Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Language of Asthma

It seems like the more I learn about asthma, the more I realize I don’t know. I’m now learning a whole new language of asthma – the correct terms for medications and devices, even how to accurately describe the kind of asthma my son has.

Recently while talking to friends at AANMA, I said that my son doesn’t have severe asthma. What I meant was that, knock on wood, he’s never had an attack that sent us rushing to the hospital. However, I learned there's a difference between having a diagnosis of asthma and experiencing asthma symptoms. That you have asthma whether you are having symptoms or not. And that asthma can be severe, moderate or mild, depending on the day. In fact, asthma can fluctuate from mild to severe or vice versa within the same day.
This is an often confusing concept for someone straining to find telltale signs of asthma. I know the doctor can measure Will’s lung function with spirometry, hear asthma in his chest and even see physical evidence of trapped air on a chest X-ray. Meanwhile I’m left looking (without X-ray vision) and listening as a parent who is just now learning what asthma is. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around this new part of our lives – and trying to figure out how I can avoid being either obsessive or laissez-faire.

I know I’ll get better at recognizing his early warning signs as we keep track of symptoms and peak flow meter readings on our AsthmaTracker™ daily diary, but for now, I rely heavily on our doctor. That’s why I always keep our check-up appointments, even when there seems to be nothing wrong. At check-ups, my doctor has been invaluable in answering my many questions and just putting me at ease.

What are your thoughts on the language of asthma – anything you’ve learned that you’d like to share, questions about confusing terms? Feel free to comment below!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Little Red Med Bag Takes a Trip to the Tree Farm

It’s that time of year again -- time to head out in the old front-wheel-drive sleigh to find the perfect Christmas tree.  Where is Chevy Chase when you need him?  On second thought, maybe we are better off on our own – my husband remembered the saw.  The forecast is calling for cold, wind, rain and sleet -- in other words, the perfect day.  After bundling everyone up in our warmest winter gear, two last-minute sprints back inside for forgotten items, we were off ……well, off and around the block at least. 

“Mom, my breathing feels funny,” William said from the backseat.  The third thing I was supposed to run back inside for, but forgot: the red medicine bag.  We turned around and headed for home.  One minute later I was sprinting up the driveway for the third time.  I grabbed the bag and a cup of water and we were good to go.  William had his two doses done and rinsed his mouth before we were out of the neighborhood and his breathing felt normal again.  Bullet dodged. 

With countless road trips under our belts, we have become pros at doing the inhaler on the go.  The little red medicine bag was quite possibly one of my best, if not simplest, purchase.  It is just a small, red, zippered pouch just large enough to easily fit his two inhalers, holding chamber, peak flow meter and pharmacy drug information and prescriptions for refills.  The red lets the whole family know this is a medicine bag.  William recognizes it instantly as his asthma bag and it travels easily everywhere we go.  There is even a handy handle on one end to make grabbing it a cinch as we run out the door. 

In a rather chaotic household, this is the one thing that is always in its place right there in the spice cabinet.  Easy to access for morning meds at breakfast and any other time they may be needed. 

Back at the Christmas tree farm, we were successful in our search and successful in keeping William healthy for the rest of day so we could all enjoy one of our family’s favorite traditions. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanksgiving -- Who's Sleeping Where?

Thanksgiving for my family isn’t just about the turkey with all the trimmings, it’s about who’s sleeping where.  When you are one of six adult children (with assorted significant others and offspring) traveling over the river and through the woods to descend upon one, small Cape Cod home, sleeping arrangements rank high on the list of concerns. 

This year, the adults got the upstairs bedrooms. Our 21-month-old would stay with me and my husband; William would sleep with his brother and cousins somewhere else. But where? The basement is an automatic no-go.  After 40 years, six kids and a couple of dogs and cats, my parents’ basement is now the proper resting place for countless treasures and more than a little dust. William’s asthma would definitely be a problem down there.  The winterized porch just off the living room seemed the perfect spot.   A clean tile floor with a rug meant few allergens; I figured asthma shouldn’t be a problem there. 

Bedtime went swimmingly.  Well, as swimmingly as it does for five cousins giggling, whispering, and maybe, trying to get a little bit of sleep.  In other words, the perfect slumber party.  Once everyone was tucked in tight, I snuck upstairs where my husband, 21-month-old, and I had been lucky enough to score one of the bedrooms.   After 12 hours of driving, I was ready for some serious sleep. 

An hour later, my brother woke me, saying William had been coughing and it sounded like he was wheezing in his sleep.  I pulled on a sweater and went downstairs to check.  He was sound asleep, happily wheezing away.  The porch, it turned out, was not the world’s most perfect sleeping spot – for Will, anyway.  I scooped up a sleeping, wheezing William (8-year-old boys are surprisingly heavy in their sleep!) and carried him to the couch in the living room.  Tucked him in, dragged his mattress to the floor next to him, and snuggled in for long winter’s nap.  His breathing improved quickly. 

I’m not sure exactly what triggered the wheezing, but for the rest of our visit he slept peacefully on the couch.  He stayed up a bit later than usual, screenings of White Christmas and Notre Dame football kept him up later, but I think he loved it.  Next time, we may need to lobby for an extra bedroom.