ASTHMA – IT’S MY LIFE

Once upon a time I was a teenager who suffered from the odd minor asthma attack. My asthma didn’t particularly change much until I reached my thirties, by which time it had become brittle, it was much more severe and harder to control, this led to numerous hospital admissions. Despite this I did manage to retain some control and still enjoyed life to the max. I travelled the world (sounds glamorous) watching boxing, this included thirteen trips to Las Vegas. In between these fights I travelled the country watching Scunthorpe United, I watched them home and away and hardly ever missed a match. In the summer months I would watch cricket, following both Yorkshire and England. During this period I also got married and moved to Grimsby. Life was great, I had a great set of mates, I had a busy and active social life and as long as I wasn’t stupid (especially during the cold winter months) and I took precautions I still enjoyed life despite my worsening asthma. The number of hospital admissions were increasing as was the amount of time that I had to take off work (sick).

As I entered my forties the asthma was becoming a real problem and eventually I ended up where I am today. Every day is a struggle which usually begins with me having to make a tough decision, am I well enough to go to work? It isn’t always an easy decision as I have to make that decision between 5-6am as that is when I should leave home for the one hour to work. It isn’t easy, I rarely sleep and like many asthmatics I am not at my best whenI first get up, the mucus has usually built up as I lay in bed and some mornings it is not easy to clear my chest. There is also the psychological factors, when you don’t feel your best and you look out of your bedroom window to see the dark and cold, the car can be frozen, it may be snowing, foggy or raining, the thought of venturing outside and the prospects of the long drive and a long day at work hardly seems appealing. My employer does appear to be quite supportive at the moment (this has only happened over the last year or so, they do now seem to have some understanding of my condition and I often have meetings with both the company OH and HR departments, prior to this though they were threatening me with a disciplinary due to my absence levels) Their recent support has helped take the pressure off but I am realistic to know that should my absences increase, eventually they will end up wanting me to go. In addition to this I only get a set quantity of sick pay per year which I have now exceeded which basically means that if I don’t work I don’t get paid (unless I am off for successive days in in which case I am entitled to SSP). My employer has told me not to worry about things and I am not well they tell me to stay away, the trouble is though is that if I took every day off sick when I was not feeling 100% I would never be at work. The other issue is that some days I might feel terrible at 6am but by lunchtime I can feel much better, other days can see the reverse happen. I then also have my own personal pride, I want to work, I want to earn a wage and I don’t want to be a burden on my work colleagues. Some days I will delay going into work in the hope that I improve but this isn’t always ideal as I work in an operational environment where I (or somebody else) has to be there. I am still on slightly modified / restricted duties due to my asthma, it is well known that severe cold weather is one of my major triggers and so at the moment I am office based and don’t do out on site (this again is having an effect on my colleagues as they are having to cover my outside duties).

Work is a real problem (or worry for me) but at least at the moment my employer is trying to work with me and remove / reduce some of the worry.

The other main problem though is that work is massively important to me and my asthma is impacting upon my ability to carry on doing it as much as I would like or to even to the standard that I (or my employer wants), but at least despite the struggle I am still managing to remain in full time employment. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for the other main aspects of my life. I have not managed to travel to Vegas for a number of years, the thought of a long haul flight, the planning ahead and the total change in weather, environment and humidity are all a worry, never mind the cost of what my travel insurance would cost me.

I only attended one boxing match in the whole of 2017 and that was just a local small hall fight, a couple of days after which I ended up back in hospital.

Football or more accurately Scunthorpe United is one of my biggest passions but having to plan ahead and arrange tickets is not easy as I don’t know from one day to the next whether I will be well enough to attend. I physically can’t cope with traveling all day (to and from) a distance away game, even a couple of hours takes it out of me, the weather is always a concern and as for the routine of getting searched before entering the stadiums and having to empty a bag containing nebulisers, inhalers, insulin (and needles) along with everything else is a total pantomime. I manage to get to some home games but the away games are now very few and far between.

Finally my social life is nil, I keep in touch with most of my mates but I haven’t seen any of them or gone out with any of them this year. I haven’t been to my local since before Christmas and my alcohol intake is virtually nil.

So basically my life is now controlled by my asthma, some days I go work but on the days I’m not well enough to travel to work I hardly ever leave the house (apart from medical appointments). So I sit at home all day, usually too short of breath to do much, I try to sleep, or more realistically doze (to make up for not sleeping at night), I watch television, I take my medication and I go on social media a lot. I then go to bed knowing I won’t sleep much before deciding whether I am well enough to go to work, If I go to work I know that it will be a struggle but at least it gives my life some meaning and I get out of the house and actually have some human interaction. The alternative is to sit at home, watching daytime television and feeling more and more sorry for myself.

I often get down in the winter as that is when my asthma is usually causing me the most problems but I knew that when the weather picked up so would my health and therefore would my frame of mind. The trouble is though, that over the last 18 months or so my health hasn’t improved significantly over the summer months and as much as anything it is the thought that there is now no real expectation of things picking up when the weather does which is really getting me down. My life is on hold, I am moody (in part due to my health and probably in part due to the meds that I am on), I am no fun to be around and I’m not sure if and when things will change. I feel run down, I am picking up bug after bug, virus after virus and chest infection after infection. I am shattered, I have no energy and feel completely fed up and frustrated.

There are some positives though, I have only had one hospital admission this winter, I still have a job, I am making plenty of new friends through this blog, social media and various asthma forums. My health is still better than others who I know and finally I know that I have felt this down before and I managed to come through it and I will come through it again.

Sorry for the slightly repressing blog and thanks for reading.

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