punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Stupid cold: anatomy of an asthma attack

Last night, I almost thought I had to go to the hospital. My breathing was so bad, I was up until 2am just gasping for air. I couldn’t even take the ventilator because the moist air was choking off what little oxygen I could get in my lungs. My fingers and toes started to go numb, but I sweated it out, and while I feel like I have the world’s worst hangover, I can breathe almost normally. I didn’t go to work, because if I got an attack like that again, I would be put into the ambulance. Sometimes, things just line up that way, and I have to be careful. These kinds of attacks go like this:

1. Asthma attack
2. If I ignore the attack, or can’t stop the stuff triggering it, I start to swallow air
3. The swallowed air pushes my lungs closed as my stomach swells up like a balloon
4. This make the asthma attack even worse, but usually a lot of burps can stop the cycle here
5. After a certain level, my diaphragm starts to spasm as the lower brain starts to take over under the panic, “AIR! WE NEED AIR!!”
6. The spasms swallow more air, and I can’t pause to burp, and I start to hiccup and gasp
7. My heart starts to race from panic, but also, my asthma medicine is causing my heart rate to go up anyway
8. As my heart pounds like crazy, I need more air to keep it going...

Step 9 is usually hospitalization.

Most end at 1, sometimes I go to 4. It rarely gets to step 8. But if I can stop the cycle, I’ll be able to reverse the process. Sadly, last night, I was in the middle of writing my book, and got too distracted to realize I had gotten to step 3. I took my inhaler, but it was too late. I went upstairs to lie down, and went on the ventilator shortly thereafter. I couldn’t burp, because I had just eaten, and food was in the way, so the stomach was already swelling. I tried to meditate, but I am not as good at it when I get to step 6, and I also had a fever, and so my boddy was shaking from the chills. I watched M*A*S*H while trying to go into a trance, using the familiarity of the episode (Frank’s wife wants a divorce, Potter gets a granddaughter) to distract the panic, and get my brain to release the diaphragm to more mental control. Finally, I was able to get my calmness down to where I could sleep at about 2am, but I awoke a lot.

My whole chest is sore, clogged, and weak. I can’t stand up too fast or I get dizzy.
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