Monday, September 8, 2014

That Moment When You Can't Breathe and Campus Safety Thinks You're a Pothead

I feel like crying right now. I had an entirely different post planned but then THIS happened and I just need to write about it.

I was already having a bit of a rough day with regards to my breathing. I had started to cough and get some chest tightness in class today, and I waited it out. 10 minutes left in class, I thought. I can make it 10 minutes. 

And I did. But after class, when I reached for my inhaler, I realized that the albuterol canister had fallen out, rendering it useless. I sat on a bench coughing my lungs out and rummaging through my bag, and finally I found it and I was fine.

For the rest of the day, I was still having some trouble...nothing I couldn't handle, though, just some coughing and wheezing, and I went to dinner as usual.

After dinner, I got back to my room and started to work on some chemistry homework, and that's when things got bad. All of a sudden, I felt like I couldn't breathe, and my inhaler wasn't helping. I was trying to keep my nerves in check, trying to keep the panic at bay, because panic makes it worse.

I need to leave. I need to get out of here. I can't breathe, was all I could think. I stumbled toward the EXIT door and sat on the steps outside my dorm, hoping some fresh air would help. It did, a little, but I was sitting there for maybe thirty minutes, and my breathing still sounded pretty bad.

I don't know who, but someone who was concerned must have called Campus Safety, because at one point, I looked up and saw an officer shining his flashlight in my face.

"What are you doing?" he said. WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE I'M DOING? I'M TRYING TO BREATHE. I didn't answer because I was coughing; I just held up my inhaler.

Then another officer came up beside him and they looked at each other and LAUGHED. The two officers exchanged glances, and then the first one looked at me and said — I kid you not — "My God, you sound awful. You been marathoning?" [For those who don't know, this is another way of asking if I spent the entire evening smoking marijuana.] 

I shook my head, all the while in disbelief.

"You sure? You sound pretty bad," the other one said, and they laughed again

As soon as I could get out the words, I told them that the pot smokers were the bane of my existence. I didn't know what had triggered this episode, I said, but oftentimes it's pot smoke. And just like that, their demeanor changed. They wanted me to go to the hospital. (I find this in itself kind of disturbing— my health wasn't much of a concern until they ascertained that I hadn't been doing drugs.) 

I didn't want to go, though — I have a nebulizer in my room, which is what they would have given me at the ER anyway. I managed to explain this, and they understood. After about fifteen minutes and a couple more puffs of my inhaler, I felt okay enough to stand and to walk back to my room for the breathing treatment. They came with me, and that's when we smelled it: pot smoke everywhere

I think that the officers thought that I was trying to cover for my neighbor, but I honestly wasn't aware of the trigger when I left. All I knew was that I couldn't breathe...I didn't stop to think why. Apparently, my asthma reacted before I could tell that it was there, and in the thirty or forty minutes that I was outside, the smoke had filled the entire hallway. In fact, it STILL smells like marijuana, three hours later. 

Everything about this evening just irks me. Why do I have to be met with suspicion when I'm having trouble breathing? Why do I have to be blamed for something that isn't my fault at all? And why do I have to feel unsafe in my own living environment?

I feel one hundred times better after the nebulizer treatment, but it keeps me wide awake and makes me shake for hours. My CP already makes the muscles in my legs kind of "twitchy," but after the breathing treatment, they shake even more, to the point where it's difficult to move. 

/rant over. I'm beyond thankful that I can breathe again, but I wish it didn't have to be like this. I hate fearing for my safety. I hate that I had to convince those officers that it wasn't me who was smoking.

I just wish people could learn some respect.


  1. That totally sucks! I'm sorry you had to go through that. The first thing I thought when your inhaler wasn't working was too bad she didn't have a nebulizer. Glad you do! Use it before going outside next time. :) But believe me, I don't like how mine makes me feel for a while afterward either.

    Ever tried an air purifier? Not sure how well it would work but it might help some. Also, I can diffuse lavender essential oil sometimes when my asthma is especially acting up (read: allergy season in the fall) and it helps to keep the airways open. Peppermint oil works well too. Both could help clear the air of that nasty other stuff that causes you flare up to begin with.

    Hope you don't have too much more trouble with those neighbors!

    1. Yes, I'm so thankful for that nebulizer, because if I didn't have it, I might have had to go to the ER again. :( In hindsight, it probably would have been a good idea to use it immediately, but I was afraid that if there was something in my surroundings that was causing my symptoms, my breathing would get even worse while I was setting it up...outside seemed like the best place at the time because of the clean air.

      I really appreciate those tips! I haven't tried an air purifier, but if this keeps up, that seems like a good thing to try! And I love the idea of peppermint oil and lavender oil...I've been having allergy problems on top of the breathing issues...I will definitely try that and see if it helps!

      Thank you so much for the tips and for the support!

  2. I just want to say I am sorry and that sucks :( So insensitive! Hope things get better! Sending you love. You encourage me so much with your posts, by the way.

  3. Isn't there some kind of health and safety policy whereby you can get accommodation NOT with pot-smokers? Good grief! No wonder you're not feeling up to par *hugs*

    I hope things get easier soon.

  4. Ugh! I'm so sorry, K! That stinks -- and that wasn't *meant* to be a pun! :-(

  5. I'm so sorry you have to deal with ridiculousness like this on TOP of having trouble breathing... You walk with CP and they think you're drunk. You have an asthma attack and they think you're high... So unfair. :(


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