Thursday, May 13, 2010

My Famous Lungs...

When I was fourteen I was diagnosed with asthma. While in the ER, several doctors, nurses, and respiratory techs came in to listen to me breath through a stethoscope. One of the people said something like, "Let me listen to those famous lungs." Which I presumed to mean they had been talking about how bad they sounded or something.
Backing up a bit: for about a full year prior to this ER trip I had been experiencing a dry, hacking cough that would often come in fits that only stopped when I started to gag from coughing so hard. My sister and mom thought that I was doing it on purpose to gross my sister out; seriously, I'm not that spiteful or ambitious, people.
Anyway, I was asked several times if I smoked. I know some people smoke at that age or even younger, but I thought it was ridiculous that they asked me at the time. They seemed to think that only smoking would make me sound that bad.
I also had bouts of heavy wheezing, usually after I would be hiking or being active. I hated the sensations that accompanied wheezing: a deep itching sensation in my lungs and throat; a hot or burning feeling sometimes, which also was deep in my lungs; and of course feeling short of breath.
Anyway, back to my famous lungs. I had some breathing treatments, a steroid shot, and was given an inhaler and sent on my way.
For the most part I didn't think my asthma was serious. I had a friend whose brother was hospitalized with asthma attacks, and he also took an albuterol and a steroid-containing inhaler. I've always had a penchant for comparing myself to others, whether or not an accurate parallel could be achieved. Thus, I thought, mine must not be that bad.
Really, over the years I've had huge amounts of time where I didn't have wheezing or "attacks", but looking back I probably did suffer from shortness of breath. I generally wrote that off as being out of shape or getting over a cold.
Today, I went to an allergist. I was given the dreaded spirometer test that I'd performed so poorly on sixteen years ago. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten any better.
So I was given two puffs of Symbicort, waited twenty minutes for it to kick in, and then I was tested again. No change.
Next I was given a breathing treatment. Twenty more minutes went by and I was tested again. Still no improvement.
The doctor told me that since I've had asthma for so long that I could have "restructuring" of my bronchial pathways due to scar tissue. This damage wouldn't respond to a bronchial dialator, which my lungs didn't.
I saw him write "COPD" on one of my chart pages and he ordered several blood tests for immune system function. He didn't say that I had COPD, but from the tests he ordered, the way he described what he thought my lungs were doing, and the fact that he wanted to prescribe me Spiriva (my insurance doesn't cover it and I can't afford it out of pocket), which is a COPD drug, I'm guessing he thinks that I have it.
I hope not. I started reading about it after I got home, and it doesn't sound like fun at all. One source said it is rarely diagnosed in people under 40. All sources agreed that nearly 90% of people with COPD smoke cigarettes (I don't).
I'm hoping that my asthma is just similar enough to warrant the further testing.


  1. Oh my! That is not good at all. :( Sorry I'm just reading this today. That is scary! I hope they can find something to help with it. (Something affordable!) Love you!

  2. Me too. :)
    I'm trying not to think about it. I talked to Ange, and she said that some doctors might categorize some cases of asthma as COPD. I'll let you know what I find out after my blood work this Thursday.