Help Me Breathe

Do you know what it's like when you're getting over the flu, or bronchitis, or even a cold, and you can finally take a full breath without pain and struggle? Do you know you can walk to the corner and back without having to worry about fainting or checking your pockets for three different medications just in case? Can you participate in social activites, go to work, or get a full night's sleep without benefit of more medication?

I don't... but I would like to.

I've suffered from severe asthma for most of my life; it went undiagnosed and untreated until my late teens due to family issues. In the twenty years since it's gone from needing a honk from an over-the-counter epinephrine inhaler once in a while to spending at least twice a week on a nebulizer and carrying albuterol everywhere, to the current state where I am essentially locked in my house as even going down the stairs and to my truck is an adventure, and having seven different medications associated with it just to keep breathing at a subpar level. I can't speak very well, and not for any extended period, which places my job (as a telephone banking assistant) out of reach, and the conversations I do manage to have are frequently punctuated with the hiss of the aspirator and severe coughing fits.

Friends and family are afraid to be funny around me, as laughing will trigger a fit, which in turn triggers the need for medication, and may in turn trigger a trip to the urgent care or emergency room. I disgust them, and myself, with an inability to do things as simple as loading the dishwasher, brewing coffee, taking a shower, or feeding the cat without extensive rest before and after.

I've always been a bit of an insomniac, but my symptoms have aggravated that to the point where getting more than 2 hours of sleep uninterrupted is essentially impossible. I'll snap awake, throat full of blood and vomit from coughing in my sleep, and have to dash for the bathroom before I choke. Disgusting, I know. Then I'll need to use the nebulizer - which leaves me twitchy and unable to get back to sleep - and sit for an hour before I can try again, generally with the same results.

I'm currently on the maximum dosage of three different types of steroids and bronchodilators, alongside allergy medications, cough suppressants, and acid reducers.

On top of that, I'm bipolar and suffer from chronic depression, which are both being medicated, but when you've hit a point where your existence is a cycle of short naps, unpleasant medicine, and staring at the television or computer until it's time for the next dose, Prozac can only do so much. I wouldn't say I'm suicidal, but neither would I say I'm happy to keep living.

According to my pulmonologist, there's something that may help. It's a procedure called a bronchial thermoplasty. Essentially, they stick a blowtorch down my throat, into my lungs, and burn off the bad chunks. This is supposedly an outpatient procedure, which is honestly terrifying to me; you're going to take a lightsaber to my (already heavily damaged) breathing devices by shoving it down my throat, then send me home with some penicillin and vicodin? Well, hey, if it works...

I'm game to try... where I'm at, it can't get a whole lot worse, and shoving fire into my gullet seems just as likely to help as anything else and a lot better than believing Jilly Juice will regrow my lungs or realigning my chakras will allow me to breathe chi and negate my need for mortal concerns. Of course, there's a bit of a roadblock.

Given my condition, I haven't been able to work for nearly eight months. I'm fighting with my company's disability benefits people, but they are... less than helpful, and frequently less than truthful - or at least, are not talking to each other very well - so I have been surviving - if you can call it that - off of credit cards and my partner's savings. The credit cards are capped, the savings are almost dry. I've applied for SSI and SSA, but as anyone who's been through that system is aware, it is not a quick process, and when you have as many doctors as I do, it only muddies things further.

On top of that, my insurance doesn't cover this procedure, and is liable to be cancelled soon anyway (my employer is losing patience with me.) My credit is awful by this point, and the docs don't do things for free, much as I might wish us to adopt something more along the lines of Canada or the UK.

So why am I here? To see if there's anyone out there who's willing to help. It's sadly not cheap - the low end is $15k according to my pulmonologist - and there's the living expenses to consider in the meantime as well. Short of playing a medical version of robbing Peter to pay Paul - trying to sell other organs to fix the lungs - or somehow finding, kidnapping, and stealing the DNA of Wolverine or Deadpool, I don't see many other options.

I used to write books... I have two sitting on the burner that I can't work on because I'm too tired, too stressed, and can't handle sitting for long enough to work on them. I have a YouTube, a Twitch and a website where I try to do reviews, playthroughs, fiction snippets and general opinion pieces, but those are slow going as well from my condition. Were my condition to improve, I'm happy to give whatever shoutouts, free books, advertising or anything else that's in my power you'd like; I know I don't have much clout and my books are probably awful, but they're what I have and can offer and I do so freely.

Like I said above; remember when you get over an illness and can finally take a full breath, and how good that feels? I just want that again. It's been eight months since I felt anything close to that, and years since I've had the full experience for more than a day or two. This will help. If you can help, please consider doing so.

Thank you.


Patrick Dixon
Salem, OR

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