A Load of Hot Air (again!)

February 25, 2010

A shortened version of this post appears at the bottom of Bellows at Bursting Point as a PostScript…

This feeling of airtrapping has continued to happen on practically every Wednesday I have been at school. The only week I have not felt so hyper-inflated by Wednesday evening was last week, half term, when I was not at school.

Yesterday, as per usual, so it seemed, my lungs were, by the evening, feeling like a barrel.

Yesterday I’d had a nasty afternoon of really feeling twitchy in my classroom and not being able to do anything major in the neb line to help it as I had back to back lessons. My classroom, was like a greenhouse, sultry, steamy, airless and quite debilitating for the pupils, imagine how I felt. School was followed by a staff meeting, moving from a very hot classroom into a cool hall. I put Scootie away and walked the 50 metres to my desk in the hall (luckily near the back) whereby I had a full blown coughing paroxysm followed by an asthma attack, which after about 6 puffs of Ventolin trying to fix me up, I though I’d better leave the room. (Best not to let people see me OD-ing!)

So, long boring, airless meeting over, I ‘rushed’ (sorry had to write that!) home, via another physio appointment… {Interesting having acupuncture in my neck whilst sitting up as I couldn’t have layed down with my crappy full of air lungs}

So my neck may be improving but the hyper-inflating isn’t.

Cooking, dinner, struggling to breathe all evening. Took myself off to bed to sleep (!) propped up on pillow mountain pretty upright at 9.30pm. Then at 3am I was awake and having a full blown nasty asthma attack. And I’ve been awake since then.

I feel slightly less barrel like now, but still over full, over stretched and uncomfortable. And I really need to swim today as I can feel myself getting out of condition. I’ve had a busy schedule this week, car, school etc!

…What is it about Wednesdays that does this to me?


Presents of the Pharmaceutical kind!

February 20, 2010

This morning the knock at the door brought me this delivery…

In fact, this little lot arrives almost like clockwork every 4 weeks. Yep! This is not some kind of belated Secret Santa, but my monthly prescription. The first task is always to untie these wretched bags: never an easy job with my sore eczema fingertips and shaky neb hands!

I generally then pile the whole lot up so I can go through it and check it is all there, and see if there are any ‘to follow’ notes included in the parcels. This morning I have realised there is no Pred-shame! I shall have to ring up for some more supplies on Monday.

In case you’re wondering why there is so much, I am prescribed a large quantity of high calorie food supplements in addition to my asthma, allergy and migraine meds. In the UK we have to be written up for items such as Ensure Plus, which in the USA you can simply buy OTC in Rite-Aid. I am under a specialist dietician as my daily calorie need is very high. Therefore as well as being on a GF diet (!) I am on a high calorie, high fat one. Every junk food lover’s mecca. But it’s the constant coughing and infections I get that are burning up more calories than I can easily consume, plus the fact that it is more ‘lung-friendly’ for me to drink than eat with my level of SOB.

Therefore, much of the bulk of my monthly prescription is the 60 Ensure Plus drinks, 30 Scandishake sachets, and the big boxes containing 32 sachets of Maxijul, another way of sprinkling 500 calories into my food and drink every day. I also use this wonderful stuff called Pro-Cal Shot. In hot milk, or yoghurt, or tea/coffee it is sweet and syrupy and one tiny 30ml ‘shot’ is the same calories as another packet of kettle chips. Easy, ha?

So these are my Medical drugs in their pretty boxes…

And seeing that photo, I am now despairing of how to fit the lot into my cupboard! Again, I apologise for the shaky nebby hands! I generally count out 2 weeks worth at a time immediately into my dosset boxes, that gets rid of half of the little boxes.

I’m almost right out of nebs too, so that supply will go down quite quickly if I continue to feel as constantly tight, and cough-y asthma-y as I seem to be at the moment.

Of course I shall continue to fight the lungs with the nebs and PEP therapy before I do anything about upping the Pred. I’m way to happy to be at my maintenance 10 mg again to simply take that way out.

I also feel that the irritation currently in my lungs is a direct throw back of the constant pain I have had in my shoulder and neck for the whole of the last week. So much so, that I may have been overcompensating with other respiratory muscles and now I’m in lung knots as well. Hey ho, that would be typical. But if it doesn’t sort itself  out by Monday, I’ll definitely be having to…

…order more Pred!

Postscript: It always amazes me when I see my pile of drugs, how much I have to take with me when we travel, and that I am going to have to pack 3/4 of them in a month to return to California. Heck, is there going to be any room for my clothes? [Good job United give me one ‘free medical’ bag in our baggage allowance]

Blog ‘Food’: Is yours in your Genes too?

February 16, 2010

How many of your nearest and dearest are allergic like you?

…Although this is possibly more of a Blog ‘snack’ À la Beans on Toast, rather than a huge helping of Sunday Roast, I’ve wanted to ask this question for a long while…

I’ve always been really close to my Mum. She said my sister and I were as much to her like the sisters she didn’t have, other than being her daughters.

My Mum is a very caring, gentle, emotionally sensitive lady. Hmmm, my 3 ‘nail on the head’ character traits too. My Mum was a teacher, my sister is also a teacher. Hmmm, go figure! My Mum is a wonderful pianist-she loves Chopin-she had the most beautiful soprano voice when she had the time to sing in the church choir-my sister is a talented Bassoon player and also sings in choirs. My Mum, like me, has perfect pitch.

There is a sense  then, of connection amongst the three of us, through our music and teacheriness. But what I haven’t told you straight out, is, my Mother and sister are also highly allergic and atopic.

It’s rare we all get snapped together-but here’s an unaware, unposed effort from last September…

…We’re actually not very alike at all. Except I’ve got Mum’s blonde hair, and Mum has the same Louis Vuitton sunglasses as me!

Mummy has really bad eczema. It has been quite a hindrance to her, her whole life. She is highy allergic to the detergents used in hotel laundries-chlorox, I think-and whilst she needs the sunshine and warmth of SoCal she really suffers with her skin there. In fact she wont go in the sun much now as it gives her prickly heat. She can’t swim in chlorine water or use any products in the bath. She has also suffered her whole life from terrible migraines. (No thanks there, Mum!) My sister used to suffer from the worst sinusitis I have ever known anyone have. The doctors used to stick a needle up her nose and inject her sinuses with steroids in the good old days. Imagine that pain! My sis now, in her adult hood has developed psoriasis on her scalp back and front mainly. And again no specialist seems to be able to ‘cure’ it. I remember as a child she would go bright red in clothes shops as she was highly allergic to the dyes. This happens to me now!

In every first consultation type appointment I have had regarding my asthma, the doctor starts off by asking the following question…”any family history of allergies?” It takes me a whole lot of puff to explain the above little lot.

I also have a brother (currently working in India) born of the same parents as my sister  and I, but a whole generation later. He too has eczema, and chronic sinusitis, oh and he’s a gifted musician with an incredible sense of pitch.

There must be a connection. There must be something in our genes. It seems everything I have ever suffered from, I got from my Mother! And I don’t mean that in any way other than a loving one. But I think with all the incredible science and nature  nowadays, surely they will find a ‘cure’ for us with the dodgy lungs and itchy skin and snotty noses!

But in some ways, even though I am genetically extremely like my Mum…

…I’m a spoilt rotten Daddy’s girl!

A Moaning Muscle! (Updated!)

February 14, 2010

I can’t believe I am moaning about something as trivial as a pulled muscle…

…but I have been in agony since 7am Saturday morning with this particular one!

Unfortunately due to the nature of my skinniness and general weakness due to long term illness and the steroids (snore) I do seem to pull more muscles than most!

Statistically we are supposed to suffer 67 muscle pulls and 137 common colds in the average life span. (Hello Mr Newspaper Editor, where do these stats get dreamt up!) But I can probably swap my 2 stats over and say I’ll no doubt pull a muscle 167 times before I meet those Pearly Gates!

What makes it even more infuriating for me, is that all I did at 7am yesterday morning was pick up a hairbrush to tidy my morning countenance, and there I was buckled in two, doubled up in excruciating pain having twinged something doing basically nothing! And it is still aggrieving me, 36 hours later!

I’ve been swimming twice, if only to reap the reward of a jacuzzi for my moaning muscle, and a sauna, again for said shoulder injury. The bit I seem to have pulled is in my back, to the left of my rather obvious spine and to the right of my sticky out scapula bit. Today, typing this I have some pain radiating down to my left elbow. I keep giving the area in my back a little massage, trying to release the build up of lactic acid, but nothing is as of yet bringing me any real relief. I am sure, from the experience of having this happen fairly regularly, it will all go off as quickly as it happened, but until then, I am continuing to apply these heat patches 8 hourly. I am now on my 4th patch!

I have also been sitting with my back against the above radiator too. I’ll end up with a burn at this rate!

Oh how throughly irksome it all is. I cannot cough, huff and clear my lungs properly at the moment as this silly niggling muscle is paining me too much. I am getting very gunky sitting doing not a lot except watching Vancouver 2010!

Never mind, I’ll probably end up booking an acupuncture session if it hasn’t sorted itself out in another 48 hrs. I can feel little mini spasms going on in it, still, so clearly I have a rather annoyed muscle in my midst!

Sorry to blog in such a negative frame here. I’m particualrly used to lung angst, and all associations of such issues, but this is just plain annoying…

…and painful!

1st Update: Tuesday 5pm…

I went for an Acupuncture session this afternoon as I have been driven half insane by this constant nagging screaming aching in my left upper back/shoulder region. The physio yesterday suggested it. He had taped it up, if only to help it in such a way that I could breathe better and relax the whole area a bit more, but I had to remove the tape shortly afterwards as it transpired I was allergic to the sticky stuff ! Itch scratch, no skin left!


…The Acupuncture Lady was brilliant-I’ve seen her before anyway for previous muscle pulls/injuries. It does hurt, never believe anybody who said it doesn’t. And the little needle pricks do bleed (well, mine did!). But my pain has now gone from ‘about as intense as it could be’ out of ten, to about three out of ten.

Hopefully the warmth from the-now dull ache-will continue to lessen and tomorrow I may wake up without feeling like I have a migraine in my shoulder!

…I tell you, it is eerily strange to have something medical going on that has superceded my current lung status!

…If you’ve been following this saga…

2nd Update: 18th February.

Yesterday’s Physio/Acupuncture session has revealed that the pain in my back muscle/shoulder area is actually being caused by an extremely tight muscle in the left side of my neck. This explains why I have been wearing my shoulder like an earring for these last few days. Paul, my Physio said it was an unbelievably tight muscle that he has done something great towards sorting out now,  albeit with the agony of 5 acupuncture needles stuck in my neck, and a whole lot of excruciating neck massage/manipulation.

I have a set of muscle releasing reps to do every 3 hrs (so I’ll do them while I neb!) and after 4 sessions at home I think it is at last loosening and lessening. Hallelujah!

3rd Update: 25th February

The diagnosis is that all the pain and spasm in my shoulder muscle area has been caused by my neck. The left side of which seems to be almost imoveable and really solid/stiff. So I’ve had a few sessions with my Physio for acupuncture and massage/manipulation. He says he can happily diagnose that I have arthritis in my neck and really, this had been coming on for a long time which is probably why it has been so painful to treat.

Verdict: I need to keep on doing the exercises he has given me, pretty much daily, for ever to try and keep my neck joint moving. If they seize up again, I’m just going to continue to get these excruciating muscle spasms.

…So now I know!

12 of 12

February 12, 2010

So here I find myself blogging my 1st attempt at a 12 of 12…

…and I sure didn’t find it easy. I’ve had  a bit of an awkward week with a large workload these last few days and some slightly iffy lung time because I’ve been a bit coldy, throaty and even more coughy than usual.

But anyway. The following 12 pictures are a testament to things that have been in my life today, for whatever reasons!

1) I woke up before the alarm, at unGodly o’clock

2) I then proceeded to wake myself (and probably J) up, by making some freshly squeezed orange juice

3) I left for school wearing my CAT boots as is it still icy and cold here in Londinium

4) Arriving at school early (as it was a Friday and we start earlier than usual), the gates were actually behaving themselves and opened first time for me with my special hoofer doofer gate opener!

5) I unlocked the cupboard where scootie is kept overnight and rode off to my teaching room, dumping him as usual by my desk then began sorting out my teaching for the day (excuse the mess around my desk!)

6) One of my Colleagues wanted to do her Tabla lesson today so together we counted up how many drums there were to use.

7) I then had a really good rehearsal with my student Flautist. The only thing is, the underfloor heating in my music room has started playing havoc with all the pianos and my beautiful Blüthner has developed some terrible tuning issues and a sticky top G.

8 ) It got to lunchtime, earlier than usual, being a Friday, and I popped home (5 minutes in the car) to have my usual neb and take a little bit of time out to a) feed my Robin…

9) and b) water my Christmas Amarylis plant

10) I got back to school before 1pm and my colleague asked me to help her type an evaluation for a class in the afternoon. Only thing was, this meant me using a dreaded…..Stinkpad! Sigh!

11) After a good hand wash, seeing as I had been using a communal (yeuch) laptop, my eye caught one of the many Swine Flu signs around school. Even though we have now downgraded the emergency, I’m such a germophobe that I still remind everybody to wash before and after using class equipment!

12) And seeing as it was Half Term today, and I had a really nice last class this afternoon, I decided that it would be a cool thing to all have a lolly to suck during my final 28 minute DVD presentation. My plan worked-it shut them up and I didn’t haven’t to sound like a parrot saying ssssh!

Good old Costco lollies never fail to please!

And I’m totally shattered and am starting my Half Term NOW by being…

…in bed at 6pm!

Blog ‘Food’: Inhaler Insanity!

February 8, 2010

My guestimate was that I had a dozen brand new ones in the cupboard….

…but I over estimated as there were only 11 when I counted!

I’d responded to a thread over on Kerri’s Blog about how I only get real Ventolins, and reckoned I probably had a dozen new ones at the time. So, being short of puff anyway, and lacking in general umph and brain power to write my blog, I checked!

Now, if I was more architectually minded, I could build Stonehenge

But no, the Ancient Britons got there first!

If I was good at playing table top games…

…I guess I could line them all up and topple them like dominoes!

But as I’m a musician and just for pretty picture purposes, I’ll arrange them on my Yamaha Clavinova!

(Beats me why the Pharmacist stuck the labels on differently on those top two!)

So why do I have such a stockpile of salbutamol then? Well it’s fairly straightforward. I get 2 a month from my GP and 2 a month from my hospital. That’s just sacred. If I said I had enough then they’d start querying non-compliance. It’s just how they work over here! I use up 3 a month, on average, yes use up, not lose or have expire on me. Anyway, I do end up with some left overs. But therefore I am able to be free with them. Every coat, bag, car, drawer, bathroom, friends and relatives house, my school desk, my home desk, my swimming bag, my locker….they all have a ventolin deposited in them so I am never without one to hand, and lest I should be, heck knows. I’m a severe asthmatic. 10-20 puffs-the equivalent of  a neb will just about clobber the ensuing flare. Or at least  help me enough until I can get myself to my neb.

I always use them up in date order, I routinely check the expiry on the ones I’m using. And yes I do get caught out from time to time without one. Recently I went to the post box. Burst of icy air. The one in my car was empty. Fail. We were in a restaurant. I started coughing. Different handbag, no puffer. Fail-(sent J to the car that time!)

So it’s not that I have inhaler insanity. If I counted them all up in my house and possessions I would probably find 20 more on the go! I’m a heavy ventolin user, I need a lot I use a lot! Therefore perhaps I should have titled this Blog Food (and I’m sorry it’s a day late),” Inhaler Sanity”, then you could all respond with…

…Gee you’re so organised!

Inflaty Flares, Fire-Alarms and a McFlurry!

February 5, 2010

I know this is a whole day after the events…

…but  considering I had a 12 hr school shift yesterday and was paralytic with exhaustion after last night’s Parents’ Evening, I just couldn’t blog.

I haven’t been sleeping well recently. Not that asthmatic lungs allow me to sleep like a dog these days, but even with pillow mountain I do manage to succumb to the exhaustion I feel. I’ve been aware that I am stuffed full of air more than I used to be. Discomfort and distention. I am a diagnosed moderate air trapper (nice to be moderate at something!) And I know in some ways I have slacked a bit from the physio I should do, drainage, huffing and using a PEP device, (the huffing drives J mad, the PEP device gives me a headache!) but I am simply always too tired and figure my swimming is my pulmonary therapy of choice these days so if I’ve swum and shifted a reasonable amount of air and lung junk, then hopefully I’m not backing up and stacking up.

But I have been swimming, lots. And I realise I’m hyper inflating more too. So after 2 or 3 incredibly severely agonisingly uncomfortable and anxiety packed air trapped nights, in the last week, I spoke to my lung docs (Team) yesterday, and told them. Realistically, I need to do Spiro when I’m in a hyper inflaty state. So I may well try to do hyper inflaty inducing things before my next routine Spiro (!) Their theory is that on my ‘home’ days I am under breathing. OK, so my idea of how I am breathing is not quite realistic. I shift less air, get used to shifting less air, feel tight, get used to feeling tight, fail to take the necessary deep breaths, go swimming and only use the top of my lungs, and exacerbate the process unknowingly. I keep taking in air, because that’s how I am, gasp, gasp-if you’ve spoken to me, you’ll recognise my  innies and not so much of the outies, because they’re just wheeze, wheeze and it’s hard to get the air out with the wheeze, wheeze going on! It takes me so long to get the full amount of air out that I don’t really manage to or in front of people, try to disguise the wheeze, wheeze, and will do my cough, cough thing!

And I’m always at my worst on Wednesday nights. My 3 worst hyper inflated nights have been the last 3 Wednesdays. My Doc’s suggestion is that my overbreathing to compensate my necessity for breaths at school then fills me up too much as I can’t spend the time to get it out again and by the evening I am like a barrel of over blown ballooniness.


I really need to find extra time to practice expiration techniques within the day on my working days. Hence the PEP therapy which can help splint the airways open on exhalation. If I’m tight I’ve really now got to stop then and there and deal with it. And not carry on thinking I’m capable of riding it out until I get a chance to deal with it. My lungs don’t wait they have their own time scale of events…….we’ll see. Next Wednesday will be my test. Oh, and due to the flariness of my lungs-((they’re not twitching, they’re just being dumb atm)), I am not allowed to attempt anymore Pred reduction. “Pants on the ground”. I was doing a Speedy Gonzalez here and now my Team have  kiboshed it!

Oh, and if you’ve been around on Twitter with me these last 2 days, you may have noticed me moaning about a certain school’s emergency alarm system………Dear Mr Fire Alarm, I know you’re often not needed but could you please  stop making your presence felt, every time somebody uses a kettle, solders wire in technology, makes toast or switches on the coffee machine. Gee your sensors are so sensitive I’m even scared my neb’ll set you off…

3 alarm drills in a week, actually equating to 2 in 2 days. All of them in the rain and freezing cold. All of them wasting 20 minutes of  time. Even though I was out there on the tennis courts lining up my form class on scootie like some kind of pink cowgirl, NONE of them were at all fun. The least fun and most ridiculous of all being the 3rd one which went off during last night’s Parents’ Meeting, at 5.30pm. Such pandemonium. Sigh. Did I mention my lungs detest the damp. 3 hours of constant talking-a fire alarm and dampness in my lungs. And I wonder why I’m inflaty and flary at the moment.

But anyway, my reward for lousy lungs and awful airways was a delicious ice cream. J took me for a drive after dinner last night as I said I’d fancied the new mint choc Mc Flurry, but  apparently that offer had finished-darn. So he got me this one……totally delicious (It’s sitting on my piano, btw!) The toffee crispiness was fine for me as it’s basically rice crispies so GF. And I added extra toffee sauce at home. Totally naughty and very needed. Plus I had a small glass of Belgian lager and a tiny valium. Just enough to lull my lungs after all that gaspiness at the Parents’ Evening. I definitely slept better, ok, so I coughed and was a bit puffy but  was much better than the previous 2 nights and the previous diabolical Wednesdays.

Other lungy suggestions-squeezing, squishing, measuring the amount of distention around my sternum….oh and full Lung Function, minus medication, the whole shebang coming up in March. Hate it. I always get worse numbers than I feel I have going on. In spite of busting my gut blowing the tests. Why do we bother, when…

…Life can be such a lot of hot (trapped) air!