Time for another Five Minute Friday. This week it’s about …
Thinking about breathing reminds me of time not too long ago when breathing was a rather difficult thing for me. From December 2007 through October 2009, the times when I could breathe freely and fully were rare and sporadic. I had at least six surgeries during those 23 months to enlarge my airway…
At first the doctors didn’t even know what was wrong with me. I tried specialist after specialist, medication after medication, and nothing helped. I couldn’t breathe. Simply getting out of bed in the morning made me huff and puff for air. Making the bed and showering was like running a marathon. Playing the piano was like pushing my body to the extreme, in terms of breathing exertion. I was like a severe asthmatic, but even an inhaler did nothing for me.
Finally, I one of my doctors figured out that it was the Wegener’s affecting my airway, that the disease was causing cell-growth inside and my trachea was slowly closing up. That was pretty scary. I was sent to a specialist at MUSC in Charleston, who took one look at me and scheduled an emergency surgery for that night. She told me I’d probably need a trach, because my airway was about the size of a 6-month-old’s and she wasn’t sure they had a tube small enough to fit down it, to repair it.
I was so scared of that happening that, when I woke up after the surgery, I felt my throat with my hand and asked if I had a trach, and started bawling when they said I didn’t. It was only of God’s mercy and miraculous power that they had been able to insert a small enough tube, to use a laser to remove the cell growth and a “balloon” to very gradually increase the size of the trachea.
That first one was the scariest. But my airway kept getting hit with the Wegener’s and I had to go back for several more surgeries over the next year and a half. They even recognized me in Pre-op when I would return. I got into my “surgery routine” with my fuzzy green socks and bottles of sprite.
I’m over my five minutes, but I have to finish out the story for you all. God’s grace is utterly amazing. There are many others with Wegener’s who have actually needed to get trach’s, and still have them years and even decades later. Some will live with a trach for their entire lives. But God was merciful and delivered me from that possibility.
He has also been merciful in allowing the disease to get somewhat under control. I haven’t had surgery since October 2009. My breathing is certainly not as good as a healthy person’s … I get out breath walking too quickly or talking too long. I can’t handle common smells like some household cleaners and burning leaves because they affect my airway. I even have to be careful what days I try to work outside, since humidity levels and coldness make it more difficult to breathe easily. My vocal chords have suffered some damage as well, since the problem was right around that area. I can’t scream on a roller coaster or sing above a high “D” during the song-time at church. But I can breathe. I can play the piano without feeling like I’ve just spent an hour at the gym. I can get out of bed in the morning, take care of myself and my home, without any level of exertion. And I no longer sound like Darth Vader when I go to sleep at night (yes, that’s what my husband told me I sounded like at my worst times… if only I’d had the mask, that would’ve been kind of cool).
So that’s what I think about when I think about breathing. It’s not something to take for granted. Think of that the next time you can yawn fully, the next time you walk down to your mailbox without getting out of breath, or go for a run outdoors without feeling like you’ll cough up a lung just trying to breathe. Every single breath is a gift from God, and He alone decides how many you will have and how easily they will come.