My Asthma Mom: A Mother's Day Story

My mom did not have asthma. My dad did not have asthma. My Great Uncle Howard supposedly had it bad when he was a kid, but he grew up, smoked cigarettes, and had a relatively normal adulthood free from asthma. So, that was the extent of asthma in my family until I was born on January 4, 1970.

My brother Bobby was a year old when I was born. And my brother David was born on January 26, 1971. Mom and dad had an arrangement where mom stayed home and raised the kids, while dad worked and provided the money to raise the kids. This was the perfect relationship for them. My parents never fought. (I say that humorously).

Mom sighted the first symptoms

My childhood was fine and dandy except for one thing. Mom said she observed at an early age that I always seemed to have a cold. She was constantly taking me back and forth to see doctors. And to make matters worse, doctors didn’t know diddly squat about asthma back then compared to what they know today. Okay? I just have to throw that out there. And here they had a kid with severe asthma. They had a kid with severe allergies to just about everything outdoors. And doctors had no clue what to do for me.  Imagine being the mom of that kid. Well, that was my mom.

Doctors, when I was born refused to allow kids to take antihistamines because of some stupid myth that they might cause bronchospasm. They prescribed a horrible medicine called Tedral when I was seven, but mom only spoon fed it to me when I felt symptoms, which was usually in the springtime. Mom was almost always the first person I thought of when I was having symptoms. Or, more than likely, mom was the first person to recognize my symptoms. You have allergies, one of the first signs is dry, red and itchy eyes. As a kid I didn’t know any better, so I’d itch my eyes until they were swollen shut. Mom would have me lie on the couch with a cold washcloth over my eyes. She’d dote over me.

By 1977 there were two more brothers on the scene. Of all five of us boys, I was probably the one who was closest to mom. Just think about it, the rest of them went with dad places, but when I went I had trouble with my asthma. So, it was only logical that I would stay home with mom. Mom probably felt bad for me, and so she’d dote on me. Sometimes she’d even take me to lunch, just me and mom.

A key decision maker for my asthma

I remember one spring, I think it was 1982, I was having a severe asthma attack. Mom called my new doctor at that time. It must have been a weekend, as this doctor met mom and me at his office. Mom made this arrangement. Then, after assessing me, and after a nurse gave me an epinephrine shot to make my breathing easy, mom and the doctor agreed I should be admitted to the hospital. I thought it was cool that instead of taking me directly to the hospital, mom took me to lunch at House of Flavors.

Every time I was in the hospital mom would sit with me as much as she could during the day. But she was a busy mom, so she couldn’t sit with me all the time. But she was there a lot. My favorite memory from this is when wanted to entertain me, and so she found this old Reader’s Digest that she read stories from.

I am confessing here for the first time that I never paid attention to the stories. It’s not that I didn’t want to pay attention to her, it was more that I was strung up on all the medicines I was given. I was hyper, and nervous, and anxious. However, I loved when she read to me. I loved to hear the soothing sound of mom’s voice. There were nights when I made irrational decisions, perhaps because the asthma was playing with my mind. I didn’t want to wake mom up AGAIN. I’d irrationally think I could self treat myself and my asthma would get better. It never did. And at 2 a.m. I’d find myself caving and waking mom up. And, despite my irrational fear, she was always made me feel glad I woke her. She’d roll over and say, “Bob, John can’t breathe. Will you take him to the ER?”

By 1984, my asthma was so bad I woke mom up nearly every day to have her, or dad, take me to the emergency room. In 1985, mom flew with me to Denver where I was admitted to the asthma hospital. Mom stayed as long as she could, and she visited a few times too. I know this whole situation was hard on her. But you would never know it by reading all the letters she sent me. I think I received one nearly every day. Reading her letters, just like hearing her voice, was soothing; it was therapy. And I will never forget how she made me feel better about being gone 6-8 weeks. “Every day you are one day closer to coming home. And when you come home, your asthma will be better.”

I made several attempts at being normal and hang out with the men as I got older, but more often than not I’d end up back home. So, after a time, it was easier just to stay home with mom. Sometimes I would just do my own thing (such as read or write), although often I found myself watching TV with mom, or having one of our long discussions at the bar in the kitchen.

The best asthma mom in the world

As we were having one of these discussions last summer when she was home from Florida, mom said that she always thought that of all her kids, she bonded best with me. I can’t help but to think that this might have something to do with all the time we spent together as a result of my asthma.

Some kids assume their mothers will be there when they need them most, and I knew mom would be there. For instance, there were times -- too many I’m afraid to admit, where my asthma was so bad, and I had bothered mom so many times, that I didn’t want to bother her again. I would irrationally decide my asthma would get better if I just waited. But then it got worse, and I’d trudge down the hall to mom’s room.

So, that’s my asthma mom story. Moms are special, and they are even more special when you can’t breathe, or you always have a stuffy nose and itchy eyes because you are allergic to everything outdoors. This is my humble effort at thanking my mom for being the best asthma mom in the world. Happy Mother’s Day.

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