“I was 10 when I was diagnosed with asthma in primary school, but my health really began to decline when I was 19. I briefly ‘died’ of whooping cough and it was by far one of the scariest moments in my life.
It’s interesting that I can remember that night so clearly. I had just moved back home for Christmas break after my freshman year in college. On Tuesday, December 16th, 2008, I had a doctors appointment with my pulmonologist since my lung function was declining at a rapid rate. My team of doctors were concerned and thought about admitting me to the hospital. But as a stubborn 19 year old, I somehow talked my way out of it. They drew some labs and then I was on my way back home. In hindsight, I wish I would have agreed to the admission.
Later that night, I was still having trouble breathing so I was constantly using my nebulizer. Before going to bed, my dad asked me if we need to go into the hospital and I told him I was ‘fine’. I went to bed and about an hour later. I woke up with what I thought was just another asthma attack. I reached for my nebulizer but realized very quickly something was wrong. Since I was downstairs, I banged on the wall and screamed for my parents help. I heard them rush downstairs and they immediately tried to put my nebulizer mask on but for some reason I was pushing it away. This is when I remember feeling very calm and a sense of peace. I was not scared and the last thing I remember saying was I need to go to the bathroom. After that, my dad said I passed out. At that point, he had started CPR.
The paramedics were on their way and as my parents waited they attempted to give me an Epipen. Unfortunately, with all the chaos, my dad accidentally injected his thumb. The paramedics arrived and the next thing I remember was waking up in the ambulance on our way to the hospital. When I saw my parents they seemed broken. They thought they were going to lose their daughter. I still have a sense of guilt about that night. I never want to see my parents in that state ever again. Once I was more awake my parents were able to see me and we all cried. After hugs and kisses we were all curious about the cause of this episode. When my labs came back from earlier in the day and it showed I had a severe case of whooping cough. Antibiotics and steroids were the trick to clear everything up but it gave me an understanding about how fragile life is and I need to be more proactive with my health. Lesson learned.
After my near death experience, I was enrolled to be the first patient on the west coast to under go an experimental surgery called bronchial thermoplasty. In the 3rd stage of clinical trials, several patients had much success. Bronchial thermoplasty in a nutshell cauterizes the smooth muscle tissue in your airway in hopes of reducing the number of asthma related events one may have. My family and I had so much hope for this treatment, but unfortunately my lungs had other plans in mind.
My doctors thought GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) was a factor in my asthma. After that, I had a LINX surgery to stop the acid from going into my lungs. But as most chronic Illness warriors know, when you are trying to fix one problem you develop another. Which leads to how I was diagnosed with gastroparesis.
In 2012, I received the diagnosis after several attempts to control my symptoms with medication. After seeing zero progress, surgery was my only option. I am now the proud owner of a port-a-cath, a gastric stimulator, and a GJ feeding tube. Accepting your body when all you see is scars and tubes has been one of my challenges. But now I have learned to love them and it proves to me just how strong I really am!
I’m lucky school wasn’t too different with my chronic illnesses until my senior year in college. My health had declined to the point where I was admitted to the hospital several times, the longest being 17 days. I have some of the most supportive friends that came to visit. When you are sick you find out real quick who your true friends are. I am still close with all the people who were there for me. Even with all the health issues I was able to graduate college in 4 years.
With all these health issues I have can’t control, I try to make the most out of this life I have. Staying positive has been something I have learned to do over the years. I appreciate the little victories and in chronic illness sometimes just getting out of the house is a massive task. But currently when I am down and need a pick me up I enjoy spending time with my nieces and having Disney dance parties with them. It really pulls me out of the dark places my mind can take me.
I hope my story can inspire people to continue doing what they love and not let your chronic illness consume you. So I will finish with this, whenever you have the opportunity to help someone else, take it! When you help others you really end up helping yourself!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ariel Noriega of Sacramento, CA. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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