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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dealing With Asthma

Try this experiment with me:  
     Place a clip over your nose so that you cannot breathe through it then after several good breaths place a straw in your mouth.  Now, next I want you to breathe only through the straw.  As soon as you feel comfortable with what you are doing.... pinch the straw partway closed and see how long you can go on breathing before you feel you absolutely must pull the straw out and breathe normally.  It shouldn't take long before you'll remove the straw.  

Go ahead, try it.... I'll wait here for you.

     Now what you should have found out is how hard it is to breathe through a straw and how horrible it feels to have that straw pinched even just partway off.  I hope you actually did the experiment cause it'll make it easier to understand whats coming next.  You've just "experienced" an asthma attack.  Yes, it was a fake asthma attack but it's the closest you're going to get....the only problem is that when someone is having an asthma attack there is no straw to pull out..... this is how they feel.  They can't breath.

     As a mom with asthma raising five kids with varying degrees of asthma this has been on my heart for years.  I've come across so many parents whose children have been diagnosed with "reactive airway disease" (as a young child) or asthma (in their elementary to high school age) and have never taken seriously the issues at hand.  Breathing is something we take for granted until we are unable to do it but for a child with asthma the only advocate they have is their parents....therefore it's extremely important that as parents we never take it for granted.  

     One of the most important things I've learned over 19 years of "dealing" with this is to stop trusting the doctors so completely.   They are human, they make mistakes, they don't know everything (even if they think they do) and if you're an observant parent then in many instances you will know your child or children better than they do.  Trust what you know and don't hesitate to question your doctor.   Be an advocate for your child so they get what they need.  Educate yourself on whatever the problem is.  Don't leave the responsibility up to the doctors.  Yes, they've gone to med school and learned alot but
they don't live with your child.  You know alot more than you think you do and you have a vested interest in your child's health and well being.

These things helped me through the years dealing with an asthmatic household :

  • Educate, Educate, Educate :  It has made a world of difference for me to educate myself and my children on the issues surrounding their breathing difficulties.  Not being able to breath is a scary thing.  How much more frightening is it for a child that doesn't understand why they can't breath.  When they know and understand they are better able to deal with it.  Also, educate the "others" in your children's life as to the things that trigger your child's asthma and how to handle it when it happens.
  • Relationship & Proper medication.  This is an absolute must and comes hand in hand with dealing with your child's doctor.  Take the time to build this relationship.  This will go much better if you have already started educating yourself.  The doctors deal with so many parents who have no time nor any desire to educate themselves on anything therefore the doctors are used to telling you what to "do" with your child and expecting you to just obediently follow along.  It's time to stop this foolishness and build a relationship with the doctor that will actually be beneficial to the child.  With a good working relationship between you and the doctor(s) it is much easier to make sure that your child is on the proper medications.
  • Support.  It is vitally important that you have a support system outside of your medical team.  You need people that understand the stresses and strains place on a caregiver.  These need to be people you trust have your best interest at heart and it's a big help if they are also knowledgeable about the medical issue or are at least willing to learn.  You need to talk to people who will allow you to vent your hurts, angers, fears and frustrations.... all without trying to tell you that you shouldn't "feel" that way.
  • Organization.  Dealing with five kids with asthma has been a nightmare at times but it's the organization that was put in place that has helped me keep myself from a padded room.  Each child has their own drawer in a "sit on the counter-top" storage system.  In each child's drawer are their current medications that they are taking.  It's much easier this way to get to each child's meds or to see when they are running out and need to be refilled.  Each child has their own chart on which they note their Peak Flow Readings.  [Peak flow readings tell how well someone is breathing and if done properly can forewarn of breathing issues before the symptoms appear]  On this we can note when they've needed extra medication and why... what were they feeling?  
  • God.  I know, I talk about God alot but without God I don't know how I would have made it through all these years.  There have been too many nights spent moving from one bed to another doing breathing treatments.... hoping that somewhere in between all this I'd have a chance to rest.  There has been stress beyond measure and questions..... God, how will I get through another night of this?  Will I be able to keep them out of the hospital?  Are they all going to get sick again?  Lord, will I ever get any help?   In the midst of all of "it" God has brought me peace when there was no peace that I could find, rest when I could find none and help from the most unlikely of sources.  He has watched over and protected myself and my family even when I thought no one was watching out for us.   

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