I have a saying within my career before deciding what herbal supplement, what tea to brew and what skincare routine to use each day and that is; ‘How do you feel today, what have you been through and what is ahead of you’ This short phrase takes seconds but makes your self selection of wellbeing the right formula. I know that what I go on to write may well be controversial as I question things and highlight poor care but there is equal controversy in not saying it at all because it could help someone and could change the way things are done. I am an Asthmatic but am not qualified to tell you what to do but, I feel I have a duty to share as it may well resonate with you.
In my last blog I mentioned that I had a 7 and a 3 year break from my battles with Asthma (actually it was 7 and 5 years) and that what fascinated me most in the whole ordeal was that not one medical professional shared my fascination to unearth what I had done to help myself to have such long breaks between my acute spikes of Asthma that at times would become long term and chronic. Instead of an interest or an inquisition into that I received a lecture – one you might expect from a headteacher (I’ve had those too! though equally controversial I was always sent to the headteacher for laughing in class, instead of finding out why I was happy laughing I was lectured on how I disrupted the whole class! I digress but couldn’t help wondering for a second!) The lectures I’ve had while struggling to breathe in the moment have been many!
The most momentous one was the flare up I had 5 years ago, just as I had recently relocated to another medical practice when I became suddenly tight chested. I needed to get a new prescription of Ventolin I was told by the new practice that I could not just pick up an inhaler despite taking it since the age of 4 and that I’d have to make an appointment to have a review, next one available is 5 weeks time! I explained the desperate need, they persisted to be adamant that the appointment was the only way, I persisted too with barely any breath left and miraculously they agreed to have a prescription later that afternoon – 8 hours after my call! I book the appointment and in the short term the inhalers offer relief.
Two weeks later I spike a temperature, I call the surgery again only to be offered 11am but at an adjoining surgery – I write everything down as I know explaining will be tricky. My appointment runs 20 minutes late – I’m met with a frustrated Doctor as he wants me to speak, he states ‘have you got Laryngitis or something?’ this is AFTER reading my notes! My breathlessness and being misunderstood causes me to panic and I end up gasping. He asks me to WALK into another room and asks a nurse to put me on a nebuliser while he sees other patients and will return in a bit. The nurse attempts to set up the nebuliser with MY HELP, she says she has other patients to see herself so holds the door ajar with some scales and asks me to shout down the corridor if I need anything! This is not a joke this really happened and it gets worse! I can’t reply as she rushes out of the room so I just concentrate on having the nebuliser which I soon realise is not producing vapour. The nurse pops back briefly thank goodness and sorts it out. The Doctor then returns still cross with me and tells me I should have called an ambulance and that I don’t realise how dangerous Asthma can be. Trust me I know how serious it is I’ve had a collapsed lung and nearly died so yes I do not how dangerous it can be but I also know it is possible to fight it too! He decides to call an ambulance and then leaves me on my own again. The ambulance men arrive surprised to find me in a room on my own and soon spot I’ve been given a child’s dose of Salbutamol in the nebuliser, they change it before putting me on oxygen. They read the doctors notes which basically say I was crying and panicking and not much else, they find my notes more helpful – ‘He would panic too if he couldn’t breathe!’ they say. The Doctor asks me to be taken to A&E, the ambulance team ask for him to rethink and send me elsewhere to reduce my wait, a suggestion he outright refuses. On arrival at A&E the head nurse asks me to explain why the Doctor has sent me to this department! I receive two more nebulisers to stabilise me, an x-ray shows I have a left lung infection so antibiotics and steroids are the remedy I’m sent home with. I’m told to have a check up at my surgery and I mention I have one booked (one which they cancel on the day and rebook 2 weeks after that.
I have three subsequent appointments with the Asthma nurse to find the right plan of medication. My parents buy me a nebuliser and to get the nebules for it I have to see the Doctor as an Asthma Nurse cannot prescribe them..? I show glimpses of improvement but, then further flare ups occur so the doctor prescribes extra steroids along with the nebules, another glimmer of recovery followed by a further flare up so I request another appointment and sadly I’m asked to go to the same surgery I had the most scary experience at and they won’t accept me for an emergency appointment surprise, surprise! I head to the walk in centre where she rang my surgery and demanded I was booked in that day! After further adjustments I start to recover fully.
There is so much to learn from this one experience;
- I shouldn’t have to have a strong and persistent tone to get an appointment my history of Asthma and intuition that I am not well should be enough to be taken seriously.
- Asthma Nurses should be able to prescribe nebules – saving time and lives!
- I should be able to access Ventolin, my basic form of medication easily, I should be offered a phone call from the Doctor or Asthma Nurse as a follow up. This phone call could also determine the urgency of further help.
- I could have avoided A&E altogether had I of had this support early.
- My full blown attacks only came on in the huge delays to get an appointment or waiting in the surgery trying to explain myself despite having written it all down.
- Winter often brings on an increase of Asthma attacks and there should be an improved offering to those with respiratory illnesses. ‘Fit to sit’ section in A&E should have an allocated space for respiratory care, improved monitoring and as the Asthma cough is unsettling for other patients it should be clearly marked to reassure others. Fit to sit will have a whole blog dedicated to it!
- Each surgery should have a minimum of two Asthma Nurses as every one that i have been registered at struggles to get people in with many weeks waiting lists.
- Ask patients what they do to stay well, this will add to research and may be supportive ideas to others
The reason I write and share my experiences here during this time of Covid-19 is that it’s one illness just like Asthma is but we are all individuals and our response to it will vary. Subsequently what medicinal approach works for one may not work for another. Journal your experience and listen to what your body is telling you.
It wasn’t till my twenties that I acknowledged that when I had a weakening to my immune system such as tonsillitis, a cold or the flu, my Asthma would flare up. So my first natural approaches started with homeopathy via Aconite and a 3 month course of Echinacea, which I went back to in short courses at the sign of early symptoms or when i knew I might be more prone when working long hours for example. I also realised a glass of orange juice was not going to give me my Vitamin C quota especially if it was from concentrate and loaded with added sugar. I was never into fizzy or energy drinks but soon learned this was just as bad. I was always a good fruit and veg eater but I increased the variety. This reduced my Asthma flare ups substantially by 7 years! For the last 2 1/2 years I have broadened my fruit and veg diet further aiming for 30 a day and seeking more organic produce. In place of Echinacea I learned to use Elderberries, Andrographis, Mushroom supplements to fight infection and nourish my immune system. After Pneumonia I learned more about Licorice as a way to reduce inflammation in the lungs and Tulsi an alternative name for Holy Basil to act as a lung tonic to rebuild resilience. What’s interesting is nowadays I am either very ill or very well and nothing in-between and that my triggers used to be exercise and a vulnerable immune system whereas nowadays stress is the trigger and so on my path to natural care I discovered Ashwagandha which nourishes my nervous system and in turn improves my immune system defences.
Here is a list of natural approaches I turn to but dip in and out of depending on how I feel today, what I’ve been through and what is ahead of me.
- Meditation – my Mum was with me on my second and third recent visits to A&E and she couldn’t quite believe how calm I was when i was very ill. My first visit meant a 90 minute wait for a nebuliser, my fourth visit turned into 9 1/2 hours. Breathing and deep thought and focus were essential to my survival. There is likely to be a wait in your care or a need to feel calm when managing symptoms at home during Covid there are so many ways to learn. I will be doing a series of free meditations on Facebook via The Better Wellbeing System page.
- Foam Roller – Asthmatics and those with Covid will know that laying flat is impossible yet the upright positions cause back pain and stiffness. Therefore a foam roller or tennis ball for pressure point release is essential. This also helped my recovery post Pneumonia as the muscle between my ribs often went into spasm.
- Agnus Castus – during my menstrual cycle I experience a dip in progesterone in the lead up which makes me feel run down so I take 2-3 doses to pep up 1 or 2 days at this point and it prevents me getting a sore throat and/or cold. Hormones may affect how severely you experience Covid.
- Tea – Pausing for a cup of tea is meditation in itself. To support you during respiratory illness try Pukka’s Three Licorice tea to ease inflammation in the lungs and Tulsi Clarity to act as a lung tonic to strengthen your lung capacity.
- Elderberry – If my sore throat intensifies or a cough persists I have an Elderberry Syrup the whole family can turn to. Soothing while warming and easing.
- Andrographis – Often alongside the syrup as a natural antibiotic. Had I have known I had Pneumonia I would have taken this much sooner but it was too late to dabble.
- Mushroom Gold – This and any green herbs keep me in check as they nourish my whole system and my immune system specifically with a blend of Reishi, Maitake and Shiitake mushrooms.
- Frankincense – An essential oil to deepen my meditation and lung capacity – a sniff from the bottle or 10 drops in an atomiser does the trick.
- Rosemary, Bay and Sweet Marjoram – I sniff these when out and about and they help me feel focused and clear headed as I recover.
- Skincare – respiratory health can trigger an Ayurvedic ‘Vata’ surge causing the body to dehydrate and feel very depleted and dry so as always oils are essential in this space both internally and externally.
- Magnesium – It took me a while to find the right one for me as their are many different types of Magnesium and I found this algae version suited me to a tee. Asthma causes alot of spasms and the coughing during Pneumonia and the one during Covid will trigger quite a restless body and this really helped me to prepare for sleep. Many of us are thought to be deficient regardless of respiratory health so a mineral to seek for sure.
- Ashwagandha – A new one to my plethora of herbal support in my first aid kit and one not to be ignored it is one way to ease anxiety and our response to stress. Never has the risk of over-exposure to fight or flight been higher than now and at times of war.
I take ownership of my wellbeing, I don’t take everything above all at once, it’s my herbal first aid kit and I pull upon it when I intuitively need to and this is what I believe keeps me resilient most of the time. Fostair became my saviour in an inhaler form after trying two others before it and I do continue to take it but I am still intuitive when it comes to dosage of 1 or 2 puffs and whether I take it once or twice a day. I now know that if I work harder not to internalise stress then I will most likely avoid any further attacks but what is important to me now and for all those with respiratory illness it is to stay calm, resilient and reduce the risk of Covid. It’s upon our world and we still have the responsibility and tools available to us to do our best to avoid it while protecting the NHS staff from it.
- Physical distance – please can people be patient and stay on one side of the path or shopping aisle. getting impatient puts others at risk. Walk calmly, play your favourite music in your ears and smile!
- You can be distant physically but connected emotionally – pick up the phone, record a message and send on WhatsApp, text, write and send, organise a Zoom meet up for your kids to connect with friends recreating the classroom feel, Skype, Facebook Live (124 people followed a LIVE meditation with me last week, while 639 people had joined me within 24 hours! A mother and daughter chilled together on that LIVE meditation and an Asthma sufferer said that after 3 weeks of heightened symptoms finally felt better after a 20 minute LIVE session). At Work there is email and Teams meetings and so much more, get creative, vary your communication and enjoy connecting even more than ever. We all need each other.
- When taking your exercise go to a quiet spot don’t all head to the same place at the same time, if it seems busy then find somewhere else don’t add to it.
- Embrace time on your own it’s the power of a retreat that can transform you positively, lot’s of self-care and with your family enjoy having more conversations, respect each others space and with your kids take the time to inspire them to love the subjects they are taught expanding on their curiosity.
- Audible is a beautiful thing – we recently bought it for a relative who had been consuming news till 2am everyday. When her grandaughter checked in with her a couple of days later she had fallen asleep listening to a book at 10pm! I have listened to 12 books in the last 6 months and with a free book a month what’s not to love for a few quid a month!
- Learn – whether it’s fine tuning knowledge for your job or discovering something new or something you’ve always wanted to it’s available to you via Creative Live, Open University and the www makes it all accessible to you and your family. Carol Vorderman can teach your kids Maths on The Maths Factor, Ben Fogle can inspire the adventurer on his LIVE Instagram posts from his treehouse and kids can learn all sorts of languages on DuoLingo – the world is your oyster!
I’m sending light, love and energy around the globe to you all. Stay well!