In a candid account, Cholena talks of her struggles with asthma. She knew the pain and anguish of it, as she saw her mother and many others wheeze. She prayed hard that her child be spared, when she was expecting her. But, life had other plans. Here’s the trail and tribulations of a mother when she saw her daughter gasp for breath. A follow-up on the World Asthma Day in Different Truths.
I could still hear her wheezing. Her eyes bulging out, struggling to breathe…that’s how I remember my mom. Her asthma was never under control. Everything around her was triggering it. She was mostly in bed. Then I met people, who hid the fact that they get asthma because they felt guilty that they couldn’t breathe. They considered themselves abnormal.
So when I got pregnant, I prayed hard that my baby would never get asthma. All was fine at first until five months shy of her second birthday, she started to cough in the early mornings. She was taken to the hospital and the doctor said that she had bronchitis. Medication worked and she was discharged. The following month, however, she started coughing again. We went back to the hospital. Medical reports yet again stated that she had Bronchitis and she was discharged within a few days. Two weeks rolled by and the cough recurred. I could hear the phlegm in her lungs.
Somewhere inside me a voice was screaming that it might be asthma. I went into denial and refused to believe my inner voice. She started to cough all the time. We said that may be the fan was too strong, maybe she needed some warm clothes or maybe she just needed some Chinese medicines but it was never, maybe it was asthma.
Christmas Eve she started to wheeze and couldn’t stop coughing. Then she started to vomit phlegm and I felt like something was going really wrong. It was 2 a.m. and I grabbed her and ran to the road to flag a cab. I stared as I saw her turning blue on my lap. My heart became cold. I saw her slipping away right on my lap. The cab driver noticed this and raced to ER. She was taken away from my hand the second we stepped in and was subdued because she wanted to kick everyone away. All she wanted was me to hug her tight but they strapped her to a bed. She was struggling…fighting to breathe and wanting to touch me. She was too strong, couldn’t breathe and yet screaming her lungs out.
Within few minutes, doctors hooked her to too many machines and monitors and I was still standing there in the middle of the hall with the sound of the alarm “code red” ringing in my ears. An hour or so crawled by and they told me there was no improvement and we would have to wait it out and see if she would survive. They moved her to high dependency ward and I stood for hours holding her hand and almost my entire body was on top of her. She felt assured knowing that I was there, hugging her. She wouldn’t let me move. Every time I moved, she woke up and held onto my hands tighter.
Minutes turned into hours and it was Christmas morning. I could hear hospital staffs dressed up as Santas, moving from bed to bed singing carols, outside in the general ward. I was falling to pieces.
Finally, her doctor walked in and told me, “She is responding to the asthma medications and is on the road to recovery.” I excused myself, went into the washroom, locked myself up and cried my heart out. Everything that was bottled up inside me during the previous 12 hours all came bursting out. I pictured my mom wheezing and others I knew wheezing. After a while, I took a deep breath, washed my face and looked in the mirror and practiced to smile. I promised myself that I would get through this with her and made my way back to her bed.
Many hospital visits and stays followed after that heart- wrenching day. Doctors knew us by our first names and the hospital became our second home. I even knew the hospital meal menu by heart. At one point, I considered buying a flat closer to the hospital. The hospital had a great view of a nearby park with a lotus pond. It had a great food menu, television, radio and newspapers. But nothing could take away the mental and emotional stress I went through every time I saw her struggle.
Now, with proper preventive medications, her asthma was well under control and I always reminded her one thing – that it was ok to have asthma, that it was nothing to be ashamed of… but every time I saw her struggle, I desperately wanted to breathe some air through her lungs. She, was, and is, my life after all…
Pix by author.