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Monday, February 28, 2011

Stair climb for American Lung

Stair Climb for American Lung

Not one to turn down an opportunity to talk about asthma, Kitty and Hubby and I went to our local American Lung Association fundraiser. They had asked Kitty to hand out medals to the finishers of the stair climb of an office tower.

Now this is no ordinary office tower, it's 23 floors, so people had the chance to climb all 23 flights of stairs, then get a medal at the end. Some crazy people were climbing it multiple times. Kitty and Hubby climbed it 3 times, so that would equal 69 flights of stairs.

However, there were those crazy people that climbed for HOURS, some were doing the 23 stories over 20 times. That's equal to 460 stories.

And, not to be outdone, there were fire fighters who wore their full gear, including their mask and oxygen tank, and climbed all 23 stories. Someone said their gear weighs 60 pounds, that's like carrying a small child up 23 stories. They are amazing, many of them collapsed to their knees and their fellow fire fighters helped take their gear off. Others promptly threw up in a nearby garbage can.

It was surprising to see how the stair well smelled like smoke, and I wondered how many of the firefighters had asthma. Or were they just doing this for the glory of their crew?

I can't imagine being a firefighter and having asthma. Of course they wear their masks that help them breathe through the smoke, but even their uniforms filled the stairwells and finish area with the smell of smoke. How are they able to breathe through that?

I and my family would like to thank all of the firefighters, not just for putting out fires and saving lives. But for doing a job that those of us with asthma would never be able to do.

These crazy, over active lungs of ours would seize up at the first snell of smoke.

So, thank you to all firefighters, for endangering your lives, and being able to tolerate smoke on a regular basis. I thank you and my lungs thank you.


My Life as an Asthma Mom

Friday, February 25, 2011

Flash Back Friday - ER

Flash Back Friday - ER

The first time you take one of your kids to the emergency room, it can be a little scary. They will usually have you check in at the desk, then wait to been seen in "traige."

In triage, the nurse will assess your child for skin color, breathing, see if they're extremely tired, check their oxygen saturation level, etc. This is when you make sure to stress that your child has asthma, and list how many times they have already been admitted before (that always seems to catch their attention and lets them know you are serious and know your stuff!)

They then decided who goes back first, according to who is the sickest. I know people don't like to wait in the ER, but kids with breathing problems are put ahead of kids with broken bones, those that need stitches, kids vomiting, etc. The problem is that kids with asthma can stop breathing at any moment. Not good.

I have learned to be a little assertive in the Emergency Room. The last time Son #2 needed to go to the ER, I arrived behind a bunch of college kids who were goofing off at a local Walmart in the shopping cart and they needed stitches. I am NOT going to wait behind them, I interrupted while she was helping them to tell them my son has severe asthma and needed oxygen right away. She didn't look up and wearily told me to talk to the nurse in triage. Which I did, once again interrupting the patient who was there. I had my oxygen saturation monitor with me, and it was attached to my son's finger, so I could show her that his oxygen level was only 87% (it should be closer to 98%)

The nurse asked her patient to step out of the room so she could see my son. Do I feel bad? NO!! I repeat, my son can stop breathing at any time. He needs to be seen right away!

In the ER, they will take you to another room and put the oxygen monitor on your child's finger. Reassure your child that it won't hurt, it just glows red like a little flashlight. They'll listen to your child's lungs, check their skin color and look for retraction (skin sucking in around the rib cage, and collar bone.) Sometimes they can treat your child in the ER and send them home.

They can give your child an injection of Decadron (steroid) that will reduce the swelling in their lungs. They may also be able to give them a breathing treatment, strap on oxygen for a little while and then send them home.Lucky!

Usually, my kids won't show much change after a breathing treatment and oxygen, so they need to be admitted. If that happens, they go upstairs to pediatrics. They will get an IV and will receive Salu-mederol (stronger steroids), oxygen and breathing treatments.

This is where its nice to have the professionals take over. The respiratory therapist will give breathing treatments and listen to their lungs, the nurse will watch the monitors for changes in breathing, and you-well, you get to watch cartoons with your child in the hospital room! Our pediatrics also has portable video game machines, so we get our own game system in the room.

Anyway, that's just a little glimpse of what it's like to go to the ER. Some people think it sounds like a drastic move, but if your child is having pale skin, dark lips or fingernails, skin is sucking in around the rib cage or collar bone, nostrils are flaring, they're listeless, having a difficult time speaking or seem to be breathing fast and shallow (panting) head to the ER! If it's too far away, call 911. Remember, I'm not a doctor, I have just learned a lot over the last 11 years of dealing with asthma with 3 kids.

So, always ask your doctor what he wants you to do and when. They will usually give you guidelines of when they want you to go to the emergency room. I know we all want to keep our kids alive, and that usually takes extra effort for kids with asthma. Doctors, emergency rooms and hospitals can help you do that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When to go to the ER

When to go to the ER

This is always a tough one. It sounds so drastic to take someone to the emergency room. And let's face it, kids with asthma seem like they're sick ALL of the time, especially when they are little.

So, when do any of you take your kids to the ER versus the doctors office or treating them at home?

I'm comfortable doing treatments every 4 hours on the nebulizer when the kids are sick, but as Asthma Doc says, "That's just a Bandaid approach. You've got to find out what's causing the inflammation." I always take the kids to Asthma Doc to start, he knows them so well, he knows how they respond (or don't respond to medication). Often times, we have to do a round of steroids (Prednisone bottles are always part of our medicine chest). Sometimes antibiotics if they have pneumonia.

But how do you know if you need to go back? What about after-hours doctor visits or skip that altogether and head to the ER? Webmd has a great section on their website called What is an Asthma Attack? It lists symptoms of an asthma attack and tells you when to call 911,

This is what I have learned over the last 11 years, but don't take my word for it-ask your doctor what he wants you to watch for!

The kids may:
  • look pale
  • have dark lips 
  • be listless
  • breathing very quickly-actually "panting". (That's what "asthma" means by the way-it's the Greek word for panting) 
  • unable to speak in complete sentences
  • can't stop coughing
  • medicine doesn't seem to be working.

Their skin may be pale or slightly gray. They may also have dark lips or fingernails. Some people say "blue lips or fingernails", but I have never seen that with my kids. Their lips will be VERY dark, it will almost look like they are wearing dark red lipstick. Couple that with the pale skin, and they LOOK terrible. (think vampire from the Twilight movies-minus the sparkly skin).

The other sign that is very serious is called "retraction" which simply means that they are using all of their muscles to breath. So the skin is "retracting" or sucking in around the rib cage, often times you can "count ribs" because the skin even sucks in between the ribs. Also watch the collar bone and the little "U" shaped bone just under the Adam's apple. The skin will suck in along that area too.

Sometimes the nostrils will flare out because they are struggling to breath.

If you see those symptoms, head to the Emergency Room - FAST! Or call an ambulance. When you get there, make sure they understand your child has asthma and breathing difficulties. My kids get seen before someone who needs stitches or who broke their arm. There is a reason they have triage-they take people in order of medical condition, not who got there first.

Speak up if you feel your child is getting worse, you do not want your child to pass out and have their airway collapse. Remember, 11 people die every day from asthma attacks. And they all think it's going to happen to "someone else"

So, I don't mean to scare anyone, but I have seen some scary situations with my own kids-they can go from bad to worse very quickly.

Talk to your doctor, see what he recommends and know what to watch for. You can do this! And if you feel like you are in over your head, go to the Emergency Room. That's what insurance is for, and that's what the doctors are trained to do. Take care of your kids.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Thank the medical staff

Thanking the medical staff

This is something that is really important to me. I am indebted to the people who help keep my kids alive! This includes Asthma Doc, his staff, and all the nurses and respiratory therapists that take care of the kids while they're in the hospital.

I make sure I send a Christmas card every year, and bring in a small gift to Asthma Doc and his staff. I let him know I appreciate the time he takes with us and showing genuine interest in the kids. Today is Son #2's Xolair shot, I already know Asthma Doc will ask what book he is reading and how his french horn playing is going. He knows all the kids personally (we have been seeing him for 11 years......)but he's a good people person too.

The other thing I like to do after the kids have been discharged from the hospital is to take Krispy Kreme donuts to the staff in Pediatrics.Yes, I know donuts are not healthy, but they deserve a good treat for keeping the kids breathing! I bring a thank you note, with a picture of the kids inside, and a couple dozen donuts. Since there is a day and night staff, plus unit secretary, child life specialist and respiratory therapist, I like to make sure there are enough donuts for everyone.

I feel strongly that it's important to thank people in your life that take care of you and treat you well. I'm sure it's a female thing. Hubby rolls his eyes and says, "You women! Do they send you a thank you note thanking you for the thank you note and donuts you sent them?!" Maybe.

It's important to be noticed and praised for your efforts. Often times we're quick to complain. Don't get me wrong, if I feel like one of the nurses isn't taking care of the kids, or the respiratory therapist leaves the room in the ER without putting oxygen on the kids, I'll say something. They're human too, my first job is to protect my kids. I know what they need when they get to the ER and Pediatrics. If they help me and take care of my kids, they will be profusely thanked. If not, no donuts for them!

So, think about who helps you with your asthma or your kid's asthma. Have you thanked them lately? It's just a thought, but we can make the world (or our little corner of it) a nicer place to be. And who doesn't want that?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cleaning nebulizers

There are a lot of different canisters and tubing kits that come with nebulizers. Get familiar with yours so you can use it in a hurry. Even after 11 years of dealing with asthma, one of the kids can have a bad attack and it can still catch me off guard. I have to think 'steady-you can do this, just put the canister together'!

Practice, practice, practice. And make sure everyone knows how to put it together. (yes Hubby, that means you!)

After you use the nebulizer, make sure to clean the medicine canister kit well. The way the home health care professionals taught me was to 1) take the canister apart and wash it in hot sudsy water 2) rinse thoroughly 3) soak the canister parts in 2 cups hot water, 1 cup vinegar for half an hour 4) rinse again 5)let the canister and parts air dry on a paper towel. When completely dry, I put them in a ziploc bag and back in the drawer they go.

It can be a little scary at first, but the more you use it, wash it out, and reassemble, the easier it gets. I have literally put the nebulizer together in the dark in the middle of the night! I was doing a treatment when one of the kids were sleeping and I didn't want to wake them up.

So, take care of your equipment, when you need it, you'll be glad you took care of it! Take care of it, and it will take care of you.

Monday, February 14, 2011



Wow, things have changed over the last 11 years when it comes to nebulizers. Ours is a big, clunky white box, but it still works!

Here are some great ideas for kids for nebulizers, there are a lot of fun things on the internet!I found some really fun shapes and oxygen masks.

I just Googled 'pediatric nebulizers', and found some fun things!

For those of you newly diagnosed, what is a nebulizer? It's a forced-air device simply changes a vial of liquid medicine into a mist, so the kids can easily breathe it in when they are having difficulties. It's great because you can simply strap the mask on and give the kids a treatment during the night, without waking them up. (Well, for my kids anyway, they were so used to getting treatments....)

How do you get the kids to sit still? Whatever works. Sometimes you can hold the mask up to your face and pretend Mom or Dad is having a treatment, then it's your child's turn. Or, they can give a treatment (minus turning the nebulizer on) to one of their stuffed animals. That's always fun.

Put on a favorite video to keep them mesmerized, or offer a bribe. I have no problem bribing my kids for something like that. Nebulizers can be scary and noisy!

So, look around and see what's out there. Insurance should cover your nebulizer, tubing kits and oxygen masks. Have fun, let 'junior' pick out a style they like. Then practice, practice, practice. Learn how to quickly add the medicine and hook up the tubing.

You would be surprised how your mind can go blank and you can't remember how to put the tubing together, add the medicine, and turn it on. All while your child is struggling to breathe.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Buying prescriptions

Help buying prescriptions

So, last week I blogged about going up to the pharmacy counter, and without saying anything more than 'good morning!', the pharmacy tech turns around and pulls out my asthma medicine.

So, good or bad, they know us.

But, how do you pay for all of those prescriptions? We have 4 out of 5 of us with asthma, 5 of 5 with allergies. That adds up. Especially when Son #2 has his Xolair injection every month to help control his severe asthma. It used to cost $1000 a month, with a $100 copay. I'm not sure how much it costs now, but our copay is now $150. Add that to all the other asthma and allergy medicines, and it adds up fast. And we wonder where all our money goes?!

There is help available for prescriptions, this link is from our state health department. Scroll down to the bottom of the page, they can help you by county.

Here is a link to a national foundation that helps people with their prescriptions. It's called Needymeds, and it changes daily.

So, check out some of those resources. If your kids are picky like mine, you know-they like me to bring home food from the grocery store and not spend all our money at the pharmacy.....they're kind of funny that way, they like regular meals. So, if you need to stretch your budget so you can feed kids, pay bills, etc, check out the resources.

If you know of any others, let me know!

Good luck!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sick of asthma

Sick of asthma

Do you ever get sick of asthma? I was doing a presentation about asthma last week, when I thought 'how has this become so much a part of my life?' There are days when I am tired of inhalers, nebulizers, and all of the other equipment.

I was trying to explain asthma to a group of normal people. You know, people who can pet cats, go horse back riding, walk through a hay maze in the fall, etc, all without thinking about asthma.

I hope they understood everything I was presenting, I went through it slowly, and asked if anyone had questions. It's a lot of information, and I remember when the first of my kids was diagnosed 11 years ago. I think my reaction was something similar to 'wait-what?'. Doesn't your head just swim when you or your kids are first diagnosed?

I received 30 pages of printouts about asthma from the respiratory therapist when Son #1 was hospitalized the first time. I went through every page, re-reading, highlighting, etc. Asthma is a strange world of weird terminology and even weirder equipment. It's second nature to me now, but it was hard to understand initially.

I hope my 11 years of experience can help some of you out there. Hang in there, asthma definitely has its ups and downs. And winter is often one of the downs. I guess I should appreciate the days when none of the kids are coughing and we're all healthy-until the next cold hits.....

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tip #5 - washable curtains

Tip #5 Washable Curtains

What I am talking about today is using curtains you can wash. Now I love my family members, they built a beautiful house 17 years ago. And the curtains they lovingly picked out and had installed haven't moved. In 17 years. Yep, you read that right. Have you ever visited someone's house and thought those are the same curtains that were hanging there when I was a little kid?!

I know it's not up on the priority list-to take down the curtains, wash them and put them back up. And some curtains are so fancy, they have to be taken to the dry cleaners.

I'm a simple kind of gal, all of the curtains in my house are washable. I wash them twice a year at least. If they can't be thrown in the washer and dryer, I don't buy them (or make them- I am a designer! I can't have anything for my home that looks like anyone else's home. That would be like arriving at a dinner party and wearing the same dress as another woman!)

If you like fancy curtains (some have fringe, beads, etc), see what the manufacturer recommends for cleaning. Can they be dry cleaned? Some people put attachments on their vacuum wands and vacuum the top of valances. That's can be an option if they are too hard to get off the wall.

See what works for you, that's one of those overlooked areas, that's right up there with cleaning the blinds in my kitchen.Hhm, I have a spare hour, what should I do? Should I wash my curtains or mindlessly watch tv and eat bon bons? What to do, what to do.....