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Awkward Asthma Moments, And Why Advocacy Is So Important

Last updated: May 2019

So, we’ve all experienced awkward moments. Likewise, I bet each of us asthmatics have stories to tell about awkward moments caused by asthma. I know I do.

Back in the day (say, 1984-ish), there weren’t all these great asthma medicines. So, my asthma remained uncontrolled. I would experience asthma on a regular basis (sad to say). This made for some awkward moments. It forced me to make some decisions that may not have been very smart.

Broken towel racks.

Yep! I’ve broken more than a few in my bad asthma days. You can’t breathe. You stumble around the house. You lean on things to breathe. You lean on whatever is around you. You do this to help keep your shoulders up. This creates more room for your lungs to expand.

Well, say you’re in the bathroom. You’re feeling short of breath. Say you’re feeling VERY short of breath. What do you do? You lean on whatever is around you.

So, you lean on the towel rack. Sometimes they hold up fine. Like, you don’t think about breaking them. It’s not your intention to break them.

But, sometimes they break. Or, I don’t know what towel racks are made of. Wood ones can break in half. But, chrome ones just bend. I’ve done both, unintentionally of course.

One memory is when I was at a friend’s house. I had an asthma attack in the middle of the night. I wanted to be somewhere I could breathe loudly and not bother my friend and his parents. So, I went to the bathroom. In my effort to suck air in I needed something to lean on.

The chrome towel rack bent right in the middle. Man, I felt so bad. Here I am, barely able to breathe, and I’m worried about what his mom will say. What an awkward moment. I sat down on the toilet lid. I concentrated on my breathing a moment. Then I concentrated on the bar. How was I going to fix it.

I tried to bend it back. Ooops. That just made it worse. It busted right in half. So, what do you do when that happens? A reasonable person would be honest. In retrospect, that would have been the best course. I am 100% positive my friend's mom would have understood.

Mom has lots of company.

It was Thanksgiving. It was snowing like crazy out. So, needless to say it was cold outside. And, to warm the house, the wood stove was being used. Smoke was billowing from the chimney. So, that creates two asthma triggers: cold air and wood smoke.

Oh, it also created a third trigger. We were playing football. You had to do some running. So, there was also the EIA to worry about. So, I asked to be the quarterback. My brothers wanted to make sure I played. So, they agreed to let me be a quarterback (even though they all wanted to take a turn).

We had fun. We had a blast. I was not good at quarterback. But, all that mattered was that we got to play. And, needless to say, before halftime I was having a full-fledged asthma attack. I had to rush into the house all huffy and puffy. Oh, man, I felt awful as you might imagine. I could barely take in half a breath. My chest hurt. Need I go on?

Anyway, I had to walk through the kitchen to get to my room. Mom was there entertaining relatives. All the stools around the bar were occupied. In the living room were dad and all his friends. I decided the best route was the kitchen.

Before I entered the door I concentrated on my composure. Yep. I had to pretend I was normal. Now, in retrospect, I could have just let them see me having an asthma attack. They would probably have doted on me. But, nope! The dump teenage version of me wanted to hide the fact he was having an attack.

Someone said, “Hi. John. How is the game?”

Gulp! “

Awesome!” I choked.

I rushed to my room, and slowly shut the door as to not do anything to draw attention to me. I fumbled with my nebulizer. I took treatment. I went back out to play some more.

I think I made this adventure ten more times before the game was over. My brothers just waited for me to come back each time. No one in the kitchen caught on as to why I kept walking through the kitchen.

In retrospect, I would have just said no to football. I would have encouraged my brothers to play cards or video games. And, chances are, they would have been disappointed. But, they would have understood because they are that cool.

What to make of this?

This was back in the mid-1980s. I was winging it. There were no asthma groups like this back then. So, I did what I thought was best. I did what I thought was expected of me. I did what was my brotherly duty.


Probably. Definitely.

My point is you don’t always think reasonably when having an asthma attack. This is why asthma advocacy is so important. It's nice when others can spot we're in trouble and encourage us to do what we need to do, not what they want us to do.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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