I think many people seem to forget that asthma too has the potential to be dangerous, and in certain cases even life threatening. I have seen more than my fair share of people who slightly tip their heads in acknowledgement when I mention that I suffer from such an ailment; many not bothering to mask their lack of concern or occasional smirk of disbelief. While I do admit to liberally using my condition as an excuse to escape routine warm-up drills for sports or even the compulsory annual physical fitness test, it does not mean that my quality of life is not adversely affected, no matter how minor an inconvenience it might be.
I am considered lucky for when I discovered I had asthma at the ripe old age of thirteen/fourteen (it is considered late by medical professionals for someone to get asthma only then), I never had an attack (touch wood) and did not struggle much with daily activities due to my condition. Only really strenuous activities instigated painful wheezing in me, and by that I mean sprinting or brisk jogs for even learning karate and taekwando patterns was usually manageable. This of course led many to doubt the validity of my claims (which I do not blame them for), but what irked me was the dismissive attitude most people have when discussing asthma.
Even if I was not the only person with asthma others came in contact with, most who were fortunate enough not to have it or the victors of minor cases scoff at its potential severity. As long as one is able to go about their lives without facing much difficulties or significant obstacles courtesy of the illness, it is safe to say that an asthmatic is no different from a healthy individual. While I respect that from their perspective it may seem as such, it is when physical educators take such a stand during which I find myself incredibly annoyed. As someone who is supposedly well-informed of the hidden dangers of such a sickness, I expected more concern and would have welcomed even over-parroted advice on how to cope with it instead of indifference and routine agreement to my exemption.
There are some factors which alleviate the symptoms of asthma and vice versa. Even though I am unable to proudly proclaim that I completely avoid fruits or cold drinks, I do try to minimise my intake of the latter and soak the former in hot water before consumption in hopes that my breathing will be easier. However, despite all my precautions, there are other factors which are beyond my control such as the temperature (extreme heat and cold) or unnoticeably wandering into an invisible cloud of exhaust or cigarette smoke which may trigger it. When I do start wheezing and coughing, I still receive comments such as, “Is it really that bad?” especially if my coughs are unusually tight, loud or prolonged. It becomes worse when I gasp for air or hold my chest in pain; the sceptical ones will frown, unsure if I was showing off my legendary acting skills or if I was just seeking attention from the spectacle. Furthermore, my own mother faces ambivalence even today when there seems to be no clear reason as to what triggered my wheezing fit. Although I would be lying if I said I had never allowed their reactions to get to me, I try to understand where they are coming from because for the longest of times I too was a disbeliever.
Perhaps it is because the majority of asthmatics I came into contact with thus far fall into the mild cases. I throw myself into this group as well seeing how I have never witnessed an attack before and unlike others, my doctor said I did not even require the push inhaler in standby of an attack, just something to reduce constriction of my airway. That probably created this perception not just for me, but for most people I know that asthma is nothing to be overly concerned about. There are sports celebrities such as David Beckham who continue to outshine his rivals despite having asthma, and most of us are unable to name a case during which asthma was the cause of death. Even during biology lessons, asthma was always discussed lightly as a common ailment which is usually rather harmless and almost never fatal.
I lived with similar sentiments until recently, when for some strange (or maybe not) reason the weather has been rather bizarre and more extreme. I usually take the bus home from school unless I happen to encounter a torrential downpour or a particularly nasty storm; since it is a mere five minutes’ walk back to my house, I have no qualms about such a practice (especially since it is more environmentally friendly too) until now. I find myself panting and painfully heaving, at times even suffocating, as I walk back to my place; frantically rushing to stand in front of my fan when I arrived, feeling my racing heart slow just a little as the torrents of air force their way into my lungs. Sometimes the wheezing gets so rapid or forceful that my vision starts to blur and my head swims; to put that into perspective, the only time I experienced that was after overexerting myself when running for extended periods. That got me really worried because until last November, I was convinced that I had finally won the battle against asthma. I could jog under the sun and breathe normally in freezing temperatures, so the last thing I thought would happen was not only the return of the dreadful illness, but also it worsening. For the first time in years, I felt majorly inconvenienced by my asthma. It was also the first time I felt threatened by it.
That was what drove me to write this rant. People forget that ailments, no matter how deceptively docile, can still rear up and disrupt the normalcy of one’s life when least expected. For every case under control is another raging wild, possibly endangering the lives of those unlucky enough to be its victims. I am not accusing others for forgetting that; I will never fault them for something created as a result of society’s influence.
Instead, I wish for more awareness and concern to be given to those who like me, are unfortunate enough to suffer from asthma. No matter how healthy and well they may seem at a given time, the smallest of triggers at the most unlikely of times can lead to a catastrophic chain reaction ending with the victim barely clinging on to his or her life. I do hope that asthmatics will never need to experience an attack, or at least a potentially devastating one in their lives. Also, I do hope that those who are around them are a little more vigilant in observing their actions and in identify possible symptoms and triggers. Small changes such as taking a longer but sheltered route instead of exposing them to the harsh sunlight, avoiding dusty streets and alleys or picking a non-smoking dining area can help minimise the risk of an unexpected attack. Never forget that it is the simplest of measures which can reduce if not prevent the regrettable.Hope all of you have a blessed peaceful new lunar year ahead with health, prosperity and wealth.
On a separate note, while I was trying to gulp as much air as I could while sitting passively in my twenty degrees room, I stumbled across this on my tumblr dash. There was something strangely compelling about the plea so I decided to read more about the situation. While it is not an overly tragic story, I just felt like I needed to help her in some way. Perhaps it was the fact that her fandom helped her achieve such widespread awareness about her plight - The fact that a group of strangers, most of whom have never and probably will never get a chance to meet one another, decided to take it upon themselves to help a fellow fan in need. Not much information was divulged in the beginning, but the several people who had interacted with her enough and felt a personal connection believe that this person from another part of the globe was worth saving. And that I found was really heartening. Videos were created, a song was even written and many pieces of artwork sent in for encouragement (with some artists even taking commissions of which the proceeds will subsequently be donated to her). People may think that those you meet over the Internet are just fleeting strangers, disappearing once the only element of similarity fades as one ages; it is such an event which refutes this notion, reminding us that you don't need to physically interact with a person to truly care for them, to be their friend.
I'm not using that paragraph of me rambling as a way to promote her case. It has reached most fandoms on tumblr and even a celebrity has contacted her with regards to a surgeon who is willing to help her. I'm just trying to remind myself that people still have that bit of humanity left in them, and that love and care pervades physical borders. That kindness may not yet be extinct. Maybe it's just the ailment-ridden me who feels sympathy for this stranger, especially after nearly fainting less than an hour before I saw the post, but it is nice to know that people are still willing to help one another in today's world.
Edit: I just found out she is a Saiyuki fan too! All the gorgeous familiar posters on her wall...