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My Asthma Inhaler & Nebulizer Museum

Once upon a time, I had a museum. Well, that’s what I called it anyway. It was a large storage bin. Inside I kept one of everything asthma-related I ever used. I thought it would be neat to go through in 50 years. I could use it to create my own website like Inhalatorium.

Please click on that last link. I don’t often endorse websites. But, I endorse that one. Mark Sanders has a collection of antique inhalers and nebulizers. It’s really cool. At least I think so. Mark also wrote a neat article about the history of smoking for asthma. That’s also a neat read.

My love of history

So, as a kid I loved history. I remember grandma walking us kids (me and my brothers Bobby and David) through downtown Manistee. As we walked she’d tell us the history of the town. She’d say things like, “See how all the houses 5th street are made of bricks that all look the same. Well, that’s because this block is where the Louis Sands mansion was. He was one of the richest lumber barons in the world. After he died his family couldn’t afford to heat that big house. So, they tore it down. All the bricks from the mansion were used to build these houses.”

My brothers were not so interested. But I was. I was also intrigued when grandma would show us old books about the history of the town I grew up in.

“Did you know that Manistee (a town now of less than 10,000 residents) once had the 4th most millionaires per capita in all of Michigan? “She would ask. “It’s true.”

Of course, my brothers were bored. They’d display their annoyance as kids do. And grandma remembered that more so that she recognized my enthusiasm. So, these types of moments were limited. But, her love of history lives on in me.

So, I started a unique collection

Grandma also encouraged us to collect something. She said that you have to have something in life to do no matter what life offers. It should be something that doesn’t rely on other people. It should be something to entertain your mind that you can do by yourself. And, when I was ten, I decided my collection would entail collecting asthma equipment.

Many times I was admitted to West Shore Hospital for asthma when I was ten and eleven. Oxygen tubing was used on me. Nebulizers for sure were used. Syringes. Oh, and inhalers. And, when I was discharged, the respiratory therapist would say, “Hey, if you want to take any of this stuff, it’s yours. Otherwise, we’re just going to throw it away.”

So, I’d take it. My brothers and I would play doctor or something. Most of the stuff got thrown away. But, some of the stuff I’d keep, like the nebulizer.

My museum was a box

I still had it in 2004 when I bought a house. I had a nice big storage box. Inside I had a case of epinephrine glass ampules. I had various epinephrine syringes. I had several Alupent inhalers. I had an epinephrine inhaler. There was an original albuterol inhaler from 1985. There was a nebulizer from a 1980 hospital visit and another from 1985. And I can tell you the nebulizers were designed differently back then. There were also other random inhalers, like the first Serevent and Flovent inhalers.

In 2004 I had the bright idea to give my box to my son. He had these trains and I wanted him to be able to store them in one place. I put my museum in a temporary location inside of a big, black garbage bag. Stupid in retrospect. When I moved I accidentally thought it was garbage and tossed it out.

I still like my inhaler/nebulizer museum idea

It would be neat to create. After I threw that away I started saving some of my inhalers. I had a box full of random inhalers. But, while cleaning one day I tossed them out. Having stuff like this doesn’t mean so much right now. I was just thinking 50 years down the road.

So, say it’s 2040. I have an asthmatic grandchild. I could show her what I used when I was her age to control my asthma. “What we had back then paled in comparison to what you have today,” I’d say, “But, it’s all we had.”

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.


  • Shellzoo
    9 months ago

    Now when I drive through Manistee, I am going to be looking at houses with similar bricks…… that said it is fascinating how healthcare has advanced through time. As a new nurse years ago, I remember having to shake down mercury thermometers which were a nightmare for cleaning if you broke them. I have not seen a mercury thermometer in ages. I do think often when I do my nightly inhaler routine how different the treatments must have been for my grandfather who had asthma. I bet he would have felt better today and experienced better asthma control had he lived longer to experience the advancements in asthma treatments. I find the history of asthma treatments to be fascinating. I am guilty of reading about medical treatments from the past. PBS had a great show about TB treatments and sanatoriums a few years back. Stuff like that makes you glad for modern medicine!

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    9 months ago

    Manistee also has a neat museum downtown. It’s an old pharmacy converted to a museum. In the back of the museum is the old pharmacy with the same medicines used in the old days, including asthma cigarettes. i was intrigued by this as a kid, that asthmatics would smoke. That would be another neat thing to check out as you drive through Manistee. Its pretty cool. John. Site Moderator.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    9 months ago

    Will have to check that out sometime. Thanks. John. Site Moderator

  • Shellzoo
    9 months ago

    Cadillac has a quirky history museum too. I did not know I had asthma when I went through it but one display was an old medical office and it was fascinating! The museum was small and off the Main Street but had some nice displays.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    9 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo and John – how cool to be traveling down ‘memory lane’ together. You speaking of mercury thermometers, Shellzoo, reminds ME of the old blood gas kits of the mid 1970’s – made of glass and, if you did not hold them vertically after drawing the blood sample, the plunger could slide out resulting in spillage of the specimen. A mess to clean up, true, but then the patient had to be ‘stuck’ again! I don’t miss those days at all. But, as John said, it was all we had!!! Leon (site moderator)

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