When Big Man was four years old, he was diagnosed with reactive airway disease. Basically, every time he got a cold or his allergies kicked up, he’d end up with bronchitis or pneumonia. Every. Single. Time. A year after the RAD diagnosis, and following two more bouts of pneumonia, he was given the full-blown asthma diagnosis, with all it’s accompanying medications, peak-flow meter, and follow-up visits. It’s not asthma the way you might think of asthma. It’s never, ever been a factor with exercise or sports. But Lord help him if he got a cold, the flu, or allergy season rolled around. I learned to pick up on that first tell-tale cough. He was on daily maintenance meds, with rescue inhalers everywhere just in case. This all wasn’t too surprising. You don’t spend three months in the NICU, much of that time on oxygen, without some damage to the airways/lungs. The diagnosis wasn’t unexpected. And we quickly got used to the new routine of meds.
He started playing soccer when he was five, baseball at 5 1/2. He’s loved to run since he was in third grade. Never, ever has he had an asthma attack as a result of physical activity. I’ve stopped worrying about it. All through middle school, they ran the mile once a week, every week, weather permitting. When he said he wanted to run cross country for his high school this year, we didn’t even blink. It’s been a non-issue, his asthma, even when running in 100+ degree temps, or in high humidity. He carries his inhaler with him, but he’s never needed it.
He had a league meet yesterday. It was held closer to the coast, with temps about 15 degrees cooler than where we live. There was a nice breeze as well. The meet started about 3:30. He was scheduled to run at 4:45. We watched his start, and then went over to the last turn before the finish. We waited….and waited…..and waited. The leaders came across. Most of his freshman teammates came around the turn. I knew what his expected time was, and we were past that. Finally, I could see him in the distance. He looked somewhat pale as he ran past us, not getting his usual last-50-yards kick. My momma-radar went off
We walked over to where his team was recovering. I could see him bent over, tears flowing down his face. which was completely red. He was struggling to breath. There was fear, and disappointment, in his eyes. I got him calmed down, got his inhaler, and within a few minutes of that, he was recovered enough to tell me what happened. With a mile to go, he suddenly couldn’t get his breath. He could breath out, but not in. And it hurt. Then he panicked, which didn’t help the breathing. He kept running somehow, knowing he needed to get to the finish. Somehow, he made it to the end.
He was shaken by what had happen. He was really upset it had messed up his race. He’s also freaked out it will happen again. We talked about it – the weather was different than he’s been running in, the breeze was blowing, the course took them through a bunch of bushes he’s not normally around, and circled a lake. This is new for him, for us. For now, the plan is to take his inhaler right before any late races. He will talk to his coach about carrying it with him as well. Much of our family – on both sides – deal with respiratory issues, so this isn’t completely out of the blue. It just surprised him, and not in a good way. I’m sad for him for now. But as we’ve done in the past, we’ll make a plan, and adjust to yet another new normal. And he will keep running.