My first doctor visit in a loooong time

Some of you who have been reading here a long time might remember that in the past I periodically experienced difficulty with breathing, and that a couple of years ago I dealt with the issue effectively using herbs.  That ended my problem with cold air during the winter, but then a year ago when camping I suddenly was unable to breathe.  (That’s part of why we didn’t go camping this year; dh was worried about a repeat.)  Since then, I’ve had something similar but not as drastic happen twice, and we’ve realized it’s triggered by exposure to mold and dust spores that are stirred up when I do major cleaning and reorganizing in the basement or attic.

Since the last time there was a problem was the day before dd15 went to Israel about five weeks ago, I was careful for a while to stay out of the basement. But then I saw nothing was happening when I was down there even for extended periods of time, and forgot that the issue wasn’t being in the basement, but being there was detailed cleaning was being done.  So on Sunday I did some organizing, not real cleaning, but dd14 was doing the cleaning with me right there.  Since Sunday afternoon, I’ve been having increasing difficulty breathing.  I wasn’t really paying much attention to how I was feeling which is why I didn’t do anything like take vitamin c or herbs to head things off.  I thought it would pass out of my system in a couple of days and really didn’t expect it to get worse.  But it did.

This morning, I got into the car to take the littles to my inlaws, and then proceed to our weekly history class an hour away.  I wasn’t feeling great (this is a gross understatement :)) but I told myself that driving hardly took any effort and I’d have the older kids take the littles out at my inlaws house so that I wouldn’t have to do anything that would be an effort. But walking down the stairs from my room and to the car had winded me so much that I couldn’t get a breath.  I started wondering if I was being responsible to try to leave the house.  Dd14 saw me struggling to breathe and asked me if we should stay home. I told her it would be fine, it would just take me a few minutes to catch my breath.

After a couple of minutes, it became clear to me how serious the situation was.  I really needed help – and I didn’t have the physical capacity to get myself to the emergency room.  My inlaws are only ten minutes by car, but it felt much, much longer and the physical effort to drive was enormous; I kept telling myself I could make it.  While we were driving, I told my dd14 that when we got there, to get an inhaler from my father-in-law, and if he didn’t have one, to call Hatzala.  But not in that many words.  It was, (gasp), “Get (gasp) inhaler (gasp) or Hatzala.” (Hatzala is a private volunteer ambulance service in my community – they are super fast and competent.)

They called Hatzala but then my father-in-law came out with an inhaler, and after three puffs, I could breathe again.  I’ve never used anything like that before and couldn’t believe something so minor could help so fast, but I was so incredibly grateful that it did.  I didn’t think I would die or anything like that but I didn’t see how I could continue working so hard for every tiny bit of air.  I asked my father-in-law to cancel Hatzala because I didn’t want them to come for nothing, but they said it couldn’t be cancelled.  At that point I was able to breathe enough to walk so I went inside the house to wait for them.

The ambulance and three volunteers were there within five minutes, and I felt so embarrassed to make them come for nothing.  I told them I was fine and I was really sorry to have bothered them, but they told me they could still hear me wheezing from across the room and I didn’t sound fine at all.  They told me I needed to go to the hospital immediately but I really didn’t understand why, so I told them I thought that was overkill since I was basically okay.  But I agreed to go into the ambulance for further treatment.

While I was in the ambulance, they were talking to each other about the plan of action, obviously intending for me to hear them (and ambulance isn’t exactly spacious and people speaking in normal tones can easily be heard, lol).  “If we could make her realize she needs to go to a hospital, we would take her there immediately.”  So I pulled the inhaler thing out of my mouth and said to them, “I told you I would go to a doctor today to get this checked out, and if you really feel it needs to be a doctor at a hospital, that’s fine.  But don’t be patronizing since it isn’t appropriate.”  Then I explained that I wasn’t trying to be difficult, but I really didn’t understand the urgency and could they explain why they felt it was so pressing for me to go to the emergency room even after they gave me so much Albuterol.    So they did.

They explained to me that even after all of the treatment my oxygen saturation was very low and every part of my respiratory system was still blocked up, that there wasn’t one part that was clear.   They were afraid there would be a rebound effect and in a few hours all my symptoms would come right back unless I got further help.  So off we went to the emergency room.

I’ve taken kids to the emergency room three times in this city.  And it hasn’t been a positive experience since it involved lots of waiting until the child got help.  Now I was headed to that same emergency room that I already had a very negative impression of.  Combined with the fact that I haven’t needed to see a traditional medical doctor (except for normal pregnancy stuff) for over 18 years, I was feeling a bit apprehensive.   But once I decided to go, I chose to let go of all of that and just experience whatever would happen without any mental noise about it.

Because they put me on oxygen in the ambulance, I had to be taken into the hospital on a stretcher before being transferred to a wheelchair.  I didn’t bother protesting at that point, even though I felt guilty that someone healthy was getting priority at the emergency room.  I figured I might as well enjoy the experience so I could tell my kids all about it!  (When they took me off the oxygen, I asked if I could keep the mask so I could show it to the kids.)

Then they got me into a room and an attractive hospital gown :lol:, and hooked me up all over to wires.  (I later saved the five adhesive meditrace things that were stuck in different spots on  my upper body that five of the wires were attached to to show the kids, too.)  Everyone was really, really nice – the doctor, the nurse, and the aid.  And of course the ambulance volunteers.  They left once I was in my room.  I spent a few hours there getting treated and monitored and getting a chest xray and then getting more treatment.  It gave me lots of time to think positive thoughts.

Finally several hours later the doctor came in and told me I could be released, and then we went back and forth about if I needed steroids.  He was really, really nice.  He said I was right in the in between zone of getting or not getting them because of my specifics, and that a comment I made caused him think he should give me some.  So I asked him since it was my one comment had that effect, could I could possibly encourage him to change his mind in the other direction.  :)  He jokingly said, “Sure, you can push me around however you want!”  And he agreed that I didn’t have to take them.

So now I have a prescription for an inhaler, which I hope to never need, but will be good to have on hand just in case.  I’m very grateful to the wonderful medical personnel who helped me today, and plan to send them all thank you cards tomorrow (I took note of everyone’s name badge :)).  At the same time, it’s clear to me that the approach is management of the problem, not looking at why I started being triggered by environmental allergens or how to address the underlying problem.  That’s okay with me.  It’s good to be clear on what to expect from who – I had a great experience today in the emergent care department because it was very clear what I would get and why, rather than being frustrated that they weren’t able to offer me something else.  I’m very aware that whatever was wrong that caused all of this is still there – the symptoms are gone but the core problem still exists.

My wonderful husband took the day off of work tomorrow so that I can rest up – I’ve been pretty tired since I couldn’t get much sleep the last couple of nights due to difficulty breathing.  I told him it really wasn’t necessary since I’m okay, but I so much appreciate that he cares about me so much.  And it really will be nice to have a chance to rest while he takes care of the kids and the house for the day!


11 thoughts on “My first doctor visit in a loooong time

  1. Welcome to the world of asthma. Last week I used up the last of my inhaler the day before I hosted a Bible study for the first time; and since we don’t have insurance, we can’t afford for me to go to a doctor to get a prescription for another. Even though I sent out an email way ahead of time, telling people *not* to wear perfume to the Bible study, two women showed up reeking, and my asthma went into overtime. Luckily, my husband had an old inhaler, so I locked myself in my bedroom with it for five hours — until the Bible study was over and the main level of my house was aired out. It took two days, but I was finally able to breathe normally again. Asthma is no fun.

  2. That sounds terrible, Gigi. (((Hugs)))

    I don’t want to think of myself as having asthma. The doctor said they can’t make the official diagnosis without a bunch of testing, even though that’s what it looks like. So we agreed to call it ‘episodic respiratory affective disorder’. Sounds much better, right? :)

  3. Wow, Avivah, I’m glad you are ok! It sounds really scary. One of my sisters reacts to dust like you described. We’ve always just called it an allergic reaction to dust :) I hope you start feeling like yourself again really soon! Enjoy your day of rest while your husband manages the house! :)

  4. Be well! I hope you can manage the triggers enough so that that having the inhaler for emergency use remains your only ‘symptom’!

  5. I know you convinced the MD not to give you the steriods, but they can be a helpful part of the treatment for twitchy airways. The steroids are only absorbed by the part that needs them and little by the rest of the body. They assist the albuterol very, very well, even in acute cases, and longer term use (like 5-10 days) stops the twitchy response better than just albuterol. I felt the same way you did until I saw the results from albuterol alone and then in combination when my peanut allergic daughter (one of whose symptoms is really rapid onset of wheezing). Now I don’t hesitate to use it if the wheezing goes on for more than a day without improvement on albuterol alone. The inhaler version is more expensive (and doesn’t give much steroid to the rest of the body) but the liquid version is super cheap (but will give a dose to the whole body). Refuah shlemah — these episodes can be really scary.

    1. Just to clarify, I didn’t convince the doctor not to give me steroids. He was on the fence which was why when I simply told him I’d prefer not to take them unless it was very important, he was fine with that. It was when he came in to tell me I was being released, that I reviewed things with him and asked why he hadn’t given me steroids. As a result of that question, he started considering that it wouldn’t be a bad idea.

      I’m glad to hear some additional perspective on the place of steroids. My father-in-law also told me about an interesting option for an inhaler that is non-steroid based but has the same benefits, that his md recommended to him in place of steroids or the regular inhalers (I think – they told me about this immediately after leaving the hospital and I was still a little out of it at the time).

  6. I’m glad that you are ok and were able to make it over to your in-laws. What a scary situation!

    I wonder if wearing a face mask or rag over your nose and mouth while doing organizing/dusting would be helpful in preventing this sort of reaction?

    1. Your suggestion is a good one, Jendeis! The doctor and my husband also suggested it, and now that we’ve recognized what the trigger is, I can try to avoid or minimize it by wearing a mask when cleaning.

  7. I think I read in a previous post that you lived in Baltimore? Here’s a helpful calendar I’ve been using all summer in the absence of hard data:

    Where I live in WI has been unusually wet and hot this summer and, like Baltimore, full of high mold days. Coworkers and family who typically have no allergies have been affected and myself and another coworker with seasonal allergies had the really odd reaction of extreme all-over itchiness. After the worst spell around 4th of July I’ve learned to check the pollen forecast in the morning if I get to work and my ankles itch (I don’t usually wear socks).

    Hopefully this is just a reaction to the high mold spore levels! That sounds like a very scary experience.

    1. Thank you for this chart, Anne – it’s really interesting and helpful! That’s amazing that you could trace your physical reactions so clearly to the pollen forecast.

      Yes, my area is hard on people with allergies, particularly in a season like this one. It’s very validating to see a chart like this showing the triggers are literally in the air we breathe.

  8. Avivah, I just read this and I’m glad to hear you are doing better….not being able to breathe is very scary.
    THe only experience I have with this is when my ds had bronchiolitis at 4 months and also needed oxygen for 2 days to keep his saturation levels up.
    You should probably take SA to bt for a while till you get back to yourself.

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