Sunday, July 10, 2011

The long walk of death

I don't know if this is a figment of my imagination or not, yet I have a memory from my stay at National Jewish where all of us kids were in the gym at the Kunsberg School and our assignment was to run around the gym until we couldn't breathe.

I almost want to say this really happened.  I don't remember how long I was there before we did this, although I almost want to think we did this more than once.  Was it done once a month?  I don't know.  I have no way of finding out.

I remember having a discussion with our PE instructor, or whomever was in charge of us during this test.  Yet I remember this person telling us that this was a test to see how well our current medicine regime was working.  We'd premedicate if that was indicated, and then we'd start running.

Some of us dropped right away.  The first time I did this I made it one or two laps and I was out.  Of course I could be wrong about this too, yet I also remember sitting on the bench and the PE instructor not allowing me to go up to 7-Goodman to get a treatment.  He also wouldn't give me a puff of the Albuterol inhaler either.

I remember someone getting me a glass of warm water.  That's what we were supposed to do during an attack.  And I remember other kids having asthma attacks, and some of them just kept running.  They kept running and running.  Yet it's all a blur.  It's a blur because all I could think of was my breathing.  I was in a panic.  I had to go upstairs.

It must have been just after I was approved to participate in PE, maybe within the first month of my stay.  So either it was late January or early February.  I remember I got so bad I was panicky and the PE instructor told one of my peers to show me up to 7-Goodman.  I knew the way, but we weren't allowed to go on our own during an attack.  That was rule #1.

So I finally made it to 7-Goodman thanks to my good friend Sari (last name long forgotten), and the nurse, whomever it was, refused to give me a breathing treatment.  She said my wheeze was in my throat.  My wheeze was often in my throat, and I was still short of breath.  Yet she refused to give me a treatment on the grounds my wheeze was in my throat.

You see, whether you got a treatment was often at the discretion of the nurse on duty, or if we were off campus the PE instructor with the Albuterol inhaler.  If you were having an attack you had no control.  You had to do whatever that person wanted.  But this time I was panicky. 

She kept telling me to sit and to relax and to concentrate on my breathing.  And I got ticked at her and told her to shut up and give me my treatment.  I just want to breathe.  Yet she refused.  Finally some other nurse got tired of seeing me suffer and she intervened and I finally got my treatment. 

The mean nurse kept telling me to concentrate on my breathing, yet I couldn't even get a tenth of my breath in.  I literally thought I was going to die that day.  I had many attacks in my life, and yet that day, at the asthma hospital that was supposed to help me, I thought I was going to die.

Yet I survived. 

A month later the same thing happened, only this time my asthma was more stable.  This time I lasted two laps instead of one.  And this time the PE instructor let me upstairs right away with Sari leading me.  And this time I got a treatment right away.

Yes, that's right.  When an asthmatic says he needs a treatment he needs one.  That should have been rule #1. Yet  don't remember ever having to go through that again.  And even after I was discharged from NJH in July, and after I started school at home the next fall, I was excused from participating in gym class.

Yet I never had to endure that short walk of death ever again. I imagine after failing it twice -- literally -- the asthma experts at NJH learned that running was not for this hardluck asthmatic.  I don't know if it was a scheduled run by my doctor or what.  That part of my medical records was destroyed. All I have is the shortened version.

This memory kind of reminds me of Stephen Kings The Long Walk.  It's a story where these kids enter a run and if you slow down you get a warning.  If you get three warnings you are shot in the head.  Only one winner. 

Well, the winter of 1985 at National Jewish I was among the first out.  I wish there was someone I could talk to to learn more about this memory.  It doesn't matter so much anymore, I'm just curious.

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