Guest post: Asthma is more than a blue inhaler… by Becky

[editors note: this is Becky’s story. Asthma has severely affected all aspects of Becky’s life, this is why asthma is not just a blue inhaler]

Imagine this your 20 years of age at university training for your dream job when one day your throat starts to close, skin feels on fire and feels like you’ve just been hit by a bus. You can feel your airway closing and all can manage is a whisper of help. This was me nearly 5 years ago whist at university I suffered a severe form of allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. I was taken to hospital and treated. After this I was given an epi-pen [editors note: this is an injectable medication used to reverse anaphylaxis]

Before this event I was fit and healthy I didn’t take any medication, I could run and do anything I want. I had plans to travel once university finished to work across the world. But only allergic reaction wouldn’t ruin everything, well it wasn’t just once. In one week I had 4 similar attacks. Eventually I saw an immunologist and started on some antihistamines and given a ventolin inhaler. However after a few months of in and out of hospitals and struggling to continue my degree my attacks had changed I no longer had a rash and obviously swelling but since it felt the same it was treated the same but one doctor started giving my asthma medication and I was diagnosed with asthma. I was very quickly sent to see an asthma specialist who confirmed the diagnosis.
I was still spending nights in hospital and going to lectures with no sleep, my work was suffering and I was falling asleep in lectures. My mental health was affected as I was frustrated about my situation, I had little understanding in why it kept happening as drugs were added and failed to make a difference, I was no longer able to go in and out I was staying in and something had to give and it was university. I was invited to a meeting with the head of course and my personal tutor and despite occupation health giving me all clear to do day shifts (my attacks mainly came at night) the felt I was a risk to myself and my patients. Without placement I couldn’t complete my course and had to leave.

I was finding it hard to get out as so many things seemed to trigger an attack my friends were getting fed up with having to fight with me to go to hospital as I was in denial, one by one they started to ignore me. I wasn’t allowed to take part in university societies anymore so lost another set of friends and being on steroids allot of the time I started to put on weight, my mobility was affected and got out of breath so easily so I just stayed in allot of the time.

After my contract run out on my halls I couldn’t afford to live by myself anymore, so I moved home to my parents, I was having an attack about once a month. It was as shock to them at first how sick I got as when I was ill at uni I never phoned them even when on a ventilator. I didn’t want them to worry. I started to work but I managed 4 months before my sickness rate become an issue I left for a less stressful job, I worked one day a week, slowly the jobs I could do became less and less. People became scared to work with me in case I died on them I was taken from work to hospital many times and my contract was ended. I am not cross for being fired but they had made adjustments to the hours I worked, what I did and did most things to make sure I was safe.
After losing the 2nd job I decided to give work a miss since then. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life; I couldn’t see who would want to employ a person who took a week a month of sick. My admissions were getting longer by this point as I required different drugs and was spending more time in ICU. I had lost my friends, my job and my independence not to mention my sanity. There was no chance of me going back to uni.

Roll on the present day. Not allot has changed I am still going into hospital every month for around 5 days each time. Luckily I have a plan on what drugs to give me when I come in to try and avoid the need for ICU and ventilation. I still have no idea what the future holds or what or if I will do for a career. I’ve tired almost every asthma medication going. I’m on 3 different inhalers, daily nebulisers and a cocktail on medication and need allot of medication to counteract the side effects of them, mainly steroids. Steroids can cause bones to become weak, diabetes, high blood pressure and insomnia. Not a night goes without waking up wheezy; I’m consistently tired as a result. Its likely I will never be drug or hospital free.

I volunteer when I can, working with children but after an hour I am exhausted. I live by myself now but my mum comes and does allot of my housework for me and does my shopping when I can’t go out. I am also studying an Open University degree, this seems to work for me as I can work around how I feel. I can’t walk that far without getting tired and short of breath and sometimes need a stick as steroids cause muscle weakness.

Its not all doom and gloom though, asthma has taught me about myself and my personality, I’ve learned who my true friends are and the value of enjoying life. I’ve got closure with my family and meant some friends though a joint understanding of asthma

Asthma isn’t just a blue inhaler. I am disabled as a result and changed my life.

[Editors note: I’d like to thank Becky for this guest post, it highlights how serious asthma is and that it is not just a blue inhaler but a life threatening condition. I hope that everyone understands how much asthma can impact on a person’s life]

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