Please Just Let Me Breathe!

April 26, 2012
Hoo-rah! Kathryn’s finally moving out!

I could hardly contain my excitement as I rushed around my new bedroom, complete with a full-sized bed. Kathryn had been my very own, up-close and personal, bully for the fifteen years I’ve had to deal with living with her. Dragging in my desk, I realized I needed a breather. Finally having gotten it into the right spot, I fell back onto my bed. After a couple seconds of catching my breath - my desk was kind-of heavy - I jumped back up. I endured a moment of light-headedness, not unusual of late. My asthma and everything connected to it had been acting a bit haywire recently.

People were coming soon to help with Kristy, my little sister’s, room; I had to get all of my nick-nacks out of my old room as fast as possible. Almost running, I grabbed handfuls of hung-up clothes from what was now Kristy’s room, practically throwing them into my (new) closet, almost the exact same size, color, and style.

After bringing all of my clothes into my room, I once again sank onto my bed, winded. While waiting to catch my breath, I thought about why it’s necessary to do so. Why did I have to get asthma, let alone any of the other chronic illnesses? I’m not saying that I would rather have Kristy have my problems instead of me, but still…? Noticing that my breathing’s back to normal, I get back up – slowly this time.

Now I take my pictures and awards off of my old walls, and try to hang them back up in a way to make them look more organized. I count only four Honor Roll certificates, wishing I had saved them all; by now, I should have almost 19. The whole time I’ve been in junior high, I’ve gotten on the honor roll, most of the time with 4.0’s. I’ve also gotten some of those annoying 3.975…’s. I see the picture I painted years ago, of when the sun was almost covered-up by the clouds, and where there were sections of sky without clouds, the sun poked through. It had looked so Heavenly, so majestic, that I named it (accordingly): Heavenly Glory. I wonder if, one day, I could be an artist. My art teacher was constantly pressuring me to paint more, create more, but most of the time, I just don’t have the energy, thanks (once again) to my asthma. It affects all aspects of my life.

Felling somewhat sluggish, I realized that I needed some music. Stepping over to my alarm clock, I was just about to press the on-button when I realized that the huge, black stereo Kathryn had nabbed was hooked up, ready for someone, like me, to turn it on. I willingly complied, turning the dial to a random station around 104. It was static-y, so I bent down lower, until my face was almost level with it, to try to bring-out a pure tune. But all thoughts of music were lost as I took a big breath in.

Kathryn, thankfully, wasn’t interested in blaring music from the stereo; in fact, she barely used it. Thus being said, there was a lot of dust resting on the black machine – so much that the whole top of it looked to be a dirty, grey color. As I took that breath, I could feel the dust traveling along with the sudden gust, drawing it into my lungs. I had already been able to feel the strain in my breathing from forgetting to take my inhaler last night, but now, I felt as if I hadn’t taken it in months. My chest ached; my lungs wouldn’t expand enough to let me get a full breath. It was almost as if the dust was drying-out my breathing tissues, making them contract, stiff.

I raised myself slowly, trying not to panic. Even through my caution, I was dizzy; instinct took over. I immediately sought a place to rest. Not quite a yard away, my new bed waited, drawing me in with its spaciousness. I, almost gladly, sank into it, lying on my left side with my feet dangling over the edge.

Time seemed to have slowed down, I started feeling weak, yet I had no motivation to change what was coming – this was part of the hyperventilation process. My breaths were getting shallower by the moment, not quite so much to cause immediate worry, but enough to strike fear of what might be to come. I suddenly realized that I hadn’t turned-off the radio, stunned that “If I die young” was playing. Feeling as if it was some cruel joke, I listened with rapt attention.

“If I die young, / bury me in satin. Lay me down on a / bed of roses. / Sink me in the river, / at dawn. / Send me away with the words of a love song. “

Now I was truly panicked, wondering if, this time, the hyperventilating would make me pass out, or even die. But I was soon calmed down again, an effect of the slow, labored breathing. My lungs were barely expanding for each breath; I could tell I was running out of time. All the while, I was hoping someone would come down here to check on me, as was normal. I was praying, desperately, instinctively, begging with all of my might, that someone would come to help me.

Finally, I gave up: no one was coming to save me. So, using the little amount of air I was able to inhale, I made a sort of screech. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it loud, so I instead hoped for piercing. After each exertion, I waited a few beats before I tried again. Finally, feeling exceedingly weak, I gave up, in every sense of the word. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, and my legs were killing me from the lack of oxygen and the blood pooling in them.

’If I die young,’ I wonder how everyone would feel? Would Kristy grow up bitter, without an older sister to help her through her troubles? When Liam, my 2-year-old brother, remember me when he was older? Would mom go into complete depression? Would my slightly-close friends mourn me? Would my daddy be alright, losing his first-borne? Would I go to Heaven?

Here, at last, I finally stopped myself. I was a devout Christian, I had never doubted my Father in Heaven before, and I certainly wasn’t going to moments before my possible death. Just thinking it makes me shudder!

Finally, I hear the most magical sound in the world, my little sister calling my name:

“Katie? Katie! What’s wrong? Are you alright? Katie!” Kristy yells, almost frantically, as she runs down the stairs.

My vision going hazy, I slowly pant, one word at a time, that I can’t breathe and I need help. Just as I was finished, I could distantly hear the garage door opening. Kristy ran up to meet our mom; finally back from whatever errand she needed to run. I can just barely sense my mom and Kristy coming into the room, and then I blacked out.

When I came back around, paramedics were there, supporting my torso. Apparently, people breathe better sitting up than lying on their side. I slowly, ever so slowly, tell them about breathing in the dust, being unable to breathe, and then finally about passing out. They look at me as if I’m crazy, and I hear them telling all in the room that I had a panic attack, that there was no cause for worry. Incredulously, I realize they’re saying that I brought this all upon myself, that it had nothing to do with my asthma or hyperventilation disorder, but that I should be on anti-anxiety meds. Excuse me?!

I rest there, trying to breathe (which the paramedics don’t believe is still a problem), and shake my head. The man, the worst of the two, tells me to knock it off, that game-time’s over. He stops holding-up my back, so I start slumping; I have no strength to hold myself erect and they won’t help me! He pushes me back up, roughly, with anger in his voice as he tells my distraught mother that I’m just playing and trying to make her worry – that nothing more is wrong with me except that I need to take even more medicine (besides for my asthma and everything else).

Finally the woman paramedic notices me shaking my head, and asks me what I want to say. She leans close, understanding just a bit that I couldn’t talk loudly at that time.

“I … have … bad asthma … it wasn’t … an … anxiety … attack … I still … can’t … breathe … please … please … PLEASE … help … me! … ”

She then brusquely tells the other paramedic to knock it off, giving him a dose of his own medicine, in my opinion. An ambulance is called, and we wait impatiently, the lady paramedic constantly reminding me, gently this time, to breathe slower. I’m feeling a bit better, but every breath was like lifting a weight with my over-worked and exhausted lungs. I was really suffering.

Eventually, we can hear a vehicle idling outside, and both of the paramedics help me get to it. They support most of my weight, but I still try to make it as easy as possible for them (even though I’m still a bit more than just a little mad at the male one).

But once the door was opened, I was shivering; I was only wearing a t-shirt and cut-off sweats. Uncontrollably, I start breathing quickly again – there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop it. Walking the few yards to the gurney-type-thing was excruciating. Right around here, true memories fail me. I remember sensations, like being helped/set on the bed and covered-up, then the gurney lifting into the air and going into the back of the ambulance. I very slowly got warmer, and the warmer I got, the slower my breathing became. Finally, I was able to tell the paramedic (the woman) what happened. I told her about my history of occurrences like this one, and of how I still felt weak and barely able to make my lungs push air. Eventually, though (and I don’t know how long this was), we arrived at the hospital. I remember getting an albuterol treatment, which helped a bit, and the reunion with my family – who were very worried about me, understandably – but the next full memory I have is walking out the hospital doors over an hour later with the thought:

“Thank you, God, for letting me breathe.”

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