So I can breathe again

Friday was the Studio Concert.  The turn-out was great; Eskom (despite threats) spared us with load-shedding, and our top-it-off surprise at the end, a friend of mine who is a Spanish dance instructor, went down exceptionally well.  The finger-food of the reception was not too shabby either; brought as always by the participants, and they had not skimped!

This system works well.  The next event for the Studio should be either a Ceilidh or a house concert with advanced performances only and an entry charge.  We’re probably looking at mid-winter.

And so, on Sunday with fresh enthusiasm and the pressure that this had to happen before exams started for the kids (which was today), I dove into the “spider room” to start clearing – and the dust attacked me.  I got a massive case of what I can only imagine must be asthma.  My lungs closed up so badly that I felt as though I were breathing water; and it stayed like that through the night, getting worse every time I tried getting up and moving around (of course, if one isn’t getting enough oxygen, raising the body’s demand for oxygen is not wise).  I was still basically choking by noon today, when Hubbs returned from his “rounds” and brought me an asthavent.

The stuff is magic.  Nothing else worked; it (salbutamol sulphate, not everything you can’t pronounce is bad for you, some of them save lives) instantly opened the tightly-shut little alveoli, allowing oxygen in where it needed to go again.



An asthmatic’s lung apparently always feels “full” (well, mine did, so I understood what asthmatic friends and fam had told me before), as though you can’t breathe out, and breathing in is not the problem.  And that is exactly what happens.  The air is trapped in the alveoli (those “grape clusters”), because the pipes leading to them are swollen shut, or almost shut.  This air is used up and gets very stale.  The CO2 content triggers the “take a breath alert” of your body, non-stop; but it doesn’t help breathing, because the oxygen isn’t going where it should, and the CO2 isn’t budging, and no matter how you hyperventilate, it does nothing.  The scariest, most panicky sensation next to, probably, actual drowning.

I feel so sorry for my son who is an asthmatic since he was eight.  I’m still not sure if there is something I could have done to prevent it.

Anyway, that salbutamol makes one shaky and a bit confused.  So once I had my breath back, I didn’t get anything decent done today anyway.  It’s the weirdest thing just sitting and breathing, and focusing on staying alive; and the relief of having your lungs open again is so massive it sort-of wipes you out.

Moral of the story:  Never tackle a spider room unarmed, or alone.  Next time I’ll go in with reinforcements.


13 thoughts on “So I can breathe again

  1. You’re such a good mother. Of course there isn’t anything you could have done to prevent your son’s asthma but good mothers always think they could have done SOMETHING to prevent it or that they must have done SOMETHING WRONG which resulted in the condition. You couldn’t have and you didn’t. Unless you sent HIM to clean the spider room.

    I noticed on a previous post that you cited a book by Alan Solomon. Are you going to republish it? I tried to find it on Amazon, but no luck. How can I get a copy from you (I’m in Europe, remember)?

    Your asthma attack sounds horrifying. Hope you make a quick recovery and STOP CLEANING.

    • :-DD I can’t stop cleaning! There are still “spiders”… and, no, he doesn’t clean spider rooms, I’m very careful to keep him away from that sort of chore.

      Are you looking for “Not Another Scale Book”? I did republish, it is available at, but hang tight – I’ll make it available on Amazon too. Haven’t yet, don’t know, got interrupted or something.

    • Hi Eloise. I remember why I haven’t yet made it available on Amazon. It’s an upload problem, I am missing a relevant PDF formatting program that I used to have on one of my bygone computers. But the book is available at P’kaboo, I can mail you copies if you order from there (Paypal).

  2. Hi Gipsika,

    If you have a child with asthma or hay fever or some such thing, you really should invest in some breathing classes for him. I don’t know why we don’t learn that in school, but we don’t, and if you observe people, in trains or wherever, you’ll notice that the upper part of the chest moves up and down when they breathe. That is a wrong way of breathing (yes, categorically wrong as it makes people less calm than the need to be). The correct way of breathing, at least according to some yoga techniques, is from the, well, pelvic, really. The chest should not move up and down, but the stomach in and out.
    Anyway, they don’ learn that and for a variety of reasons people of the West develop upper chest style of breathing. It takes a lot of work to correct once you’re adult.
    A person with breathing trouble is better off learning good technique than getting medicine.

    Asthma is one of those capriscous things that when it comes down on you, you’re may be at its mercy, at least without the medicine, because it takes away your number 1 need in life. Better learn how to get the air past the upper part where much of the trouble lies.


    • I can’t help but point out that one of the lessons I give my students is on how to breathe. Yes, we all tend to breathe from the shoulders and chest. You can’t play the violin well and breathe that way. Many violinists forget to breathe while they play, too, which is why they make horrible breathing sounds and snorts. So I plunk my students down on the floor, put a book on their diaphragms and tell them to raise the book when they breathe in, etc. This also helps tone production on the violin. You have to play from your “center.” I could go on endlessly about this and surely no one is interested. Yes, breathing lessons are useful to us all, but I doubt it would help during an asthma attack. Might be worth trying, though!

    • It does help.
      We are used to breathing as an automatic function of the body. When an asthma attack hits you, you can’t breathe and you are not used to do it manually, so to speak, so a part of you tend to panic, which strengthens the contracting effect of the asthma.
      Good breathing is not just about respiratory control but also about muscles, straight spine and awareness. It is about knowing that it is possible. It takes a persistent effort, and a willingness to give it time in the process, time to meditate, to let everything go and find the right way to guide the air deep down. You could see asthma as the body telling you to breathe properly, and then take the time to do it.
      I am glad I did it and cannot recommend it enough if you have asthma. No inhalers or other medicine ever did anything for me.
      When I saw a doctor last year, she did inform me though, that asthma, allergy, and hay fever treatments have developed and improved considerably since my time as asthma-slave, and she prescribed me some stuff. Pricy stuff, never bought it, prefer the breathing sessions when it hits me (well, maybe not prefer, but it has become my way of dealing, and it works).

    • I teach breathing together with some bowing techniques, especially in group work. It improves the actual coherence of the ensemble ;-). Thanks for these tips. I’ll definitely try them, it should also help with stage fright.

      Re during asthma, I guess it would make a bigger difference to learn and apply the techniques between asthma attacks to improve lung capacity and general blood oxygen levels.

    • Yes, those would help to a point… I also understand ozone therapy does wonders. The problem is that in asthma the actual inner lining in the lung thickens (from chronic low-level inflammation), it’s an auto-immune thing. There is a PNI technique that also helps, if I can just remember…

    • You’re welcome – me too, I think the last time I had such difficulty getting oxygen into my lungs was when I had pneumonia; and probably for much the same reasons. Not a happy experience.

  3. Seems like something there you are allergic to. It could well be what is termed ‘house-dust’.
    If one can avoid the cause, that is first prize. Second prize, if one can’t, is to go onto one of the ‘Control’ regimes. I have suffered from childhood, but now have ‘chronic medicine’ which means that as long as I take it, I don’t get it – or very rarely.

    • Probably right; staying next to a main road doesn’t help either, and neither do the civic excavations in front of our doorstep. But I have fully-fledged bronchitis now, shutting it up with medication, so I wonder if the virus took the opportunity or if the asthma was the first step in the process and the dust only kicked it off.

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