Wednesday, February 15, 2017

1980: My first rescue inhaler

During the 1970s, asthma was just sort of dealt with. This changed  one humid spring day in 1980.  My mom took me to see Dr. Gunderson.  His office was attached to the Apothecary Shop in Manistee. It was between Wahr Hardware and Cypress Street (U.S. 31).

I remember sitting on the doctor's bed. Mom sat in a chair to my left. Dr. Gunderson came in right away. The nice thing about not being able to breathe is you are the priority, so no waiting.

He must have observed my hunched shoulders, barrel chest, and paradoxical breathing. There was a discussion between mom and him. It centered around whether to let mom take me back home or to admit me to the hospital. Dr. Gunderson decided to send me home with an inhaler. "Hold on, John, I have something for you." He left the office.

He came back. In his hand he had a small, white object. "This is an inhaler," he said. "I'm going to hold it two finger lengths from your mouth, like this." He demonstrated this. You exhale as much as you can, and when you are ready to inhale, I will squeeze the inhaler. You take in a deep breath. Hold your breath for ten seconds."

There was a pause as he allowed me to time to process what he said. He

"Think you can handle that?" he asked.

I nodded.

"Okay, let's do it."

He did as he said, and put the inhaler in front of my airway. I opened my mouth and exhaled. I inhaled and he squirted the inhaler. I was winced, but held my breath as instructed. I exhaled, and inhaled. Exhaled. Inhaled. Exhaled. Inhaled. My breathing was normal.

Now we have to do a second puff. Together, we repeated the process. Once again I was hit with a blast of a horrible medicine. But I didn't care about the taste. It gave me my breath back. I loved this thing.

"What is that called?" I asked?

"It's called an inhaler. It's called Alupent."

I smiled.

"I like that. I love that."

He said, "Now, this is a rescue inhaler," he looked at mom, then back at me. "You keep it. Let him use it every 4-6 hours if he feels short of breath.

In retrospect, those first two puffs of Alupent were the only times I ever tasted rescue medicine. I would end up using it so much that the taste, even if it was horrible at first, didn't matter. This medicine gave me instant relief.

My mom held onto the inhaler at first.  I would say she did this for about a month or so.  I mean, maybe it was longer. But this is how my minds eye sees it. As with my experience with Tilate, mom like to give us kids responsibility for our own medicine. Even at the time I wasn't sure this was a good idea, but it's how it was back then. It's how my mom did it, anyway.

I remember meeting mom in the kitchen a few times. She would give me the inhaler, and I used it as instructed. I think mom might have assisted me once or twice, but then she gave me the responsibility. I remember asking for it as often as I could. So, as you can probably imagine, after a while it was easier for mom just to let me keep the inhaler and use it when I needed it.

Actually, as I think about it, this probably became a necessity as school started. I would have to take my inhaler to school. I actually hated this. It was a bulge in my pocket. This made me feel very uncomfortable. I was embarrassed about the bulge. I was embarrassed that I was short of breath. I tried to hide how horrible I felt. And, unfortunately, I was also embarrassed to use it in front of my classmates. This was true even on the playground. This would turn into a huge problem for me.

And there were times when I was short of breath, and I didn't want to bother mom and dad. So, here I had this inhaler on my bedside table. Here I had this medicine that would give me my breath back. So, at some point, and this wasn't too long after I got it, I took a puff at the three hour mark. I did not have any problems. In fact, it made me happy -- very happy.

It didn't take long before I was comfortable using it at will. It did not take long before I was going through an inhaler a month. It did not take long before I was going through an inhaler a week. It did not take long before I was gong through an inhaler in a few days. It did not take long before I went through my first inhaler in a few hours.

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