A woman coughing in bed

Chasing My Baseline

Last updated: June 2022

I was sick in early December. The usual, it starts as a sudden tightness in my chest, and the next thing I know, each breath is exhausting; not to mention the incessant, painful coughing. I try all of the usual measures in my home tool kit, hoping they’ll work and I’ll avoid steroids and antibiotics... but alas, not to be. As we all know, when we get sick, the road back to our baseline is not a quick and easy journey. By Christmas, I was feeling well enough to be with my family and celebrate a quiet holiday. By January, I was really feeling as though I was getting back to my normal activity level.

Mid chase

I was sitting reading a book and out of nowhere, I had a weird pain in my back, between my shoulder blades. Never had it before, it did not feel like any kind of asthma attack onset I had ever had. I wondered if it could be indigestion, odd location for indigestion but it was my best guess- until it wasn’t. The pain became excruciating and overwhelming. After some back and forth discussions with my children and a friend, I went to the ER. There, I was told I was having a mild heart attack. I had all the earmarks. Except it wasn’t a heart attack. Further testing indicated that it was stress cardiomyopathy, also known as broken heart syndrome or takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

It was a strange and unsettling feeling. My respiratory system is a bit of a mess but I always felt reassured by my strong and healthy heart. Well, the good news, I was told that I will make a full recovery. The heart heals from this type of event and in most cases leaves no permanent damage. Whew!! However, the why of all of this was a bit more confusing. Bottom line, I had no indications of any of the usual causes, which sometimes can be severe asthma attacks. Sudden onset of an intense physical or emotional event can trigger broken heart syndrome. Not in my case. Maybe reading was more than I could handle…hahaha! Thankfully, along with an arsenal of new medications, I was given all good news when I was discharged from the hospital. It would take some time, but I would recover completely. Yay! However, I was shocked by how weak I felt. A twenty foot stroll was a bigger challenge than I could muster the strength to attempt. So once again, I was on the recovery track. It took some time, but I could see the glimmer of my baseline in the distance. After about two months, I felt back to myself.1,2

In April, I felt the onset of another respiratory illness. Try as I might, I could not head it off at the pass. It spiraled into a full-blown asthma exacerbation that then spiraled into bronchitis. That baseline was getting further away again. My chase was going to continue. By late April I was given the news that my heart had healed. However, the new cardiac medications had to continue to be part of my regimen. My doctor gave lots of reasons for his rationale, asthma being one of them. As much as I did not relish the idea of so many more medications added to my daily toll, I really could not argue with him. After all, I was being given a clean bill of health; so I was happy to do my part.

On the run again

In early May, in spite of my diligence, I tested positive for COVID. Darn!! I had been so diligent and careful. Back in December, my pulmonologist told me I was to continue to wear a mask regardless of CDC guidelines. I am a good patient and I know the risks of having any respiratory illness, so I was happy to comply with her guidance. I was still doing curbside pick-up at the grocery store to avoid any needless exposure to any kind of illness. I was the picture of careful. Fortunately, I had just had my second booster three weeks before. My doctor prescribed the COVID antiviral right away. All is well. I had a mild case, but it still knocked me off my game. So I am back on the chase again...that baseline is out there, I can see it. I know it exists. I’ve been there many times. I know I’ll catch it.

Sure and steady wins the chase

It’s early June. I’m still chasing my baseline but I’m getting closer. We can do everything right, yet those of us with asthma know that isn’t always enough. Actually, sometimes in life in general, our best isn’t always enough. So I take these lessons to heart. I know that doing our very best is the best we can do. There is benefit to doing everything right, even when things go wrong. My diligent adherence to my asthma plan always pays off and gets me back to my baseline. My doctors always tell me that when we do things right we have a much better outcome when things still go south. Being proactive and protecting our health puts us in a better position to do well even when we do get sick. I know that all the precautions don't guarantee that nothing will go wrong. I do know that being prepared, being diligent about your health, sticking to your medication regimen and following your doctor’s best advice will pay off in the long run, most especially when things go wrong.

Does your asthma ever keep you from your healthy baseline?

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