My Experience with Asthma and How I Got Healed
by: Charles, Calgary Canada
I never had a history of Asthma since I was a kid. I always thought that if you didn't get it when you were young there is no way that you can get it as an adult. I was wrong. I was so surprised and frustrated when I was diagnosed with the ailment in 2007, I was 28. I couldn't understand how it could happen.
I grew up in a small city, called Baguio, in the Philippines. It's a city that (used to) boast of hills lush with (Pine) trees, wild sunflowers and other kinds of florae. I remember growing up in a city with clean air. I also grew up as an athletic kid participating in sports like Karate, Judo and basketball. I grew up not having any respiratory or breathing problems. And all my life it never occurred to me that being vulnerable to such kind of ailments can ever happen.
Eventually, I left the small city and moved to the big city, Metro Manila, to go to university and then to work. It is not a secret, although some may not want to admit it, but it would definitely be difficult to hide, that Metro Manila has the worst air quality in the Philippines. Ill-maintained vehicles carelessly ply the thoroughfares, arrogantly belching thick black carbon monoxide-rich exhaust from their tail pipes.
Studies have and continue to show that Metro Manila's air quality is below standards. Improvements have been recorded; unfortunately air quality still registers to be below the acceptable standards.
I am certain that the city's polluted air is a factor that causes people to develop Asthma. It is common knowledge, that air pollution is the main culprit for the dramatic increase of respiratory ailments.
At the same period of time when I was diagnosed with Asthma, my four year old daughter, coincidentally, was also diagnosed with it. Luckily her case was not as worse as mine. She was prescribed pills she had to take every day for a little over a month, and her Asthma was effectively controlled until she could go back to normal and breathe on her own without medication.
In my case, I had to depend on Asthma pills, a disc inhaler and another inhaler for attacks just for me to breathe. If I skipped medication even for one day, the symptoms reoccur. My lungs and my throat would just constrict and constantly choke me.
This made me think and find a common factor that could have triggered our Asthma attacks at the same time, and why mine was worse than hers. The period when we developed Asthma was actually a period when there was a dengue scare in the Philippines. We resorted into using electronic mosquito repellents to protect us from the insects. The repellent we used in our room at night was always plugged in a socket nearest to my side of the bed. I figured the device contributed to weakening my daughter's and my own respiratory health because it was too much of a coincidence that our health suffered only when we started using the device. Maybe, we didn't have enough ventilation in the room and that made us breathe high levels of toxic air.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing, wheezing and uncontrollable coughing, that continued even at night started to disturb our lives. Our bodies were choking itself.
We decided to stop using the mosquito repellent devices, while my daughter's Asthma symptoms eventually disappeared. Mine did not, I continued to be dependent on three medications: Montiget tablets, Advair discus inhaler for maintenance and a Ventolin inhaler for sudden attacks. I was spending roughly about 10% of my monthly income for medication. And what's more upsetting is that these medications were not for healing my condition, they were only for controlling the symptoms. If I skipped them, I couldn't breathe. My doctor said Asthma cannot be cured, it can only be managed.
A couple of times after taking the medication for several weeks or so, I experimented skipping them to see if I could breathe on my own. And several times, it failed. After a day or so, the symptoms came back. It was very frustrating. I can`t believe that the medication I`m taking will be equivalent to food and water for the rest of my life. It wasn`t only my body that became weak, my psyche was being affected as well. How could I, somebody who never smoked now be suffering from a respiratory ailment? It is so unfair. How could He be so unfair?
One year passed, still with Asthma, an opportunity to work in Canada came and I opted to grab it. One thing that got me worried is the cost of my Asthma medication in Canada. So before departure I made sure I bought as much as I can. My sister who is in Vancouver told me that I may actually not need it because the air in Vancouver is clean. But I still made sure I was ready, thinking of the possibility that it may not be that simple as she thinks it is.
When I got to Vancouver, the first thing I noticed is how clean the city air is and how amazing it is that forest parks are integrated into the urban landscape. It was also unbelievable that vehicles did not blow out thick black smoke from their tailpipes.
A few days in Vancouver, tried my experiment again, weaned myself from medication. I experienced difficulty breathing and wheezing, but surprisingly, it wasn`t as worse as when I tried it in Manila. A gleam of hope. I continued to try to breathe on my own, tried to use medication only when it was very difficult to take in air. I made sure I had regular walks, bike rides, jogs in the forest park near my sister's apartment. I noticed slow but gradual improvement in my non-medication-dependent breathing. My sister might be right after all. Maybe it was just all about clean air. Is it really that simple? In my case, I found out it really is.
I am now temporarily based in Calgary and it’s been a little over one and a half year now since I last took Asthma medication. One day, I was rummaging through my luggage when I found my unused inhaler. I noticed the expiration date. It's been expired for a few months already. I usually feel a sense of disappointment when I find things I bought and wasn't able to use before its expiration date. Definitely not in this case.
I really hope people in Manila will start changing their habits. Everybody needs to do every little thing they can do to make sure that we bring the quality of air into acceptable standards. This is not only the government's responsibility. It is all our responsibility. My dream for Manila is for it to be like Vancouver or Singapore. My dream for Manila is for it to be a first class city. A city where progress and nature intertwine, making it into one of the top livable cities in the world. Let's make Manila a green city. Let's fight Asthma. Do not wait for you or people close to you to be its next victim.
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