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My Asthma Story: From First Attack to Getting My Life On Track

Asthma attack stories are all the same, and they’re all different. 

You never forget the first time you struggle to breathe, no matter how old you are when it happens. We all have different triggers and different stories, but we all share that same fear. And we all share the frustration of having medicine that never completely cures us, when we so desperately want to be cured. 

I’ve had asthma practically my whole life, and at times my symptoms went completely unchecked (I believe I was even addicted to Ventolin). But today, I’m completely off my preventative medicine.

And while I’ll always keep my rescue inhaler handy, I can’t remember the last time I used it (see the 6 steps I took to get off my medicines here). 

Your goals may be different than mine, but if you’d like to live better with asthma, I hope you’ll use my first asthma attack story and my journey as inspiration. I’m living proof: you really can live well with asthma. 

My Asthma Story

I’ve had asthma for just about as long as I can remember.

It all started when I was about 5 years old. I was at my grandmother’s house, celebrating Christmas with my family, when I started coughing. My chest felt tight in a way it never had before.

I don’t remember much besides going back and forth to the hospital throughout the night.

Eventually I was admitted overnight. I spent the next few days on an IV drip and a steady stream of nebulizer treatments – all the standard asthma treatment guidelines of the time.

I was too young to really understand what was going on, but my parents were actually worried I might die.

Eventually, I was sent home with a daily prescription for prednisone and a Ventolin inhaler. And I took that prednisone every day for years as my preventative medicine.

I hated the prednisone so much. I couldn’t swallow pills properly so I always wound up with an awful taste in my mouth. My dad used to crush up the pill and stick it in a scoop of ice cream, which really only partially disguised the taste. Hard to believe that there was a kid that used to dread ice cream – but that was me.

Needless to say, I don’t have many happy memories involving prednisone in my childhood.

Thankfully, after a few years I finally got an inhaled daily preventative asthma medication. I believe it was called Cromolyn. This was definitely a lifestyle improvement over the disgusting predisone pills.

But I still had the same old Ventolin rescue inhaler. I don’t remember exactly much about how often or when I’d take a puff, but it was a lot.

I remember calling out to my parents from bed in the middle of the night whenever I felt tight-chested or couldn’t breathe. They’d come running with my Ventolin (or albuterol) puffer and I’d feel immediate relief.

Only asthmatics will understand the pure joy of having cool fresh air enter your lungs after an asthma episode – it has to be one of the best feelings in the world. I started to take every possible opportunity to use my puffer, loving the little “buzz” of relief I’d get every time.

I took it even when my symptoms were only mild. I see now that this was the beginning of my Ventolin abuse.

It was easy, too. I was allowed to carry my own puffer at school and I had ready-access to them at home as well.

No one ever monitored or questioned how much or how often I was taking my puffer. Even my doctors would only ever check my heart-rate and my breathing and send me on my way. I had no idea I was abusing my Ventolin, but why would I? I wasn’t paying for it, and no one was really questioning my use.

Becoming An Asthmatic Adult

Fast forward and I’m starting college far away from home. Suddenly I was on responsible for keeping up my prescription AND paying for it.

This gave me a new window on my Ventolin usage and my asthma that I hadn’t seen before. Note that at that time, I was no longer using the preventative medication – I’m not sure why.

Getting my prescription renewed was like a whole experience. These doctors were asking ME, not my parents, about my usage.

They’d ask me how many times in a week I took a puff …. and I really didn’t know the answer. I had never kept track. I just took a puff whenever I felt wheezy, or tight chested, even just a little bit.

So I’d simply tell my doctor that I used my inhaler “a few times” and get a new prescription.

The problem, of course, was that the amount of refills they were giving me wasn’t enough to cover how much I was actually using. So I quickly wound up back at the doctors for another round of refills. They smartly put me back on a preventative inhaler, this time Flovent.

But as a young college student, the last thing I wanted to be doing was buying an expensive daily inhaler on top of my Ventolin. I found myself skipping doses on the Flovent and using more Ventolin because it was cheaper.

Combine this with my poor college student lifestyle and diet, and you have a recipe for disaster.

This was the point when my asthma was starting to catch up with me. And I don’t just mean physically. The mental burden and anxiety of knowing I have a debilitating condition that can only be remedied with expensive inhalers was too much.

Sadly, I didn’t think I had any options, and so I stayed in a viscous cycle of using my puffer too much, and then needing my puffer more because of all that misuse. Eventually, though, I decided enough was enough, and I started researching ways to improve my symptoms. I’ve written about that journey and all the steps that have helped me on my asthma blog

It would be many years still before I was able to make progress towards my current inhaler-free, symptom-free life, but this is how it all began.

The particulars are different, but I’m sure my story is pretty similar to most other asthmatics at its core. We have a scary episode (or many), we get our diagnosis, we’re given a prescription, and we’re sent on our merry way – and then we spend years or a lifetime suffering through horrible feelings of breathlessness and dependence on nasty medicine.

I’m sharing my story and the remedies that have worked for me on this website because I want to show my fellow asthmatics that relief is possible. It might not be easy, or quick, but it’s possible. My asthma-fighters are a good place to start.

And I hope my asthma attack story encourages you to stay in touch. Find us on Facebook here, and please share your story in the comments below. Happy Breathing. 

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