The individual[s] interviewed for this illness narrative has given express permission for this narrative to be published on our course website publicly, with their full name attached. These individuals understand that they can alter these permissions at any time.
Day in and day out, Jasmine makes it her responsibility to go to the gym. Although she doesn’t play sports anymore, she is determined to keep her body in optimal shape. She starts her daily routine with some quick stretches and immediately jumps into squats with dumbbells. After doing twenty, she doesn’t stop for a break and goes straight to the treadmill. She begins to feel her chest caving in, getting tighter by the second. Wheezing ensues and she begins to hunch over some. This is the feeling she has not been able to escape since she was eight years old. She stepped off the treadmill, sat down for a break, and drank some water hoping her heartbeat would slow back down to its normal pace. Jasmine’s asthma always seemed to hold her back from reaching her peak with sports and physical activity. Whenever she tries to push herself to her limit, it seems that her limit is reached in an instant. This is normal for athletes that suffer from asthma though. Asthma is a chronic condition in which a person’s airways narrow and swell and may produce extra mucus (Mayo Clinic, par. 1). The most highlighted symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, chest tightness or pain, wheezing when exhaling, and coughing attacks (Mayo Clinic, par. 4). These are the exact symptoms that Jasmine faces on certain days. Through this interview I hoped to learn about Jasmine’s experience with asthma and construct an understanding of the best treatment for people who live with asthma in America.
Jasmine was diagnosed with asthma at eight years old. This is around the time she got introduced to softball, track, and other sports. She would go from smiling and laughing with teammates during practice to having her hands on her knees while she wheezed from the lack of airflow she had. After experiencing this feeling three times, her parents scheduled a doctor’s appointment to see what was hindering her. The doctor ran several tests such as the Spirometry test. This is the main test doctors use to diagnose asthma in people 5 years or older. To help determine how well the lungs are working, the patient must take a deep breath and forcefully exhale into a tube connected to a spirometer (Mayo Clinic, par. 6). Using this test, the doctor soon determined that Jasmine had asthma. She was given a standard asthma pump and told how and when to use it.
Asthma pumps or an inhales are hand-held, portable devices that deliver medication to a person’s lungs (Mayo Clinic). Many inhalers can be found that help control asthma symptoms and the correct inhaler is necessary to help prevent and treat asthma attacks. The asthma inhaler proscribed to Jasmine helped immediately. Whenever she feels that symptoms are getting to a point where she could possibly have an asthma attack, she uses the inhaler just as instructed. She describes using the asthma pump as “an instant feeling of relief” and feeling of her lungs expanding with fresh air. Jasmine credits the asthma pump as one of the main reasons she is able to resume physical activity for longer than she could at one point in her life. Another way Jasmine has controlled the effects of her asthma is by doing exercises that help with her stamina. Going on steady jogs and going to the gym constantly allows her to extend the time she can do intense workouts without feeling any asthma symptoms.
Acute healthcare visits are defined as having any emergency healthcare visits due to exacerbations during the last 12 months. In the research conducted by Stina Selberg, data showed that acute healthcare visits were associated with rarely performed low intensity exercise, longstanding cough… and uncontrolled asthma (JAN pp. 3525). It was also discovered that only a minority of the individuals in the study reported an acute healthcare visit due to asthma in the last 12 months (JAN pp. 3525). This data is evident in my interview with Jasmine because when asked about her visits to the doctor for asthma related issues, it was hard for her to come up with an answer. It was determined that Jasmine has only been to the doctor twice regarding an asthma incident. She reflects on her visits as very fast and informative. Jasmine has not run into many problems when it comes to healthcare visits and believes that this is because her asthma is not on an uncontrollable level.
When reflecting on all the ways that asthma has hindered her, Jasmine voices that without asthma she would be able to “play more sports than she already does and wouldn’t be limited in her playing time or physical activity”. She highlights that asthma mostly just affects her ability to do physical activities and a lot of times she doesn’t think about it until her stamina begins to run low. The last time Jasmine had an asthma scare was during a track meet her senior year of high school. One day while at a track meet, she was participating in the 4×4 relay. The team was lagging behind which sparked her competitive nature. She immediately got the baton and sprinted trying to catch up to her opponents. About at the 200-meter mark, she began to feel her chest tightening. Breathing became a chore and her pace slowed significantly. Her chest got so tight that she had to stop early causing her team to rush over to give her the inhaler she kept for these situations. This experience specifically showed her that she has limits.
Throughout her life, Jasmine has not run into many stereotypes or misconceptions regarding asthma. Many chronic illnesses have outrageous stereotypes that are placed over people’s heads such as people with diabetes much be unhealthy. The only thing Jasmine has really had to face was being subbed out of sports games because her coach wanted to prevent her from having an asthma attack and assumed she was tired when she actually wasn’t. Communication has been her way to stop misconceptions that may limit her. Talking to coaches and peers about how they can tell when she may be having trouble breathing has helped her.
Overall, Jasmine says that she personally does not feel limited when it comes to healthcare due to her family’s insurance and because she doesn’t visit the doctor often for issues with her asthma. She acknowledges that others suffering from asthma may have worse experiences when having healthcare visits whether it’s because they don’t have insurance or for other reasons.
Living with asthma can definitely take a toll on how someone lives their everyday life. In some cases, a person with asthma will barely notice their symptoms or will learn how to control them like Jasmine has. In other cases, a person with asthma will have to always use their asthma pump and won’t be able to get too active without their asthma feeling like it’s tearing their lungs apart. In either case, the best way to improve healthcare treatment for individuals with asthma, controllable or not, would be to keep communicating to patients things they should avoid so that symptoms don’t appear and how to self-treat symptoms if they do appear. Through my interview and research, there were very few major complaints about healthcare treatment and seemed to be consistently good information about it across the board.
Bright, Jasmine. Interview. Conducted by Kristopher Franklin, 16 Nov. 2021.
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Featured Image: Schiffman, George. “Asthma Medications”. Emedicinehealth. 2020. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/understanding_asthma_medications/article_em.htm