Before you read the following story stop breathing. That's right, hold your breath. Hold it from now until you finish reading this paragraph. The good news is that you may START breathing then. Imagine if you COULDN'T start breathing until you were in a car and drove to the nearest ER? Anyone seeing spots in front of their eyes yet? Dad came home one day from work to find Mama dozing in a chair holding me. (I was still an infant). My lips were blue from oxygen starvation. Away they flew to the hospital (did I just hear a rush of breath as one of you started to breathe?) where I was given oxygen. The doctor explained to my parents that because my asthma was so severe that they had to hold me all the time. They could never lay me down in a crib. I could have an attack and choke to death in minutes. (Rush of more people who are breathing again). So volunteers from our church group came and I was held in arms around the clock. (OK, you may breathe now).
STORY STARTS HERE!
I could barely speak well enough to call for my Father. It was the middle of the night, and I was having a major asthma attack. This was a terrifying thing to face as a small child of three years. I could barely speak because I could barely breathe.
Finally I got the breath to call Papa. Mama was there with him. My parents were completely united in their faith and family. So Papa gave me a blessing, with Mama's faith right there with his prayer. I knew that if they prayed for me, either my wheezing would stop and I would be able to sleep, or I would have the courage I needed to fight to breathe until we could get me to an oxygen tank.
Oxygen tanks were horrendously expensive. We couldn't afford one. Our wonderful neighbors had an oxygen tank. Mr. Bench had emphysema. So they would selflessly let me use their tank when I was too ill to make it to the ER...even in the middle of the night.
My parents struggled to battle their worries and anxiety over me with their faith that all would ultimately be fine. My health was a huge problem. This was the late 1950's and the only treatment for asthma was oxygen. There were no pills, puffs, or potions to cause the attack to release.
Sometimes we would drive an hour and a half away from home to Mt. Baldy. The altitude was higher, there was no pollution, and for all of those reasons my asthma attack would resolve. I would feel ever so much better up there where the “Air is free,” as they sing in Mary Poppins.
My parents moved us up out and all about trying to find a location that would work best with my asthma. In the summers we lived in Idaho, way out in the country. I did fairly well there, but all the wheat and hay seemed to trigger me in the late summer early fall.
We moved some of the time to Upland, CA, and sometimes to Ontario, CA. That was just slightly higher in elevation than our home in Pomona, CA. My family wandered for years to help keep me alive.
When my Father was transferred to Utah for his job my parents expected that my health would improve in the higher elevation, with virtually no air pollution. Unfortunately, I was even sicker that first year. I had Red measles, German measles, Three day measles, Streph Throat, and Mumps, first one side and then the other. Of course, each illness caused asthmatic complications. Again trips in the middle of the night to the ER, and frequently being admitted to the hospital. I almost died several times that year. It was my year of first grade. Out of nine months of the school year I was only able to attend for three months. Fortunately, my parents and our dear neighbor across the street tutored me so I did not have to repeat my first grade year.
In my teens my wonderful Dr. got me one a medical trial of a new medicine. It changed my life! I began to have better control on my asthma. I wasn't sick all of the time. No more frantic ER visits in the middle of the night. It was WONDERFUL!
Yet, during all of those fretful difficult years I learned wonderful life lessons. From my Mom I learned, “Most of the work in the world is done by sick people.” (I still have no idea where she found that interesting idea...but it helped me.)
From my Papa, “Life is precious, no matter what the circumstances, life is precious!”
They both had the rare and wonderful gift of seeing not only the glass half full, but brimming with potential liquid!! I am grateful every single day for such amazing parents. Not being able to breath well is extremely anxiety inducing. My parents learned to mask their fears for me. A doctor, when I was a mere babe told them that if I read the fear they felt it would make my wheezing worse.
When I was an adult and staying with my parents I had a horrible attack in the middle of the night. I awakened them because my throat closed and I was wheezing, and couldn't breathe. Mama said, “Oh for Heaven's sake don't choke to death before I can get my clothes on!”
This comment in the light of the dire life threatening circumstances struck my rather unique funny bone. I drew in breath to laugh and my swollen throat opened. Papa took me to the ER where I was treated and released.
My childhood is the foundation for the writing of this book, “Thrive Don't Just Survive.” The hard, life altering, near death experiences that I had have given me courage and perspective in the rest of my life. My dearest wish is to share these ideas with others to bless them and help them.
If I could lift even one soul, give them courage to face the hardest things that life can hand us...it would bring me great joy.
One of my favorite books of all time is “The Power of Positive Thinking,” by Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. My copy of the book is ratty, a paperback novel that I have carried with me, and practically memorized. I wish to copy one of the things that he did in this book. At the end of each chapter he gave ideas for ways to overcome self-destructive behaviors and thoughts. I won't copy the information that he listed, these lists will be my very own. So, below is my first list.
- Breathe. Sit very, very still and breathe. Don't think of one other thing. Empty your mind completely of any other thoughts and just breathe. Breathe in...slowly and mindfully, and then breathe out. Repeat this exercise for 5 minutes. That's right, set your smart phones for 5 minutes and just BREATHE! You can do ALMOST ANYTHING for 5 minutes right?
- Find a place where you are completely alone. Write down what it felt like to you while you were JUST BREATHING. Record sensations and emotions. You don't have to be fancy, just record what it felt like to focus on your breathing.
- You are in a stressful situation, at work, at home, anywhere, focus on your breathing, in...out. Breath in to the count of 10, breath out to the count of 10. Do this 10 times.
- Again when you are alone, record what breathing felt like in that moment of stress. Record both your physical and your emotional reactions. (You may write it, or record it on your smart phone. I prefer to write it in a journal for my grandchildren to read someday...technology does not stand up against time.)