Three days of coping with a sudden pollen storm in Benalla; the realization dawns that I am not able to manage my asthma at home alone. Exhausted, I head to the ‘urgent care’ section of the Benalla Hospital. I explain to the triage nurse that I haven’t been able to control my asthma and think perhaps I might need the nebuliser.
It’s 7 in the morning and the nurses are having a lull and just about to handover to staff on the day roster.
Somehow they manage to take my details while not delaying the nebuliser. My oxygen levels are low, blood pressure and pulse racing, and my chest clearly rattling as they tell me to breathe deeply while listening carefully with the stethoscope. They decide on an ECG, attach the little pads-- obviously something unusual is happening with my heart. I explain to them that I’m exhausted, that I haven’t slept properly for three nights. Episodes of using ventolin with a spacer alternate with episodes on the nebuliser. Phone calls to the oncall doctor lead to medications being prepared and the decision being made to admit me to hospital.
As I wait for admission, another patient arrives. Listening to his interview it’s clear that his asthma episode came on as mine had, three days ago, and that he has also become worried as he hasn't been able to manage it himself.
The staff, the doctor on call and eventually the doctor from my own clinic, work hard to settle me. It is a relief to find myself transported by wheel chair to my bed for the next two days, where there is further information gathering by my duty nurse for the day.
One question ‘Is there any particular service you would like to see while you’re here?’ resonates - I realise that I need to see a physiotherapist. There have been times in my life when a physiotherapist’s intervention had set me back on track to be able to manage my asthma. I realise that somehow something has changed significantly in the nature of my respiratory problems and that I need more help.
The crisis over, the next morning the physiotherapist followed not long after the doctor. As she quietly assessed me by astute questionning, I interrupted to explain to her that I’d had regular involvement as a child and young person with physiotherapists. As a little girl, my mother would take me, with baby sister Janette in a pram and year older brother John, on the train, then tram, from Clayton to the Royal Children Hospital to have physiotherapy sessions. Then, as a teenager, a physiotherapist had taught me diaphragm breathing, which many people learn while doing yoga – this stood me in good stead until recently.
I won’t bore you with more detail, but I think the physiotherapist has led me to better understand the way my lungs are working these days – to understand what I need to do to free up obstructions in my lungs, as it is very clear that I now have exacerbations of asthma to the level of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease when pollen events occur.
Right here, right now, two weeks later, I’m still not quite right, but I have some new strategies and a referral to the Pulmonary Rehabiliation course when a space becomes available.
Right here, right now, I wonder if pollen storm prone Benalla is the right place for me to live – or perhaps I just need to leave town for six weeks in October and November.
I’m certainly planning a trip somewhere near the ocean to help my lungs to heal!