I am an asthmatic. I have been my whole life. While other kids were learning to ride bicycles, I was learning to live without breathing. As a small child I spent many a night in the hospital inside an oxygen tent. It never really scared me, and even the severe asthma attacks themselves never truly scared me. I guess for all I knew this was just something everyone went through.
For those of you that have never had an asthma attack before, let me try to give you a bit of perspective on it. Take a deep breath and hold it. When it becomes uncomfortable check how long you’ve held your breath and then let it out. Now exhale completely and prepare to take another deep breath only this time don’t actually take that deep breath, or a shallow one even. Now hold that little bit of air that you didn’t manage to exhale out of your body for the same length of time you held the deep breath. When it’s time, take a quick short gasp of air and hold that. That is about the closest way I know to describe what it feels like when you cannot get your lungs to accept enough oxygen. You can go back to breathing normally now.
The feeling of not breathing is usually accompanied by a pain in the chest as well. The lungs fight and gasp for air which hurts, but it also causes the heart to start beating faster which can then add to the chest discomfort. As I said, I’ve dealt with it for so many years that I hardly give it a second thought. When I notice that I am having breathing difficulty, I will usually use my rescue inhaler. If it gets really bad, I have a nebulizer with albuterol that I can inhale to open my breathing passages. If that fails, then it’s get me to the hospital… fast.
Over the years I have wondered how much damage to my memories the lack of sufficient oxygen might have caused. I used to have an amazing memory for facts and figures and trivia (other than dates, I was never good with dates). These days I live most of my life by rote actions. I place things back where they are supposed to be and I follow a repetitive routine. If I diverge from my routine, I will forget something every time.