I don’t usually write about my childhood, because frankly, its too painful and because most of it is so outrageous, that a lot of people wouldn’t believe it anyway, but just for kicks I thought Id share one of my favorite stories.
To preface this, I have to tell to you that I came from a very dysfunctional family and had a very abusive stepfather, whom by the way, had asthma as well.

True story…… primateneinhaler
I can vividly remember on several occasions when I was 12 and 13 years old, of suffering with asthma so bad at night (because I had no medicine), that I would go through our garbage can outside with a flashlight, looking for old discarded Primatine mist bottles that belonged to my selfish stepfather . If I was super lucky, I would find one with a little bit of medicine left in it. Because there wasn’t enough propellant left in the canister to discharge the last spray, I would get a pair of pliers, put the canister up to my mouth, pull the stem out , and simultaneously suck out the very last drop of medicine into my lungs. And believe it or not, that one hit, would often save me from suffering a horrible night.

Now, if I was unable to find any “Bottles” in the trash ( that’s what we called the primatine inhalers….Bottles ), I would either have to wait till 2am when my alcoholic stepfather came home from the Bar, so I could riffle through his trousers (which he would always leave hanging on the bathroom door), in hopes of finding his inhaler and sneaking a few puffs, OR, I would tough it out till the morning, ditch school and have one of my friends shoplift me a bottle from the nearby Payless drug store. In fact, most of the inhaled medication I used as a teenager, was stolen. My mother couldn’t afford to buy me inhalers and my stepfather would only let me use his when he was home(which of course he was never), so I had to rely on my friends help. I never stole the medicine myself, because I was too scared. But my teenage friends were more than willing to do it to save their buddy from suffering so bad.

On the really scary nights where I couldn’t find any “empties” or my stepfather had run out of his own inhalers, he would sit me down in the living room and proceed to give me shots of whiskey that would make me so drunk, that I couldn’t complain about my bad breathing. One time that little trick didn’t work as planned and my lungs completely shut down and I started to turn blue. Thankfully, he had mercy on me and took me to the local county hospital where I almost died. Let me re-phrase that….. he dumped me off at the local county hospital where I almost died. My stepfather didn’t like me very much.

Hey, I may have not been the brightest kid to tolerate this kind of abuse, but I was certainly creative 🙂

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20 thoughts on “Cracking the stems off of Primatine mist bottles.

  1. marsh says:

    stephen do you think your mother married my real father?????? his name was harry???? or devil i can't remember for sure it sounds ooooh so similar but then my mom pulled her head out and married the nicest guy and i'm so happy to call him dad!!!!!!!! my mom passed away 2 yrs ago and he still missin her and me to. it's nice to know that you like the primatene i still use it it seems to help me more when i'm in troble better than the ventlen or proventil i just cant get any relief then now with the sticker price of it it hurts my wallet/??? wow 32 days i'm so glad your good and that were friens now have a great day!!!! marsh

  2. Elisheva says:

    That was mighty smart of you to think to pop them open like that.

    1. When you're desperate, you'll do anything.

      1. Elisheva says:

        Was your asthma always as severe as it is now? Or did it get worse as you got older? I can't imagine living life like that, not knowing when or how I'll get meds.

        1. Im the perfect example of how NOT to take care of your asthma. I started life with pretty severe asthma, which was basically left untreated, unless I was critically ill. Over the years it got progressively worse. By the time I had my act together ( in my mid 20's) and started taking better care of myself, the destruction had already been done. Now, I'm more or less in a state of perpetual exacerbation. My baseline lung function is so low now, that if I have a flare-up, it becomes a big deal.

          1. Elisheva says:

            Ick. Back when I was a stubborn preteen who refused to take her asthma meds, my doctors used to try to scare me into taking them by telling me all about the permanent lung damage I would get by not taking care of myself. Back then I refused to believe that could actually happen and in retrospect I now know I was lucky my parents and doctors didn't back down and got me to take my meds.

            Is your peakflow chart based on your current basline or what it should have been without the damage?

            1. Hi, YES, definitely stick to a solid treatment plan. !YOu dont want to end up with permanent damage to your lungs.
              The peak flow meter graphic on my blog represents my actual peak flows ,taken on a daily basis with my electronic meter. You have to remember that peak flow numbers are relative. It all depends on the type of meter you use. A reading of 300 on my electronic meter is equivalent to 450 on a standard flow meter. More important than the numbers though, are the zone ( Green, Yellow, Red). Scientifically, predicted peak flows are based on the persons, sex, ethnicity, height and weight and age. If I was in perfect health, using my electronic meter, I should be able to blow a 400. On a good day I can do 370, so Im not really that far off normal when it comes to PFs.

              Hope this helps.

  3. Clare says:

    What the…. so glad I live in the uk and our treatment is free! I thought running out on the way home from school was crap, your story is just wow :O

    1. Thanks, you have to remember that this was the 1960s , way before beta agonist drugs like albuterol or alupent were even thought of. The only prescription inhaler on the market at the time was something called Isuprel , which was basically a heart stimulant. Other than that, Primatine is what everyone used and was considered revolutionary ( though a lot of people died from it too).

  4. kerri says:

    Once again, thanks for sharing your story. I hate that stuff like this happens to people, and it sucks that it happened to you.
    However, I do believe our pasts do help shape the people we are today, and while it's terrible that you had to have this experience when you were younger, if you hadn't gone through it, you wouldn't be the uber compassionate superstar you are today.

    1. Why thank you Ms Kerri. Actually, my sister is writing a book about our crazy lives.

    2. Kerri, you're gonna love this. My stepfather was from Canada, his name is ( or was?) Andre . He legally adopted me and my brother when were 9 years old, hence the last name Gaudet.
      I don't have a drop of Canadian or French blood in me (I'm Italian and Scottish) , but it was too much of a hassle to get my name changed, though I think my brother did.

      1. kerri says:

        A book, eh? I take it then that this story is just the tip of the iceberg . . .

        I'd wondered about your last name being French sounding . . ! Now I know why.

        1. You nailed it Kerri!. There are things in there that would make you cringe.

      2. Danielle says:

        I always meant to ask you where the Gaudet came from, I thought you might have some sort of French Canadian connection there! Funny, I'm the opposite. I'm a real French Canadian girl, yet my last name is as Irish as they get!!

  5. GayleMyrna says:

    Hi Stephen: Thanks for the background on your childhood…sorry you had to experience the combination of a dysfunctional step-parent combined with severe medical issues. Glad you survived it and are accomplishing all you do today : ) !
    P.S. I was fortunate to develop my asthma as an adult…so I always had access to albuterol inhalers.

    1. Hi Gayle, " I was fortunate to develop my asthma as an adult, " Well, I'm sorry that you had to develop it at all! Young or old, this insidious disease sucks. ( Try saying that 5 times really fast)

  6. Melissa says:

    Hi Steve,

    Aw.,.so sorry you had to go through that crap. My growing up years where also…highly dysfunctional. Ahem. That was a massive understatement. That said, I have many horrible memories of not being able to breath/ you know having asthma issues because my Mom was Christian Science and didn't believe in illness (or doctors). It still haunts me sometimes. I start flaring and all of a sudden I'm reminded of some asthma attack I had when I was a kid. It was pretty bad when I was first diagnosed too, because I thought I just had a stuffy nose…but no it was an asthma attack. goes to show how vulnerable and trusting kids can be.


    1. Stephen says:

      That indeed sounds scary. It’s a good thing you got out of that environment. It’s amazing that even in this day and age, people can be so ignorant.

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