King Of Rescue Inhalers

For many years, I thought I was the king of albuterol. I used more albuterol than any other person in the world. Then I met other asthmatics just like me. Then I learned that I was not the king of albuterol. That label went to some other unlucky asthmatic.

We were introduced in 1980.

I’m talking about rescue inhalers here. Sometime that year I sat in Dr. G’s office. I was short of breath. Dr. G said he had something for me to take home. He left the office room. Moments later he came back in. Clutched in his hand was a small, white object.

“This will help you catch your breath,” he said. “It’s called an Alupent inhaler.” He explained what the medicine did. He explained how to use it. Then he put the mouthpiece 2 inches from my airway. I opened my mouth as he instructed. I exhaled as he instructed. He coordinated the squeeze with my inhalation.

A high-velocity spray hit the back of my throat.

I coughed.

White mist spewed into the room.

“Yuck!” I thought, cringing. But... I took in a deep breath.

"I CAN BREATHE!!!” I said.

Dr. G smiled. He stood by waiting. “Ready! I have one more puff!” This time the coordination was better. It felt nice. It tasted nasty, but it felt nice. I can breathe.

That was the last time I tasted the medicine

I used it exactly as prescribed, for a while. I remember one day sitting at the bar in the kitchen. I was short of breath. I heard Dr. G's voice in the back of my head. He was saying, “You can take 2 puffs every 4-6 hours if needed.” But it had only been 2 hours.

I wondered if he was wrong. So, I found the Alupent box. I took out the package insert. I opened it up. I started reading it. I read until I got to the words, “every 4-6 hours as needed.” This confirmed what Dr. G had said.

Still, I was short of breath. I didn’t want to bother mom. I didn’t want to bother dad. I didn’t want them to take me to see Dr. G again.

I got brave. I took 2 puffs of the inhaler in rapid succession.

That’s how bad habits get started. You think of doing it right for a while. You rationalize reasons you should not do it wrong. But, once you break the ice, it’s easier to do it wrong from then on out. Little did I know, this was the moment I and Alupent became more than just acquaintances: we had become best friends.

My taste buds had become adept to the taste. It no longer had a taste.

I had, in effect, become a member of the club.

I did not know about the club in 1980. I was the only member, as far as I knew. I was the only asthmatic in my house. I was the only asthmatic in my school. I was the only asthmatic in the world who, not only had an acquaintance with Alupent, but had developed an addiction, of sorts.

I was the only one who stayed up late puffing. I was the only one, long after the lights were out, knelt beside my bed staring at my little white inhaler. It was held in my little hand. That little hand was tremoring.

I could feel my heart beating strong and forcibly within my chest.

I was kneeling because I was praying. I was worried I might not wake up in the morning if I fell asleep. I was worried because I couldn’t breathe. I was even more worried because of how overusing my rescue inhaler had made me feel.

I had so much alupent in my system that no way would sleep come.

That’s how it began

I was the inaugural member of the club. I was the only member. It began with Alupent. Now it's albuterol. I was the king of rescue inhalers. Or, so I thought. More in a future post.

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