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The Asthma Episode That Taught Me the Importance of Listening to My Body

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I spent most of the first year I was sick denying that I might be sick for the rest of my life. I had gone from being a mostly healthy 14-year-old to having to always have my cell phone on me and carry an inhaler at all times. To say I was in denial would be an understatement! I vehemently opposed everyone who tried to remind me that I needed to slow down and give my body time to recover.

That all changed when I work up one morning at camp before the sun was up. I remember my chest feeling uncomfortable but I thought it might just be because I had fallen off the tube behind the boat the day before. By 6:30 a.m. I could no longer breathe lying down but I was still trying to convince myself I was fine.

When all the other girls got up at 7:15 I was struggling to find any position I could actually get air in. I told all of the other girls in my cabin I was fine but my best friend of 10 years did not believe me and told my counselors that something was wrong. Low and behold, my best friend was right. As soon as the words were out of my friend’s mouth, one of my counselors dragged me up to the Health Center to be checked out.

I don’t remember all of what happened over the next three hours, but what I know for sure is that I scared a lot of people (all of the camp staff, the nurses, the doctor and my friends), I ended up blacking out several times from a lack of oxygen, I spent some time in the ER and I am the reason the camp now owns not one but three pulse oximeters and two thermometers that can go in your ear. I now know I was in respiratory distress and my respiratory system was basically shutting down.

I have still never found out what triggered the episode and to this day my friends will still run for my inhaler as soon as I cough. Sometimes it bugs me but then I think about that day and how they must have felt stuck at camp not knowing if I was OK, so I hold my tongue and say, “Thank you” as they hand me my inhaler.

Even now thinking back to the memory my chest starts to feel tight and I wonder what would have happened if I had told someone sooner. If that day has taught me anything, it has taught me that I can’t ignore my body and the things I am feeling because of fear, and it also taught me that denial is a very dangerous and potentially deadly thing.

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Photo via vchal on Getty Images

Originally published: December 1, 2017
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