Like many of you, I occasionally suffocate. This is relatively easy to manage on the day to day, daily snorts of steroids, a puff here, a yoga pose there, but there are times when stress, colds, allergies, anxiety and bad luck all conspire at once to throw you to the floor, thrashing like a very unlucky goldfish.

Last night was just such an occasion, where I was half-carried heaving and lurching into an emergency room and asked questions I couldn’t answer verbally. Since treatments for this particular disease tend towards masks or tubes, then puffs or drips, then a break, then repeat; asthmatics have a particular sense of the sheer tedium of sickness. If you don’t go to get treated you just gasp and heave for hours until someone finds you – DULL! And if you do go, there’s not much for your oxygen-deprived brain to focus on but ugly linoleum and why the air return vent is so dusty.

Last night, I had a series of canisters – taste bad – with a constant oxygen feed. This kept me neatly strapped to the gurney I was sitting on, next to my panicked and exhausted honey to whom I am forever indebted for dragging my listless, meat-sack into hospital whether I like it or not. Sweetie, I love you more than everything.

Anyway, I was sitting on the gurney trying to focus on getting air into my lungs. This is not a soothing, meditative process. My back ached from coughing and hunching, the cords in my neck felt like they were ripping through my skin and my sinuses all started bleeding in harmony once the oxygen came, oxygen not being known for its moisturizing properties.

So, I opened up my new Sony E-Reader. This isn’t a plug, you can read around elsewhere for that. It’s precisely what I wanted, DRM – free and easy to use. I first flipped to my collection of short stories, thinking I could easily lose track of how many I had read before someone came to do my blood test. Hah!

Then, between the blood and someone losing my urine sample, and then finding out it wasn’t lost, the test results showed what they needed so no-one needed to keep looking for it, I started Sarah Palin’s book, Going Rogue. I got to page 11 before it was time for my x-ray and I put it down, but let me tell you, subtle she ain’t!

When waiting for x-ray results and news on whether or not another treatment is forthcoming between room changes, I settle in with other political fare, The Audacity of Hope, by Barak Obama. It’s a different kind of schmaltzy than Palin’s book, and while equally self-serving, has far fewer spelling mistakes. Point: Obama.

The chaos of an emergency room shift change and an x-ray result might incline one towards Sudoku, for the soothing peace of knowing there is one single answer and you just have to quietly find it. Do not succumb! Doing a Sudoku puzzle is the only step between adding planes outside that separates an ER from a second-rate airport. The sheer panic that settles over you will induce another attack.

After another treatment, I was in a more contemplative mood, and I chose to stare up into the softly bristling beard of my sweetheart who had fallen sound asleep in the chair next to me and was certainly dreaming of the moment we could finally leave. Counting snores, comparing ceiling tile quality between rooms and mentally reorganizing the lighting design are all beneficial pass times after treatment five.

There are any number of other items to read, or just let pass through your mind in its heightened state of oxygen deprivation can help while away the time between the bubbles, the blows and those happy words, ‘here’s your prescription, you can go home now.’ I offer them here, for the respite of bored asthmatics everywhere:

  • Fishing for orderlies
  • Counting how many resident MDs will ask you the same questions as are already filled out on your paperwork
  • Find the washroom * this one is REALLY fun! Test your skills at arcane cartography and hospital sign interpretation!
  • Who’s sicker? * This game is great. You look relatively healthy, sitting up and responding to aural cues; while shaky, vomit-covered, half-asleep sickies eye you as they’re wheeled by. Don’t wave, but make a little notch on your hospital bracelet for everyone you think won’t make it through the night.

Reading:

Get an e-book, or if that’s not affordable, get some crayons and an activity book at your nearest dollar store. Scoff now if you will, but at 3:45 am you’ll be striving to colour those posies within the lines.

Titles to avoid – some reading is not for the air-deficient brain, and some titles, while inviting during your regular day to day, aren’t advisable when you’re sitting in a hospital room, plugged into oxygen that comes directly out of the wall. Avoid the following:

Anything by Tom Clancy. Especially his prison work.

Lovecraft mythology. I love it personally, but suction sounds take on a sinister edge all too easily

Any business or marketing book. Haven’t you been through enough?

And beware, reading Hunter S. Thompson in a hospital scenario could in fact propel you all the way to wellness, but equally possible is your immediate delusions of persecution and grandeur, which will invariably not end well, and certainly won’t end in a book.

Good luck, bored asthmatics in hospital rooms everywhere. Prednisone, Salbutamol, good reading and A FUCKING CURE be with you.

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