Well, would you look at the time? It’s already past noon. I guess that’s what happens when you spend more than two hours with medical professionals who want to make sure you’re not going to collapse on them.
What’s that, you say? Nothing too major. Well, okay it was somewhat important. It’s just that something came up during the half marathon that I didn’t mention but which required a doctor’s appointment, which is where I’ve been today.
After I crossed the finish line on Sunday, I went immediately into what I now know was a full-on exercise-induced asthma attack. I had felt threatening wheezes since about the halfway point, so I should have been warned, but I was so focused on my goal that I pushed all other thoughts to the side. As soon as I stopped running, my lungs staged a coup — I clutched my chest and bent over, trying (and failing) to catch my breath. A race volunteer immediately took me to the medical tent, holding onto me the entire time. Within moments, there were several concerned medical types surrounding me like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. While listening to my lungs and heart and taking my blood pressure, they asked me questions about my previous asthma history. Previous asthma history? There was none. I mean, I’d know if I have asthma, right?
Wrong. This exercise-induced asthma stuff is real and I’ve actually had numerous episodes in the past two years and not known what they were. For example, there were the races where I gasped at the end and had a hard time getting back to normal respiration. And there was that run earlier this year that I had to cut short because I simply could not breathe, not to mention plenty of other times when drawing breath during a run was difficult. Oh, and there were the past two autumns and winters, when I wheezed every day for weeks, whether I ran or not.
Why didn’t I go to the doctor? Well, because I was running. A certain amount of shortness of breath is to be expected.
Getting back to Sunday: After several minutes, the wheezing abated and I was able to breathe more normally. The medical types eventually let me go, but not before telling me that I really should make an appointment with my doctor.
So I had my appointment this morning and, among other things, they made me breathe into a machine and not once did I exhale for the specified period of time because I was unable to do so. Suffice it to say, there’s a female medical professional here in town who is a little bit irritated with me for not realizing sooner that there was a problem. (“You could have DIED, Jen,” she said.) I am now chastened and promised to swing a full 180 degrees from macho chick to full-on hypochondriac. (“Just find balance Jen and DON’T START READING WEB MD!”)
Flash forward to now: I am now the owner of an inhaler that at first glance has more instructions for use than the space shuttle. (Remove this. Angle that. Shake the other. Breathe deeply. Put your right foot in and shake it all around.) I can still run, but I have a little medical running buddy that damn well better be in my pocket every time, plus I’ll be taking hits off said buddy before each and every run. And I’ll be back to see the smart medical folks in six weeks for follow-up and more testing.
So consider this your public service announcement for the day: If something seems wrong or at least off, don’t shrug it off. At the very least call the advice nurse who works with your doctor and run it by her.
And on that note, I need to go figure out which end is up with my new gadget and how I’m supposed to use it. Maybe I should name my little friend. Any thoughts?