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Houston Asthma Walk: Pulling the Trigger

March 28, 2005

I had an asthma attack this week-end.  Unlike every other attack I’ve had, this one seemed to have no cause, no trigger.  I’m hoping that this doesn’t mean that I have a whole new item to add to my trigger list.

I have exercise, stress, and allergy induced asthma.  In the beginning, it was only exercise induced.  I couldn’t run the way I used to, and going up stairs sometimes triggered the attacks.  I get a lot of dirty looks from people when I take the elevator up one floor, though I don’t have to do that as often anymore.  My PE teachers were very frustrated with me, and I had to be careful in my dance classes that I didn’t push myself too hard.  Dance classes were my saving grace in high school.  The dance didn’t seem to demand as much of my body, and therefore didn’t trigger as many attacks.  I could get exercise without worrying too much about not being able to breathe at the end of class.  And I never again had to do the mile run.  Even when I was on the archery team, I was allowed to do laps in the pool for my cardio test.  The coach was very understanding when I couldn’t get the required number of laps done.  “Next year, you’ll do better.”

The allergy attacks began a few years later, mostly brought on by dogs.  I had a close friend whose mother had three large dogs and they were very friendly and loving.  Being around them triggered several asthma attacks and brought on my first ever case of hives.  Hives rarely bother me to start with, and occasionally amuse me.  I once went horse back riding with some cousins of mine and came back with a mass of welts on both claves and the back of my thighs.  Everywhere that I had touched the horse, my skin was a nasty swollen red.  I thought it was funny.  My mother and aunts were horrified and shooed me into the shower.  The real itching didn’t begin until several hours later after I had been drugged up and slathered in lotion.

The stress attacks came last.  They seemed to have no cause at first.  I was late for class and worried about getting a detention slip.  The classes had been rearranged that day to put the study period at the end of the day, which put it across the school from my usual final class.  I was new to the school district, unfamiliar with the school, and having a hard time making friends.  I was given detention despite my asthma attack.  In high school I had a similar experience that ended better.  I was late for class, but the teacher was sympathetic and more worried about the fact that I had collapsed in the hallway than in my tardiness.

As I neared high school graduation, military recruiters began calling me to ask me to join up.  Though I explained to them that I have asthma, they seemed to think that it shouldn’t matter and that I would simply take my medication and be just fine.  I finally figured out the one way to make them stop calling.  I told them that I have exercise, stress, and allergy induced asthma.  And that the first time I went running through a field with someone yelling at me, I was going to be one dead recruit.  Apparently “dead” gets through to recruiters.

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