PT what they needed to know about me, their severely distressed patient- the focus of every bit of their awareness in that moment.
I have large, round, expressive eyes that I could communicate quite well with. I felt I could calm the newbies and bring the seasoned pros to a space where they could consciously recognize me as an individual. Once there, it was important that the team became immediately aware that I was an informed patient who was as self sufficient as possible. If I had my backpack or purse, I shared a daily peak flow chart and a list of alternative healing modalities that I combined with modern medicine to stay alive. I made sure they knew I wasn't ignoring mainstream healing methods, it's just that I knew there were side effects. I was actively combating those side effects with healthy alternatives. It was going to take more than a nebulizer treatment (I had that at home) or a shot of epi (also at home) or to go to a happy place (I was in a semi -trance like, meditative state). It was taking more than Reiki, Pranayama, Ephedra, Coffee, meditation, herbal therapies, acupressure, acupuncture, Theophyllin, Epinephrine, Oral Prednisone, Albuterol, and a positive attitude to stay alive in that moment. Once they realized that I had already completed steps 1, 2 and 3 and yet, there I was in the ER -meant I needed intravenous meds and possibly to be intibated. There was no time to wait for blood gas results to return. I let them know what the usual Medrisol or Solumedrol dosage was and that although I hated it, I also knew it was an immediate necessity. When it came to listing the type of asthma I have, and the several meds that I was on, the dosage taken that day, when & how long I have had the diagnosis (early childhood) I could be very succinct. I was selecting my words carefully and writing if I could hold a pen. If the paramedics brought my purse along I could easily motion to it and bring out a detailed list. More often than not, it was just me they transported with whatever clothing I had on. The paramedics didn't hesitate, they didn't look for shoes, purse, bag of meds, they had to get me to the ER ASAP.
The expression in my eyes let them know I appreciated their help and that the guilt trip question, "why did you wait so long" was meaningless. I didn't wait at all, I was doing what I could from home, knowing I didn't have insurance and that this little trip to the ER to save my life was going to cost well over 2 grand within the first hour.
after a lifetime of this routine, I have been symptom free for 3 or 4 years now thanks to advair and singulair.
I have knowledge and a few certifications in alternative healing modalities due to my determination to stay alive. A lot of good came of it.
It took a lot of time and a lot of money to pay off medical bills. I am medical bill debt free today.
- ER flashback