This post deals with the affordances that sometimes must be made to deal with asthma, and a number of things that sufferers can view as shackles. I’ll start off, however, with defining what I mean by the term actionable event.
When I was fairly young (I’m talking between six and nine, here) I have sharp memories of what the hospital in my home town smelled like, the directions from admitting to five (or more) examination rooms, and I still gag at the smell of freshly opened plastic anything because some of my most clear memories of childhood involve spending an hour or more breathing high-oxygen air mixed with ventalin out of a new-plastic mask strapped too-tightly to my face as I lay in any of these five exam rooms.
This is because I had a high density of actionable events. This is a fairly new term I’ve begun to use for anything that happens regarding my asthma that actually requires more steps than saying “someone get me my inhaler, please” and sitting down for five minutes to mashall my breathing. In some cases, an event requiring action is as simple as making an appointment to check in with my doctor the next day, or later the same day. Sometimes it means leaving work to sleep because breathing heavily takes more energy than running marathons for asthmatics, and getting myself back under control can leave me exhausted for up to five days after a perilous attack. In other cases, this can mean short-term hospitalization.
Part of the reason I’m writing this series is because I had an actionable event last month. I had run out of medication – both my daily meds and my rescue inhalers – and had no way to get in touch with my doctor. Actually, I had been out since about June, but because I’ve been getting in shape, and it was summer, I had no issues. Last month my cats (which I’m allergic to) began to shed, and the weather started to change just enough to affect me. So I was left, unmedicated, having been near animals, with damper weather than I was used to, having an attack at midnight. It was controllable, I managed to get to sleep which is pretty much a universal fix for attacks in my world, but it did require me to seek out a free clinic the next day and beg off of work. It also put me back in a MedicAlert bracelet.
My shackle. I wore a bracelet for much of my childhood without much thought. I was already stuck with an inhaler, the most epic of geek indicators, so what was a bracelet? Now, however, it feels much heavier than just another piece of metal about my wrist. I’ve worked very hard to reduce the impact asthma has on my life since leaving school, but because of the bracelet – the shackle – I’ve had to ensure that at least three people at my workplace know urgency cues, are always apprised of where my inhaler can be found, and know what information to give people if I suddenly fall over. I’ve also had to let it be known that any perfumes worn to work are very harmful to me (as a blanket, since most of them really aren’t a big deal) and that if I see any customers bring a dog of any kind into the store, I’m gone for half an hour for medical reasons. My cats I deal with through force of will alone (because I love them) but if I’m within fifty feet of a canine, and I react, I’m in the hospital. No middle ground.
It’s better than it used to be. Before last month my last actionable event was inearly 2002 – a seven year gap is absolutely huge in my world – but having to put the old clankers back on, own up to my “disability” and get mostly confused reactions at work and in my social life… It’s distressing, to say the least. But, in time, it’ll be another year since my last event, then maybe I’ll let myself ease up on paranoia. But I still have to keep my inhalers about and full, and I still have to wear this damned bracelet.
Next round I’ll be going through a few examples of best practices for coping, both for the asthmatic and their partners.