Doctors and Asthma

Nearly all of us have similar doctor stories. Mine go like this.

My history with doctors and asthma

First, a trip to the GP

My first GP told me to try a variety of puffers. No improvement. "You must be stressed.... go on valium". Then finally, they measured my oxygen level. "Oh, it should be much higher.... it must be asthma. You need to urgently see a specialist." Still insisting on valium, that was the end of our association as far as I was concerned.

Then, the second GP said that it was asthma and told me to use the puffers this way. They gave me a referral to a specialist. The test found rhinovirus started the problems.

An emergency hospital visit

Hospital emergency doctor #1 said, "Hmmm... it could be anxiety!" Damn.... my oxygen level was 91%. Doesn't he get that it couldn't be caused by anxiety?

After a 40-minute wait that left me about to give up and go home, the second emergency hospital doctor said, "OMG, this woman's oxygen is 87%, find her a bed!" I was having an asthma attack.

Lung specialist #1

"Yes, it's Asthma. Follow this treatment. Yes, you have sleep apnea." They wouldn't answer my questions. Time to move on.

Seeing my fourth GP

We had moved to a warmer climate after 8 winter admissions to the hospital. "Your asthma is unusual. You don't wheeze, I can hardly hear air moving in and out of your lungs. Let's try this." I was never dismissed, and always helped. She is the best thing I have encountered since sliced bread!

Lung specialist #2

After a hospital admission for low oxygen level, they said, "There's nothing wrong with you. I want you to go to a psychiatric ward to deal with your anxiety levels."

This same doctor ignored all the signs of a dangerous reaction to Domperidome that put me back in hospital for 3 days to try to stabilize my blood pressure. All he could see was "anxiety" and ignored all signs of this drug reaction. He got reported, as did the hospital (mind you this process is pretty awful for the patient).

Lung specialist #3

They yelled at me because I had gained weight from steroids. He told me to swim 24/7 regardless of how I felt and that I was just obese.

He also told me I had a collapsed lung. Where I stopped breathing, oxygen got to 30%. I ended up in the ICU, but was told that this was " no big deal". It might not be to him, but it was to me! I moved on. It's not okay to yell at all patient.

Lung specialist #4

Just fabulous. He identified my asthma as neutrophilic. After 3 years of treatment my lungs have actually started to improve. Hallelujah! He reduced the dosage of preventer! He said, "Go to the hospital based on how you feel, NOT on what any measurements say. You know your asthma better than anyone else". Always listens, always explains.

A challenging journey with doctors and asthma

There have been several repeats of unfortunate episodes. I try to go to the same hospital during an asthma event, and I carry a record of my asthma history. These put downs are just too hard to take, whether it is a doctor or a nurse.

Something that I have noticed about the 4th lung specialist is that he never types up my notes while I am present. He listens and jots a couple of words on paper. He even does little drawings to help explain things. None of the others did this. 

My GP doesn't write computer notes while we talk either. She looks at me and answers all my questions and always explains, and checks that I understand. She too will write things in my "medical book" that I always take to appointments.

Finding the right care team for my asthma

I finally have a great GP and lung specialist. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to change. But I won't, at 73, let any doctor or nurse tell me that an asthma attack isn't real because my asthma doesn’t tick their boxes.

I believe that, as a patient, I need to know my condition, my type of asthma, and stand up for my right to be treated appropriately.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

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.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.