Note: This is a story about the turning point in my life that has change everything in its aspect. This article is very long. Please read it patiently and I do hope it can help others who may have the same problem with me.
I am an asthmatic patient.
This was a turning point in my life. A fact that I have to live with.
In the late of 2010, I was diagnosed with Acute Exacerbation Bronchial Asthma (AEBA). A term that attached to me since then.
How did I get it? What triggers this asthma? Why asthma? Why me?
Those are the questions that always knock in my head. Sometimes, it crush me spiritually, emotionally, mentally and psychologically.
This is a story that I want to share with others whom are suffering with the same situation as mine, battling with asthma, struggle in life due to this sickness or maybe in a worst situation.
When your body sabotage you.
And this is my story.
I had an asthma since I was little. I couldn’t remember the exact age but my lungs were desperate for air from time to time. I had frequent coughs and wheezing. The weather is not my best friend. However, as I grew up, the asthma slowly went away. I was relieved. This means that I can be active in anything that I wanted to do. I have many plans ahead of me.
I love Scouting. Lord Baden Powell, the founder of the Scout Movement is my inspiration. Scouting opens the opportunity for me to explore my talent, ability, chances to meet new people and places, enjoying my youth and being part in the community which helps me to develop my character. Camping, hiking, water sport activities and stuff, you name it I will nail it with the right hammer. I just wanted to release my yin and yang energy.
During my active high school Scouting years:
When I was 17, I started to notice that my breathing patterns have changed. However, I did not have any attack. Only sometimes I will easily get exhausted. Still, there is no coma or full stop in my daily activity. I am not the person who always stick at home. My adrenalin and energy just wanted to be free.
Luckily that go-kart can fit me
At the end of 2007, I noticed that sometimes I do have a chest pain. I told my father about it but he told me that I was too tired and most probably it’s just a muscle cramp. I took painkillers to stop the pain. And it worked.
In the middle of 2008, I was accepted into a local university located at Tanjung Malim, Perak. I was over joyed. Little that I know my life is moving into an unexpected event.
The first week of my life in campus was not easy. Out of a sudden I found myself breathless whenever I am in a crowded hall. I could not joined my team venture around during the first week of orientation. As our schedule was so tight and little time to rest, my body that used to do rigorous activities started to provoke. I was sent to the campus clinic and the doctor told me that I had an asthma. I felt bad.
Sometimes the attack occurs but it was minor. Most probably because my body have not adjust itself yet with the temperature, weather pattern, food and the environment in Tanjung Malim. Our lecture hall requires us to climb up stairs and some of the halls is carpeted. I do notice some changes such as difficult to breathe, shortness of breath and things in those list. I have constant flu and I am wondering why my body is sabotaging me.
These did not stop me from doing crazy stuffs. I love to travel. Hence, I was always here and there around the Peninsular Malaysia and enjoy every second of it. I was active with various activities, managing events, busy with campus life, assignments, enjoy my aerobic exercise with fellow friends and I keep fit. I even lost 10kg and felt very healthy with my weight dropped from 73 kg to 63kg. I live my life happily. Although I do have not-that-frequent asthma attack but it’s not a big deal. My inhaler is my best friend and life saver.
Genting Highland Snow world:
We were active in our aerobic team:
I love to travel around just like anyone else.
Tip of Borneo, Sabah.
I did inform my family, friends, lecturers and the faculty board from time to time on my asthma condition. So far, nothing serious.
Only then, somewhere in between of the middle and the end of 2010, the first sign of my AEBA started to show. One day, I started to cough and it gets worst. I just came back to Tanjung Malim after a short holiday in my hometown, Kuching. I consulted the doctor and all that he gave me was a cough syrup. My cough did subsided but it was only for a while. Instead, it gets worst and sometimes I wheezed. Then, I got a high fever. Luckily I have friends whom are good Samaritan people who helped to nursed me. They cooked for me, take care of me, visited me and so on even though they were packed with classes and other responsibilities. My parents were concerned with me and so they took emergency leaves and immediately flew from Kuching to Tanjung Malim to check on my condition.
I won’t have this smile when I am sick.
By midnight when they arrived, we rushed to the Slim River Hospital. The hospital is located 30 minutes away from Tanjung Malim. Luckily, I have a car and I can trust my 2 friends to be a NASCAR racer at that time. I was checked thoroughly by the doctor and I was put under observation ward. A week before this incident, I was rushed to the Tanjung Malim polyclinic with an ambulance due to shortness of breath and a bad chest pain. However, I managed to recovered.
Not my favourite ride:
The next day, I was free to go. I went home happily knowing that things will get better. I spent few days with my parents and my health restore back to its normal level. I was happy. I knew that nothing can stop me from enjoying my youthful days.
How wrong I was.
After sometimes, I went back to my normal routine. This is the pin point of everything. One day, I was in my room alone, studying for my final exam. I just came back from the exam hall in the morning. The room was small, cramped, carpeted and my seat faced the air con directly. Both of my friends were in the other room which is opposite to my room. Both were busy watching a Hindi movie and I could see that they were crying! I smiled. Women. I continue to study.
Few moments later, I started to feel a very bad chest pain. It was so sudden. I held my chest and tried to calm down. I tried to take my breathe but every time I inhaled I felt a very bad sharp pain in my chest and left ribs. I quickly looked for my medicine. My medical kit is full of various medicine and I think I can open a pharmacy because there were countless stock of medicine with me. My vision started to get blurry and I was gasping for air. I was suffocating. I tried to call for my friend but I can’t. I was breathless. I collapsed. I could not move. My lungs were screaming for air. I reached my phone and pressed the emergency dial button directly to my sister, hoping that she could hear me gasping for air and in pain. She did answered my call but I could not speak at all. I only babbled. I could not breath and my vision went to pitch black.
After I gained conscious, I saw my friends were busy helping me. With my weight, I knew they were struggling to lift me up. I felt a very sharp pain in my chest. But by then I could slowly breath. I was too weak to walk downstairs as I live 3 story up with no elevator. Only staircase. In the evening, the attack occurred again and this time, it was more crucial.
On that same day, I was hospitalized at the Slim River Hospital. The pattern of my attack was out of the ordinary and for the doctor it was a challenging case as they never encounter an asthma attack like mine before. My asthma attack occurs so sudden. One second I look okay, and the next split second my chest suddenly gave me an excruciating God-only-knows pain.
Whenever I had an attack, I felt a sudden numbness followed by an unbearable excruciating pain in my chest which led to shortness of breathe, difficulty to breathe and I could not even take a simple inhaled. This is when the nurses rushed towards me with the nebulizer machine. A machine which will pump the salbutamol and all sorts of other medicine liquid into a form of gas for me to breath in. These gas will go into my lungs and help to expand my lungs therefore helps me to breath better. At one point, it worked. I had to do another x-ray of my chest again to check the condition of my lungs. I already did few x-ray before and I think this is the 3rd one.
Fair enough, I had a minor lung infection. Also, my airway on the left side is smaller than its usual size. The attack was so frequent that the doctor have to inject me with steroids in order to expand my lungs. I was on nabbed every 2 hours. I felt weak battling against God-knows-what that I have little knowledge about. I constantly have a bad chest pain. After on continual medication for few days, my asthma seems to be in control. I was on steroid and my stomach could not tolerate with it which led to gastric. I have to constantly fill my stomach with food because of the steroids. I gained weight instantly.
The doctor took my blood sample from my heart via my vain at my wrist. Damn painful!
My sister and friends took turn to take care of me since my parents could not fly to Tanjung Malim. I was hospitalized for few days. I even took my final paper in the ward on the morning of my discharge. After discharge, I was advised not to move around so much. I felt like I was paralysed.
My sister and friends help to packed my stuffs and I moved to a new home with a good friend of mine and it is on ground floor. No more stairs for me.
I was on a very tight care. I could not touch most of my favourite food. Even the vegetables and fruits which known as my best friends also needed to be avoided. I could not walk much nor run nor laugh nor cry nor stress nor take shower in a long time. I was devastated, very. I could not even lock my door when I got into the toilet. The idea disgrace me! I need my own time but I wasn’t allowed to. I put my friends and sister into lots of trouble. My ego was crushed and I felt ashamed. I do not want to get admitted again. The pain of getting a needle into my skin every morning for a blood test hurts me. It was a painful experience.
Nebulizer machine. Not included with the model upon purchase:
The amount of steroids that I have to consume everyday. Slowly the amount decrease according to my asthma condition.
My parents bought all of the necessary things and medicine for my asthma. I am on constant steroid and accuhaler. My dad also bought me a personal nebulizer machine and an aero chamber, all of these kits could possibly help me whenever I get an attack.
Case 2 and 3:
A week after the incident I was schedule to fly back to Kuching. Getting into a plane is risky. The air above is thinner and I could lose my breath. Sure enough, I was battling for my asthma in the plane. I had a hard time to breath. Luckily my friend was with me. But she was also sick at that time. A sick person take care of another sick person. It was the worst flight ever. Luckily I am strong enough to pull myself for that 1 hour 30 minutes flight.
I felt annoyed with so many doctors and interns at one time looking at you like in a freak show.
Once I touched down at the Kuching airport, I was rushed to the Sarawak General Hospital by my parents. Again, I was warded for the next 8 days. The longest time in my life. Since the hospital was so packed, they have to put me together with sick old man in a generic ward. This really gets my nerves. I mean, lying breathless with sick old people really turned me down! I felt like I am dying! I was crushed emotionally and psychologically. Knowing my friends are out there having fun while I am sick and breathless in a bed in a room full of old sick people and doctors with at least 8 people in a team examine me. This is how I spent my 1 month semester break.
Bruises are my best friends:
2 days after that, I was transferred into a better ward. Daily routine check goes on with syringe in my skin at all time. I could not walk because I was not allowed to. I was on steroid and all that stuff. When I get an attack, the service was slow until at one time I passed out. I could hear my mother screaming for help. I was breathless with excruciating pain. Yet the doctor could do nothing more than just to increase the dosage of my medicine.
Every time when I exhaled, I have a deep rough wheezing sound. The doctor says that I have a ribcage collapse. They found out that when I had a spasm, my ribcage will collapse and tighten my chest which narrows my airways and leads to my massive bad asthma attack. I can only be discharged when I have no attack episode for the next 48 hours. I did reached the goal. I was free to go home.
My dearly medicine. Hope my kidney can survive all of these massive attack.
4 days after the event, I had another asthma attack which is worst. This time I felt like my ribs and chest collapsed. I tell you one thing, at that moment I only surrender to God and I told Him that if He wants to take my life away, do it quick because the pain was unbearable. I suffocated and I am breathless even though my dear friend put the nebulizer chamber to me. I collapsed.
They rushed me to the nearest private hospital, KPJ. Again, the same procedure, the nurses insert all kinds of needle in me and stuff. Again I have to bear with the pain. At one point my hand was numbed and swollen. I could not move my fingers. I was trembling due to over dosage of salbutamol and my blood pressure dropped.
I could not move my fingers. It was swollen.
I was hospitalized for the next 4 days. It was hell. The nurses were not friendly AT ALL. Instead, they yelled at me and was rude when I could not breathe. They told me to relax and breathe slowly WHICH I DID! I was PISSED OFF! I was struggling for air for goodness sake! One day, my doctor invited a psychiatric to visit me. Cut short the story, the doctor thought that I have stress problem and that I FAKE MY OWN ASTHMA ATTACK. My family did not get it but I got his idea. At that time I feel like I wanted to slammed the doctor’s face with a chair.
I fake my own sickness? No, thank you!
You think that it is a joke that I wanted to be breathless and get admitted and go through all of the troubles and been treated like a baby that could not do anything and caged my own freedom and get needles poke into my skin every day? You got to be kidding me! At that time, I knew that this doctor is NOT a good doctor. I blacklisted the hospital. But, I kept shut. No use arguing. I was really pissed off.
After the 4 horrible days at the hospital, once again I was free to go home. Bruises can be seen on my hands due to the frequent blood test and needle injection. The nurses and doctor at KPJ really did a ‘good job‘. If people look at these bruises and scars they will think that I am a drug addict. Choi3x!
Me in my best dress:
My brother and sister tried to entertain themselves while babysit me:
And so after the incident, slowly I managed to pull back my life. The asthma attack slowly subsides and I have less attack. Just occasionally and the chest pain felt less. I had a hard time taking my medicine because there were just so many of it. Thinking that my life depends with these medicine for the rest of my life made me felt sick and angry at myself. Family and friends support was very crucial at this point.
I went back to Tanjung Malim for another semester. My mother took a 2 weeks leave to follow me back to Tanjung Malim in order to take care of me. Honestly, I felt a bit embarrassed but she is my mother and no mother want her child to get sick. Eventually, I did not get any attack and I felt better. I can breathe better and gained back my energy. I thought that this is it! I am getting better and my life will be back to normal.
Again, I made an error in judgement.
After several days I got another attack. This time, the same pain visited me again. I could not feel my legs or move my body because my ribs and chest is killing me. I could not breathe. I could not even taste my own tongue. Once again I was rushed by my friends and mom to Slim River Hospital. Again, I was admitted for the 4th time less in 3 months. After my bad record, the same doctor took care of me. This time around, there is this one young male doctor help her.
I entertained myself by reading books from Mr. Paulo and Mr. Mitch. Not in my best grooming session.
That morning when he made the regular check up, the doctor scolded me for not taking care of myself and made myself enter the ward again. Seriously what is wrong with you doctors? Is it the patient’s fault for getting sick? I was irate! He scolded me in front of other patient. You did not take care of your food, you put on weight, you did not take care bla bla bla bla. I am on steroid and I have gastric that led to gas reflux which actually can cramp my muscle and made my airway cramped. So, doctor, do I need to starve myself?
I wanted to exercise but I am not allowed to. Blaming on me? I don’t think he knew his way around. I bet many of his patient died in his hand. Seriously, if I do not have my cord attached to my left hand at that time, I would love to throw the flask right at his face. My respect to doctors nowadays vanished. Gone. I got few attacks and it got worst because the other patient in the ward got the whole generation of family to visited them during visiting hours and the ward was cramped and packed. I was breathless. I think I can beat 5 minutes record of being breathless.
Since I am not allowed to move around, my body started to take its toll. I gained massive weight and my knees are killing me.
After I spent a couple of nights there, I was free to go home again. I struggle to get on my feet and my knees are killing me. I was not allowed to walk in the hospital because they scared that I might exhaust myself.
After the last attack, my asthma then slowly went away. I started to organize my life again. With the busy schedule, lectures, activities, I could not afford to let this asthma win. I had a regular check up with the doctor. From time to time, I rely on my ventolin inhaler and the most powerful weapon, prayer.
I felt better but I keep myself alert. Slowly I can run and do things normally. I constantly remind myself not to be exhausted. For 6 months, I have no attack episode at all. I put on a massive weight from 63kg to 85kg due to the medication intake and steroids.
This changes everything. My eating pattern, sleep, movement were all limited. I wanted to exercise but my family don’t really let me. I fought for that. Slowly, I did not rely on my inhaler. I could breath. From time to time, I regained back my life. I felt relief but not too relieved.
After almost 9 months I am free without asthma, the doctor cut down my medicine intake and I went for asthmatic patient counselling. I do have an attack but it is mild and I felt okay after I took 1 or 2 puffs from my inhaler. I survived my semester and completed my final semester safely on January 2012. In March 2012, I flew back to Kuching, knowing that this is my chance to lose some weight and regain back my yin and yang before I start working.
Once again, my faith and strength was put to test.
2 weeks ago I had an attack. This time, the attack was not sudden like before. I feel a bit of shortness of breath and a mild chest pain. I informed my sister. We were having a thanksgiving dinner at my grandpa’s home at that time. I clutch my chest. My vision went blurry. I then collapsed.
When I regained conscious, we were in the car on the way to the hospital. Recall back the incident and experience staying at the hospital and knowing that the doctor could not help much, I asked my dad to drive home. At home, after 1 session of inhaling gas from the nebulizer machine, I felt better and went to sleep.
The next day in the evening, I got another attack and it got worst. My family rushed me to the Timberland Medical Hospital as I protested not wanting to go to KPJ again. I thank God for my decision. The doctor and nurses at Timberland knew their job.
Without me realizing it, the doctor already inserted the cord into my vain and I was on drip. I did not feel any pain like I used to. I was rushed to the ICU. My blood pressure dropped drastically and I felt numb on my chest. I spent a sleepless night, exhausted and could not breathe, I could not speak and barely able to open my eyes. My hands and chest was attached with wires. Every 2 hours I was on nabbed. Every 30 minutes my left hand will be pumped to get my blood pressure. The nurse have to do dripping in order to get my blood because there were too many wounds in my hand thanks to the frequent injection. Dripping is the worst way to get your blood. It’s painful.
I was in a good hand at Timberland Medical Hospital. The doctor knew what she is doing and the nurses were very friendly. Not like in KPJ or SGH. I felt terrible when I could not go to the toilet because I am not allowed to and attached to all sorts of wire. All that I could do is lie down the whole day. I was on dripped and I was so hungry. I did not take any solid food for more than 12 hours. My experience in the ICU opened my eyes to the next new level.
I was paralysed. I rely on the nurses to bathe me on the bed. I could not walk around. At this age I felt like my life is in a cage. Sick and dying people around me freaks me out. I was restless. Whenever I wanted to urinate, the nurse will get a ‘mobile’ toilet pail for me to urinate on the bed. I am 24 and I am doing that.
Thankfully, the doctor and nurses in Timberland made me feel well treated. The doctor even gave me an asthma action plan which is useful to me and she knew her way around about asthma. She fed me with details and new information about asthma. I was not informed with any of these information with previous doctors. I was in the hospital for 4 days. Upon ‘check out’, I was not given many medicine because according to the doctor, it’s not the medicine that you rely on, it’s the technique to tackle the problem. It put a smile on my face. God is with me.
I was given steroids and some cough relieve pills. Until now, I do not have any episode of attack. I really do thank God for pointing me to go to the Timberland Medical Hospital. The service is fast, staffs are very friendly and the doctor is always be patient with you and treat you really well. They did not make any simple drop by to check my condition. The doctor spent time to talk to me although she is extra busy. The best thing is when she says that I am not faking my sickness. I am suffering from AEBA and it can be treated.
I am on a strict diet and consuming medication from time to time. I tried my best on not allowing myself to touch any cold drinks. I felt bad because I could not eat my favourite vegetables and fruits. I depend on milk and nutritional tablets to boost my energy and gain my nutrient. Doctor said that it is okay to consume any food as long as I know which I can’t eat and allergic to or it is not consume directly from the fridge. Let it cool down in the room temperature. But my parents really guard my diet so my freedom to eat any food is LIMITED.
I did not really enjoy my life as before because I could do much or move much. I know that my parents are concern, it’s just that I used to have a carefree life and now everything is on a slow path and I am not use with it. I could not go for a camping and I could not go for any extreme activity like I used to.
Being healthy and fit again is all that I wanted to.
My past experiences getting in and out of the hospital traumatized me. My world went upside down. The pressure of my movement being watch 24/7 and I could not have my own freedom really depress me. My privacy wall was demolished. Asthma will visit me any time and when I let my guard down, I am in a big trouble. Having been injected all the time with all sorts of medicine and went through many procedures in the hospital gives me a creep. The unfriendliness of the nurses and doctor made it even worst. Plus, I am way pissed off when 2 doctors accused me of faking up sickness just because they do not know how to tackle my problem.
Logic thinking, do you want to sacrifice your good life, freedom and money on getting sick? Checking in the hospital ward is BORING! Boredom kills me!I am not an attention whore for goodness sack. In fact, I really don’t like people to know that I am sick. I have troubles with my lectures and I could not participate in many activities as my friends and lecturers knew I am sick and they do not want to be responsible if I had a sudden attack.
I do not know what I am allergic to. Only few things that I knew. In a worst case, I do not know what actually triggers my asthma. Even the doctors did not know the cause of my asthma attack.
People always look at me and have negative perception. Some has courage to approach me and said; ‘Stef, I think you did not take care of your food. You are plump that is why you have difficulty to breath.’ I do not feel angry with them, they do not know that I am on steroids and medication which requires me to take more food or else my stomach lining will take its toll. It does get in my nerves when people always says that though. Psychological warfare.
Enjoying my campus life:
I do not want to have asthma. I hope I can get over this sickness someday. My parents spent thousands of their money because of me. But also, thanks to this experience, it really open my eyes. I took this chance to meditate to God and find a way to tackle this problem. I do not want my life to have a big hole because of asthma.
Instead of doing extreme activity, I started to join music class and so on. I took this opportunity to give my body a rest. When I feel better, I will hit the gym to gain back my fitness.
Thank you to my family members who always stand by me in my trouble times. My parents spent a lot on my health. My big sister is willing to decline her work opportunity to take care of me. Their prayer is the most valuable. Their support and stand for me is like a shield that I will never can find somewhere else.
Without them, I am doomed.
My fellow friends in university, without them I may not will survive long. They put aside their other responsibilities and take turn to take care of me (babysit perhaps) even though they have exams and need to study. They stick around with me and helped to heal my inner emotional wounds. They gave me courage and fill my life with laughter. They are the good Samaritan.
My close friends who always stick with me no matter what.
There is no any way that I could repay them. Only God can. Bond of friendship is deeply appreciated from then till now and will go on.
But for most, I thank you God for always be there with me. I do not know when I will be completely heal, but I know He will heal me. He is my strength and my shelter. Throughout my journey till death.
This is when your body became your enemy. Your body sabotage you without any warning. I could not ask for more than to have a normal healthy life back.
But for now, I just need to add little faith to Jesus Christ that He will heal me. Appreciate the experience and a way for me to understand little things about life better.
I am an asthmatic patient and I live with it.
This is my story.