Badassmatic (adj.): Person with severe asthma better defined by badassery. Possesses insatiable desire for growth, change and adventure.
Elite Asthma Fighter ( adj.): A “Badassmatic” who in the face of constant and severe exacerbations, is relentless in the fight and refuses to give in.
Obviously all asthma flares that are severe enough to warrant treatment in an intensive care unit are bad, but for some of us, even the more potent and potentially fatal attacks are kids play. In dealing with a bad asthma flare, it’s not just about surviving it; your chances of coming out alive on the other end are actually very good. What can be really be difficult to endure however, is the fight itself. It’s always hard to get through these things, but sometimes its ridiculously hard. Those of us who have come up through the ranks and those who are fighters, will eventually earn the status of what I like to call “Elite Asthma Fight Club Status”. These are people who’ve gone above and beyond the occasional bad flare up, and who struggle day to day both in and out of the hospital, just to stay afloat with their asthma. Sad but proud to say, after 140 hospitalizations for this disease, I am now a permanent member of that prestigious club… the club that nobody wants to join. So lets get this asthma gong show on the road, shall we?
BTW, I’m formulating my thoughts on the fly here, so bare with me. Hopefully in the coming days as I start recalling more details of what actually happened along with collecting more photos, the final draft will be a worthwhile read. But without making you wait until my brain pieces things back together, essentially what happened is that I missed out on doing the half marathon in Canada on October 14th, 2018 Id trained so hard for, due to multiple back to back asthma flares and hospitalizations that never seemed to end and that nearly did me in.
I admit I’m very disappointed that I missed out on doing the race. I’ve missed races before due to bad exacerbations, but this one was supposed to be sort of a comeback race for me. The training was difficult and I invested significant funds in shoes and travel expenses. When I say training was difficult, I don’t mean so much in terms of the physical demands on my lungs and body, that’s a given; rather I mean all the asthma interruptions I had to deal with during the training cycle, which was a generous 5 months. No, the real story here is where I spent most of my time during my training in the days and weeks leading up to the race, which eventually ended my chances of doing it. But first, lets establish what your basic badassmatic looks like on a daily basis. Just a regular person with a strong desire to be physically active, despite chronic breathlessness:
Not sure what the initial trigger for the flare was, as it can be multifactorial with asthma. But, in August and Sept I had to make frequent trips to Oregon during the break out of multiple wildfires in the region, so even wearing an N95 mask, I was definitely exposed to a lot of smoke during that time period. This is a video I shot near Shasta 15 days before I ended up in the hospital.
I also noticed an almost steady decline in my peak flows over that time period and an increase in symptoms to the point where I was being seen in the chest clinic more than usual.
Always curious about what affects my breathing, in looking back through my bass practice videos I could see subtle changes in myself near the dates of this last hospitalization, in which I appear to be unable to shake off the discomfort of my breathlessness, which I can usually do and which is the main reason I use music as diversion therapy.
In chronological order leading up to race day, these next photos show the actual transition from Badassmatic endurance walker to Elite Asthma fighter:
This is what an Elite Asthma fighter looks like after a 28 day asthma fight. Pretty sobering eh? In total I spent 26 days in the hospital. Was intubated twice for respiratory failure. Had multiple bouts of ICU psychosis while in the unit. Lost 9Kgs of body weight, down to 53Kg (119lbs)from 62Kgs. As of this writing ( the day after discharge), despite improvements in my breathing and a ton of medications, Im still very short of breath requiring neb treatments every couple hours. My muscles have atrophied so much I can barely walk. In the hospital I required both physical and Occupational therapy to learn walk without falling over ( not good for an endurance walker) and sessions with a Nutritionist to get my weight back up. And while Im now down to 60 mg of pred, Im still suffering bouts of psychosis from it, for which I have to take antipsychotic medications.
Though Im out the of the hospital and in recovery mode, as with most Elite Asthma Fighters, coming home means the party has just started. The critical part of the fight is over, but I will be on tons of medications for weeks and rehab for months. But here’s the thing, while it may take some time, Elite Asthma Fighters ALWAYS bounce back. And I for one, WILL NEVER EVER give up my right to a life free of breathing problems. I was born fighting this disease and will continue so till I take my last breath.