Lady Luck Is On My Side…Or Is She?

Let me start off by saying, “I am lucky!”  That’s the best way I can explain my situation leading up to diagnosis.  Maybe I had some divine intervention, maybe I just made the right choices at the right time, or maybe it was just pure luck!  Based on stories about years of suffering that I have read from others diagnosed with Churg Strauss, I have been pretty lucky.  It doesn’t mean that things have not been difficult.  I just know they could have been much worse.  On to the story…

My memory is a little fuzzy when it comes to remembering the exact time frame, but let’s just say that I started having health issues (other than my asthma and allergic rhinitis) in early 2009. I will cover these in different posts to spare you from reading a novel.  I want to make these detailed and interesting, so they may get lengthy, and I will do my best to break them up into manageable bites for you to chew on.

The first incident I can recall is when I had a panic attack while driving to a friend’s house.  At the time I didn’t know that what was happening to me was a panic attack.  I just thought that I was dying!!  I felt like I was starting to have an asthma attack while I was driving, nothing too unusual, so I reached for my rescue inhaler that was sitting in my purse on the passenger seat.  I took a puff, waited a few seconds, and took another puff…the usual.  Now, when my asthma is really bad, this doesn’t always work right away, and sometimes I have to take another puff or two.  That’s what I thought was happening this time.  I just could not catch my breath! No crazy alarms going off here, but as with any asthma attack I always wonder if this will be my last breath!

Asthma SUCKS!! If you don’t have it, be thankful.  If you know someone that does, realize that it sucks and it’s scary feeling like you can’t breathe.  I have an intense fear of dying by suffocation, and I think the fact that I have felt what it’s like to not be able to breathe, makes it worse.  I’ve had a few incidents over the years where I really thought I was going to die!  Once I went into a walk-in clinic and by the time I walked from my car to the counter, I was so out of breath I couldn’t talk.  Thankfully I had my boyfriend with me and he was able to tell them I was having an asthma attack.  Before filling out any paperwork, they immediately checked my blood oxygen level while I was still standing at the counter.  It was so low they rushed me directly into the back and put me on a nebulizer.  I then had to go on prednisone, as usual! But I’m going off track here, and that incident was years ago.

Back to my panic attack…when four puffs of my inhaler didn’t work, I started to get worried.  So, I took more.  I thought that maybe my inhaler was out of medication and if I just kept taking more puffs that I would get a little bit every time and eventually it would help.  I am 90% sure that at the time I was on prednisone and wasn’t sure why I was even having an attack in the first place, but I could be wrong.  Either way, it was a combination of fear and excessive albuterol that contributed to my panic attack.  Albuterol is what’s in the rescue inhalers, and I didn’t know that too much of it can cause nervousness, shakiness, fast, pounding, or irregular heartbeat, and more!  So I was only making things worse.  At this point I just thought I was having a really bad asthma attack and I needed a nebulizer or something stronger.  I didn’t know if I was going to make it to my friend’s house, but I didn’t want to pull over to the side of the road in case I passed out and died.  So, I called my boyfriend to let him know where I was and that if something happened he would know where to look for me.  Then I think I called my friend and gave her a heads up that she might have to call 911 when I got there.  I didn’t want to call 911 myself, I thought maybe I would be ok once I got there, I don’t know…I was just freaking out!

So, I made it there safe and sound, she called 911, and the ambulance arrived.  I was a little calmer by the time the EMS came in, but I still felt like I just couldn’t get a good breath.  They checked my blood oxygen level, and it was normal.  That was my first indication that what I was experiencing was not an asthma attack.  They seemed a little perplexed and after a few minutes I think they thought I was OK.  I was asked if I wanted to go to the ER and I said yes because I knew as soon as they left that I would probably pass out and die…I don’t know what from, but I had no idea what was going on.  They put in an iv and gave me saline and put me on a nebulizer while I was in the ambulance.  After a couple of minutes, I felt much better, but shaky from all the albuterol.  After too much time just sitting on a gurney at the hospital, they asked if I felt OK, and said I could go home. When I asked what happened, the doctor said that it was probably a panic attack.  I thought, WHAT THE HELL!, that was not a panic attack, I WAS DYING!!  Because that’s what it felt like, and since I knew nothing about panic attacks, I didn’t understand that that’s what it feels like when you have one….you think you are dying!  But, I didn’t ask questions, I was just happy to feel better and get out of there.  This panic attack isn’t really the reason I bring up this incident, it’s actually because before I was discharged, the doctor mentioned that in my blood work it showed that I had an extremely high white blood cell count.  He didn’t seem concerned, and the fact that I wasn’t complaining of any other symptoms, that I shouldn’t worry about it.  I almost didn’t think twice about it (since he didn’t seem concerned, why should I), but luckily I made enough of a mental note about it, that I remembered this when it really counted…

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