For years I thought I was the lone bronchodilatoraholic in this world. When I started Respiratory Therapist school, I learned I was not the only one. They are everywhere. But to spot one, you have to be vigilant.
It was orientation day at RT school when I met Sammy. The teacher asked us to stand, state our names, and tell everyone why we wanted to be RTs.
I was first. I stood and said, "My name is Rick Frea and I have been an asthmatic my
whole life. I have met many RTs and now I would like to be one."
The next ten students stated reasons that varied from "I have a child with asthma" to "I just drew a straw and RT is what came up."
Then a lady about my age stood up. She smiled and looked at me and said, "My name is Sammy and, well, I too have asthma."
When class was over, I met Sammy in the cafeteria. Naturally we talked about asthma.
"I sleep with my inhaler," she said.
"YOU DO?" I said.
"You mean you are a bronchodilatoraholic too?"
"Well, I don't know if I'm a... what was that?"
"I don't know if I'm that, but I never leave home without it."
"Wow! That's what I always say, 'I never leave home without it.'"
Then, once I was an RT, I met Mike the asthmatic patient. His doctor's order was for me to give him an Albuterol breathing treatment every four hours. Usually, by the time I entered his room, he needed it.
"Hey, how's it going, Mike?" I asked. He was lying on his back watching TV.
"I'm feeling better," he said. He sat up, kicked his legs to the side of the bed, and an object fell from the bed and clicked on the floor.
I looked down. It was a little blue Albuterol inhaler. I picked it up and looked at it, then at Mike. He had a guilty look on his face like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar, which was funny to me, because this man was old enough to be my dad.
"Oops," he said childishly.
"Have you been using this between treatments?" Now I was the dad.
"Um, well, yeah I have."
"You are a fellow bronchodilatoraholic."
"You know, you can't live without your inhaler in your grasp."
"Well, you caught me. I'm guilty. I keep one under my pillow."
Since then, I have met many bronchodilatoraholics. In fact, even as I write this, an EMT friend of mine is sitting on the couch in my living room. She just finished telling me how she sometimes takes a "few extra hits of my inhaler so I don't have to go to the doctor."
"So," I said, "You are a bronchodilatoraholic too."
"Yep, I guess I am. There are times I find myself sleeping with that inhaler by my side, or making sure it is in my pocket before I go to bed. I feel a loss of control, dependence, anxiety when it's not around."