Catching My Breath at St. Mike’s Hospital

I had what they call an “asthmatic event” last night.

Though I’m loath to write about asthma again so soon after my Breathless post, I hold that this is more of a ‘hospital post’ than an ‘asthma post’.

For the first time in my life I spent a night at the hospital.

It started just after midnight.  The Husband was out of town on business and I was enjoying a Carson McCullers mini-festival on TCM.  The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and A Member of the Wedding had finished and The Ballad of the Sad Café was just starting.

I suppose I could only take so much McCullers southern Gothic style or perhaps it was Julie Harris trying to sing “His Eye is on the Sparrow” with Ethel Waters because I was getting a killer headache.

There was only aspirin in our medicine cabinet.

Aspirin or acetylsalicylic acid or ASA

I had not taken aspirin since I had been diagnosed with asthma five years ago. My allergist told me at the time that asthmatics should not take aspirin due to something called ‘aspirin-induced asthma’.

Now I did consider my doctor’s warning last night… but my head was pounding from McCuller’s overwrought dialogue like this from A Member of the Wedding:

“We’ll just walk up to people and know them right away. We’ll be walking down a dark road, and see a lighted house and knock on the door, and strangers will rush to meet us and say, “Come in! Come in!” We’ll know decorated aviators and New York people and movie stars. And we’ll have thousands and thousands of friends. We’ll belong to so many clubs that we can’t even keep track of them all. We’ll be members of the WHOLE WORLD!”

That’s a tad much, don’t you think?

But I digress.

And since I had never had a problem with aspirin for 36 years of my life before I was diagnosed with Asthma, I couldn’t believe that I had developed a allergy to it over the last five years.  I popped two in my mouth and washed it down with some Strawberry Banana Crystal Lite.

It hit me in less than ten minutes.

My face became hot, my chest tightened, and my eyes began to water.  It was a full-blown allergic reaction.  I took two hits of my rescue puffer (which I never have to do) but my breathing became shallower, more distressed.

I knew what was happening, it was an allergic reaction – a nasty one too.   I dressed, went downstairs and tried to hail a cab.  But I didn’t see any cabs on the street and it was getting harder and harder to breath. I was wondering if I would make it to the hospital at all.

What if I keeled over right here on Wellesley Street, I wondered?

I began to panic.

In his memoir, Self-Consciousness, John Updike writes of one of his asthma attacks better than your humble blogger ever could:

“An asthma attack feels like two walls drawn closer and closer, until they are pressed together… I thought, This is the last thing I’ll see.  This is death.  The breathless blackness within me was overlaying the visual world.”

I seriously thought of flagging down a police car that was driving up Yonge Street when a taxi turned around the corner.

“Take me to Emergency at St. Michael’s Hospital,” I chocked out.

Saint Michael's Hospital, Toronto

Ah, now some folks are probably asking, “But Gay Groom, you said you would never EVER go to a hospital that refuses to provide safe medical abortions for Canadian women.”

The Gay Groom agrees that he has indeed said this – many times in fact. Furthermore The Gay Groom knows that St. Michael’s is a Catholic hospital that obviously does not provide safe medical abortions for Canadian women.  So why, you may ask, did I go there?

All I can say is that when one thinks he is about to die, many of their strongest principles can fly right out the window!  I went to the nearest hospital – St. Michael’s.

But again, I digress.

“Is someone sick?” the cabbie asked.

I told him I having trouble breathing due to asthma and needed to have it checked out by doctors.   He drove faster.

“I hope you feel better,” he said as I got out of the cab.

I made it through triage relatively quickly (people that can’t breath seem to go to the head of the line) and I was put on a nebulizer after a quick exam.   It was my fist time on a nebulizer too.

But instead of just relaxing while I was using the nebulizer as they suggested, I took photos with my cell phone for The Gay Groom blog.

I am always thinking of my awesome readers!  Even at death’s door.

Your humble blogger struggling to breath and with a bright red face from an allergic reaction to aspirin - but still taking photos with his cell phone.

Did I mention the snazzy blue hospital gown?

I looked at the mirror on the back of the door of the examination room and saw that my face was swelling and had turned bright red.  My eyes were red and watering.   I just felt better knowing that if I fell into anaphylactic shock, it will be the hospital’s problem and The Husband wouldn’t find me keeled over in front of TCM classic movie station.

Though I knew he’d be asleep, I sent this photo to the Husband and told him I was in the hospital and doing fine.

They then moved me into my own room in the Intensive Care Unit where two doctors and two nurses gathered around me.  I was put on a heart monitor before given a shot of epinephrine with an oral steroid chaser.

Heart monitor. Blood pressure is 126/80.

My lungs were feeling better.

“You’ll be here for a while” a male nurse said.  He was cute.

“How long?” I asked.

“We’ll have to keep an eye on your for at least six or eight hours.”

I thanked them as they all filed out.

The next seven hours was spent on an IV drip that was dripping (among other things) Benadryl.  Now your humble blogger quit drinking in 2002.

So main lining Benadryl was sort of a treat for me.

Intravenous in your humble blogger's arm. And of course the Gay Groom (being The Gay Groom) has to show off his wedding band as well.

Sometime around 4:00am, veins full of Benadryl, I fell asleep.   I never did take my Doc Martens off.

It was a restless sleep (maybe due to the Doc Martens?).  I didn’t like being around so many sick people.  Every so often an automatic arm band checking my blood pressure would tighten and startle me, waking me up.

Just before 8:00am a cheery doctor came in.  I was happy to see my bright red swollen face was back to it’s normal off-beige colour.

“We’re letting you go home now,” she said.  “Oh, and you’re alergic to asperin.”

Good to know, I thought.  And the bloody aspirin never did help my headache.

When I returned home I received a message from the Husband.  He saw my photo and told me he was coming home.  I told him I was fine and not to worry.  I was given (pretty much) a clean bill of health from the doctors at St. Mike’s.

“I’m still coming home,” the Husband said.

It’s great being married.

Jeffrey, The Gay Groom



Filed under aspirin, aspirin and asthma, aspirin-induced asthma, asthma, asthmatic writers, atheism, atheist, emergency room, gay, gay asthmatic, gay atheist, gay canada, gay catholic, gay fiction, gay groom, gay health, gay toronto, gaygroom, gblt, gblt fiction, hospital, John Updike, medical exam, men's health, nebulizer, roman catholic, Samter's triad, symbicort

3 responses to “Catching My Breath at St. Mike’s Hospital

  1. Pingback: Who Brought Up Politics? | The Gay Groom

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