Thursday, March 30, 2017

1983: The mist tent and the nice respiratory therapist

It was 1983. I went to the emergency room for bad asthma. I was given the Sus-Phrine shot and rolled up to a room behind the nurses station. My asthma episode was really bad. So, doctor Oliver wanted me right by the nursing station. So, they put me in a room literally right behind the station.

There was a window where I could watch the nurses. I hated it. There was no privacy. I was actually stressed that I wouldn't be able to change without a bunch of female nurses watching me. But, after the first night, after I was feeling better, the doctor said I could have the curtain pulled. This was nice.

I was kind of a claustrophobic kid. When I was in Kintergarden and first grade, I remember we had to wear hats and snow suits. I hated this. I felt like I couldn't breathe when I was all bundled up like that. The teachers hated it that I was not compliant. But, ultimately, what choice did they have but to let me go out without them on.

Okay, the same thing with nasal cannulas. Here I was struggling to breathe for hours before I went to the emergency room, and that last thing I wanted was something over my face. I would get a breathing treatment, I would get the shot, and at some point someone would say, "We better put oxygen on him."

I would pull it off. They would put it on. I would take it off. They would put it on. I would take it back off. I remember this happening often. And, I don't ever remember anyone ever giving me a hard time about it. It probably bothered them, as I imagine I appeared cyanotic at times, but it never bothered me. All I wanted was the shot. I knew the shot would make me feel better. I didn't need something on my face.

So here I am, sitting in this room behind the nurses station. Mom is reading to me. I'm feeling soothed. And the doctor comes in. He says something about a mist tent. I wasn't thrilled about it. And I wasn't upset when it was several hours before a respiratory therapist came in and said, "It will be like being in a tent."

I wasn't thrilled, but I didn't feel like fighting. I knew that reason was because I refused to wear a cannula. And, I suppose, I must have been cyanotic. However, based on the fact the therapist appeared to be dragging his feet with setting it up, I highly doubt I was cyanotic. It was probably just some stupid idea my doctor got. I know how doctors are now that I have been working with them 20 years. Sometimes they just feel as if they have to do something, even if that something is something that's not needed.

Okay, so I ended up in this tent. The TV was on. I could hardly see the TV through the wrinkled plastic that was over my bed. Okay. It was nice and cool in it, however. Mom was sitting next to my bed. She may have read to me. But then my dinner came. I wasn't even in the tent for an hour, and I was allowed out to eat. I never went back in.

Later that night a really nice therapist came into my room. There usually wasn't a therapist on night shift. But tonight there was. She came in around 8 p.m. to give me a breathing treatment. She talked to me for hours. She was so nice. She told me I didn't have to go back into that tent. I was so happy. Before she left, I said, "Make sure you wake me up tonight for my treatments." She said, "I will."

She never did.

Fast forward 25 years. My coworker is Joella. I came into work one day and she said, "A memory occurred to me this morning. I was working in Manistee part time. I was called in to work because they had a 10-year-old asthmatic in a mist tent. A thought occurred to me: It was YOU."

She was right. Her name was Joella. She is now retired and living the good life.

This experience inspired a post at, along with the following comic.

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