It is January 17th, it is 3am, it is dark, cold and the wind is howling outside, the wind is howling outside, my alarm is due to go off in a couple of hours for me to get up and go to work but I am sat on the edge of my bed and taking my 4th back to back neb but they aren’t helping. I am bent over in pain due to to the severe tightness in my chest, I am coughing badly and struggling to talk. My wife puts her hand on my shoulder and asks “do you think it’s time?”
The previous Friday evening I had left work and driven the 60 miles home thinking how well I had done not to miss anytime off work due to my asthma. Sudden changes or extremes of temperature are amongst my major triggers and over the last 5 or 6 years I have spent most of my time in hospital followed by a slow and long period of recovery at home. This winter though I had avoided any such problems which I beleived was in part due to starting on Xolair last year. However I felt that things maybe about to take a turn for the worse. My coughing had become much worse over recent days, my chest was feeling tighter, I was suffering from a shortness of breath and my breathing was feeling shallower than usual. My peak flows readings were becoming erratic which were never a good sign and despite increasing my prednisolone I knew that things weren’t right.
As I approached the end of my journey home I had a bad coughing fit and my lungs felt as though they were on fire. I pulled into a service station and parked up. I reached for every asthmatics best friend, my little blue ventolin inhaler. After a few minutes I began to settle down and decided I needed a drink. I covered my nose and mouth with my snood and ventured out of the car and into the the cold winter evening before entering the services. I grabbed a Costa Coffe and quickly hurried back to the car. I knew that I was only 10 minutes from home but really didn’t fancy the drive. I didn’t want to ring the wife, I didn’t want to worry her and I didn’t need the problems of arranging to pick my car up later if she came to pick me up. I decided to drink my coffee, have another blast of the old ventolin and set off for home. The rest of the journey was uneventful and I arrived home safe and sound.
I went inside and was greeted by the wife with “God, you look crap”
It was Friday night and the intention was to meet with the lads for a couple of pints before having an early night as I was to travel to Northampton the following morning to watch the mighty Scunthorpe United. I felt that I needed to be sensible and decided not to join the lads drinks. I let them know before settling down for a quiet night in front of the television. I knew that I had a big decision to make, should I go to Northampton or not?
I had already bought a ticket and the plan was to drive the 20 minutes to my friends house near Scunthorpe where I would leave my car before jumping in their car for the journey to Northampton which we expected to take just over a couple of hours.
My dilemma was that I desperately wanted to go to the game but the weather forecast wasn’t particularly good, my breathing was going down hill (and who wants to be unwell hours away from home) and I didn’t want to put the burden on my mates, after all it is hardly fair having an asthma attack on them at the football or in the car.
I decided that I would make a decision on the Saturday morning as to whether I would go. The decision was quite easy to make, I was up all night on the Friday, my chest was so tight I was almost in tears. I needed my nebuliser a couple of times during the night and I struggled to do much at all, even walking to the bathroom was proving to be a challenge.
The Saturday was spent in doors, the nebuliser was getting some hammer but it was helping. I listened to the football on the radio (Scunthorpe won) and saw the goals later on television. In general though I felt terrible.
Sunday was pretty much the same, I often use a heat pack or hot water bottle against my chest when it feels tight and boy did if feel tight. My Peak Flow was still very erratic but In general dropping. My oxygen levels were all over the place as well, ranging from 90 to 94.
Sunday night was a 3rd successive night without sleep but I was relieved to know that I had no work on the Monday.
Monday morning arrived, I was shattered, the wife asked if I wanted her to stay home, I told her to go to work. We both knew that I wasn’t getting any better and the next step was likely to be hospital. The problem is that hospital admissions are never easy, with my history I know that I am likely to be admitted for weeks, we know that dealing with A & E / Resus is a nightmare, waiting hours for a bed, the awfully humid atmosphere, everything about it is awful. Despite everything though we knew that we were likely to be heading in one direction.
My wife went to work (against her better judgement), I decided to pack a bag for the hospital (just in case). Change of clothes, toiletries, fan (always need a fan), tablet, dab radio, chargers (for phone, tablet, Apple Watch and radio), medication, portable nebuliser and possibly most important my medication wallet. My medication wallet is basically a small credit card wallet. Inside is cards detailing everything about, contact details, medication details, medical conditions, details on my asthma (such as advising that I do not usually wheeze but often suffer from a silent chest) and a copy of my asthma management plan. This information is vital for paramedics and hospital staff, especially when I am struggling to talk.
The rest of the day was spent trying to relax and sleep, followed by nebs. It wasn’t a good day, I knew what was coming.
Monday evening was still a struggle but I knew that I would have to make a decision soon as to what to do next. I could carry on doing what I was doing but that wasn’t helping me, I could get up on Tuesday morning and try and return to normal life and go to work, now this would not be sensible but due to the number of absences from work over recent years my job is in the balance. I beleive that I am quite good at my job and I quite enjoy it. I beleive the my employer thinks that I am quite good at my job, after all they have employed me for 25 years. However there comes a time when enough is enough, my attendance record over the last 5 years is shocking, I hardly ever work between November and March, After an absence of over 2 months (following 3 back to back hospital admissions) they decided to issue me with a warning / disciplinary, they removed me from the company sick pay scheme and told me that if my attendance did not improve they would have to look at changing my roll or letting me go. Therefore taking time off sick is not an easy option. The 3rd option was to go to hospital.
I went to bed on the Monday night in a bit of a mess, both mentally and physically. I didn’t know what to do and my lungs were getting worse, the nebuliser didn’t seem to help ease things and I was needing it more frequently. Midnight came and went, still no sleep, 1am cane and went as did 2am. Then by 3am as you already know, the nebs were back to back, they weren’t helping.
The decision was made!