Posted by Selma

I haven’t been able to post for almost a week. It is spring in Sydney now. The wattle is out. The jasmine is in bloom; the jacaranda is beginning to flower in a luxurious rush of lilac. And I am having trouble breathing.

The beautiful golden Sydney Wattle, acacia pycnantha. Who would have thought such a lovely piece of flora could instil such terror in a certain section of the community come springtime? Wattle is pretty, bright and yellow but it is synonymous with one thing – asthma.

Last Thursday morning I wakened, cold and unsettled, after spending the night dreaming of being trapped underwater. My chest was so tight I could barely inhale but I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t feel my hands and feet. Numbness in your extremities is the point where most asthmatics panic. It means the oxygen in your blood is severely restricted and is not reaching every part of your body.

My husband knows my fondness for emo pop but in this instance he rightly determined my lips were a ghostly shade of blue due to oxygen deprivation and not a desire to appear as an extra in the next My Chemical Romance video. The worst-case-scenario asthma management protocol was enacted. Strap on the nebulizer and call the ambulance.

The doctor in the emergency room took one look at me and ordered an oxygen tank. Stat. I was strapped to peak flow monitors and bronchiodilators. My heart was pounding so hard and my chest was so tight I felt like I had been running up a flight of stairs that reached from here to the moon. I was injected with cortisone. A nurse stood at my shoulder, one eye on the peak flow monitor, the other on an enormous shot of adrenaline she cradled in a fancy glass box. It was like the Oscars statuette of the ER. And the adrenaline shot goes to….

You would have thought that all of this might have sent me into a spiral of panic, but as always, the presence of medical personnel had a calming effect. As a child I could be lured out of a state of medical hysteria by even the mention of the word doctor. When the doctor came I knew everything would be all right. That profound faith has never left me.

I felt better after about an hour but was not allowed to return home for three days. My treatment alternated between nebulizers, oxygen and cortisone injections. Cortisone, being a steroid, can produce interesting side effects. In my case, it lowers the timbre of my voice. I call it the Sexyvoice Effect. I sound like Marlene Dietrich without the German accent. And because the asthma was still not completely under control, there was also a heavy breathing component. I toyed with the idea of setting up a temporary phone sex line but decided that under the circumstances it was not the most sensible of options.

Now I am back at home. The cortisone injections will continue for another week but I am back to inhalers instead of the nebulizers. The wattle taunts me through the window as I sit inside drinking green tea (good for clearing the airways, apparently) and listening to reports of George W Bush’s imminent arrival for the APEC summit. (He is bringing his own cars and an entourage big enough to populate a small city.) Normally, this kind of thing would annoy me but today I am unconcerned for it is so nice to look at the sunshine and listen to the rainbow lorikeets chatter in the Bangalow palms as I wait, effortlessly, to exhale.

2 thoughts on “WAITING TO EXHALE

  1. You have my sympathy! I used to think I wasn’t allergic to anything, then about five years ago, everything around here had an unpleasant, peppery smell … they said it was flax growing in a field near where I live. I had to take off, to stay with my daughter in Yorkshire for a couple of weeks!


  2. Watch out for flaxseed oil. A friend of mine had a bad reaction to it. A lot of places are pushing it as an alternative to canola. BTW, thanks for the kind words.


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