Acknowledging one man and his team.

For years I have found I have had to battle and prove myself to my sports coaches if I am wanting to play in a team, also prove myself to teammates that I won’t let them down if they pick me over another player who would 100% be able to last an entire match.

I guess this fight started when I remember as far back as 2003 when the team was being selected for the school tour over to the east coast of America. I was taken aside and spoken to that if I was selected I had to prove I was well enough to go and play the matches. Until then I never thought my position in a team was judged by my health rather it was my ability and skill playing the game. I guess the only exception to this was ski racing where without sounding arrogant and big headed there was no one in school who could come close to my times. Now looking back on it I can see that my position was always given to someone else if I had recently had an asthma attack even if I was given the green light to play again. I would often be missed off team lists altogether. Despite turning up to all training sessions even putting in extra hours of skill work and extra hours of fitness it felt like it was never good enough.

Even playing club sport I would be questioned about if I was fit enough to play and if I was sure. Even if I had the green light from respiratory I would still be questioned and people didnt feel safe me playing. It really made me feel pretty down as I would do all I could to get the green light from Dr’s, attend training but still it was questioned.

But I must say that all changed and it all changed for the good!!!

I wrote a while back that I found myself in goal again after 18 years playing out field in lacrosse I was once again between the pipes. After that first tournament  when I wore all the goalie kit we had and looked like an american footballer (i do not do this now as found it actually made less mobile).

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I found myself enjoying being in goal and found I could play and play a full hour with no bother on my chest and not be a risk to the team. As I knew this was a position I could play and the enjoyment I got from being part of the team again was great, I knew this was for me but I needed practice! Thankfully there was a Development day led by the Scotland national coach which I went along to as the more time I could get to practice was only going to make me better (and a bit more bruised). I was shocked when I was asked to stay for the second day which was for people trailing so I stayed. The weekends to come I stayed for the second day with the aim of trialling for the B team. I had to be upfront about my chest as this was not the place to hide it and there was no way I could do the fitness or keep up with the fitness that the rest of them were doing. For once the coaches were alright about it and understood. It was the first time a group of coaches understood where I was coming from and didnt force me to do something I knew I would fail at. I was really excited at the prospect of trialling and felt it gave me a purpose again to get better and try and keep on top of my asthma and not let it dictate my life.

The final trialling weekend I was devastated when I ended up in hospital. I think I was more upset at the prospect of being on hospital for the trial weekend than I was about my birthday, this was how much it meant to me. I didnt tell anyone this but I guess i can now because it all turned out alright in the end. I accepted that once again my asthma had stopped me doing something and it was good while it lasted so had to be happy with that. In all honesty I don’t think i really dealt with the emotion of it all but because the previous admission was so scary and also the start of this admission has led to a formal complaint going in so my thoughts were all with this rather than the fact that I missed the trial day.

I was over the moon to see that I had been picked to represent Scotland in the B team for Home Internationals down in Surrey in April. I thought it was all over when I was in hospital so to say I was over the moon would be an under statement.

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I owe a huge thanks to the coaching team at Scotland for giving me a chance. This is the first time in as long as I can remember that despite my asthma I am being given a chance to play and the what if’s are not being asked. I guess this has given me a new lease of positivity and renewed fight where before there really was not much to fight for. Next weekend there is a coaching weekend which i am looking forward to as really starting to feel better after the start of the year which was interesting but having positive news and a goal makes it so much easier to get back to it.

Tomorrow I go back to work for the first time in 2016 which I am looking forward to as have been very bored. It is a quicker return to work than normal after only being discharged just under 2 weeks whereas normally I am home 3 weeks as recovery takes a wee while but its time to go back before I go barmy with cabin fever!!!

If I am honest I have not got my head around what has happened at the start of this year but knowing that someone has faith in me keeps it going. I owe a huge thanks for  this but also the inspiration that the Scotland coach his. His passion for the sport makes you want to do your best and play well. It is like its contagious and totally infectious you cannot help but love lacrosse when you are around him and his team of coaches.

The rest of 2016 is going to be a good year!!!

Breathing tests every two weeks- every patients nightmare

For any asthmatic or any person who needs to be seen in a clinic or Drs surgery they will more often than not be requested to do some kind of breathing test. In a GP setting this tends to be peak flow measuring your peak expiratory flow rate in litres per minute. Pretty much every asthmatic should have a peak flow device and if not you should be asking your asthma nurse or GP for one. It is one of the most useful home tools to identify how well you condition is.

However as a condition progresses or becomes more challenging to keep in control further testing may be needed. Patients attending any respiratory clinic in a hospital will probably be sent to the dreaded lung function room first to a variety of different breathing tests from FEV, FEV1 or perhaps flow loops.

I hate lung function, mostly because my lung function is not as good as it used to be but also because I have so much pain for some reason in my left hand side at the lower lung area. We are not sure why its sore but most likely muscular but nothing that serious. I find doing my FVC or forced vital capacity is not a problem because breathing out all the way is not too hard unless I am having an attack. My issue comes when I have to do my forced expiratory volume in 1 second. You have to take a big breath in and then blow out as hard and fast as possible until empty. This is where I get sore. I just always get a really sharp stabbing when I move from breathing in to breathing out hard. It stops me in my tracks. It makes me feel like I have been winded or kicked in the ribs- so understandably I don’t like doing it.

More recently there has been a new device introduced into the lung function world and the lung function room which I don’t mind so much, now that I have got the hang of it. It is FeNo or Exhaled nitric oxide. FeNo is measuring the amount of inflammation present in your airways which can identify how well controlled your asthma is. This is an odd test where you have this handheld white box thing which you need to breath in through and out though at a certain rate. I have done this test with a number of different people who all have different strategies. The aim of the test is to keep a cloud between two lines by breathing out through the machine at a certain rate. You can do this by watching yourself in a mirror so you can see the cloud which is on the side of the machine facing away from you or you can have the pulmonary function technician telling you to blow harder or softer which is very amusing and totally puts me off. Even watching myself puts me off as I just laugh. I have got used to the face I make and don’t laugh quite as much and don’t need as many attempts as I used to. I think I would on occasion leave them all shaking their heads when they had a busy clinic and was laughing at myself thus holding proceedings up!!! (I will find/ get a video of myself doing the FeNo test so you can see what I mean!!).

From what you have read so far you can probably guess that I don’t like doing lung function. I don’t think I will ever like doing it, so you can imagine when a few months ago in clinic my consultant suggested coming for lung function every two weeks and then emailing her the result. I was not amused and she went out of the clinic room to speak to lung function to sort it all out before the news really set in. When she was away all sorts of things were going through my head and thinking of ways I could get out of doing lung function every 2 weeks but I couldn’t think of much as I work in the same hospital as I work in so could not say I was too busy and wouldn’t be able to get away!!

I was so relieved when she came back and told me that it would only be the exhaled nitric oxide (FeNo) I would be doing every 2 weeks. I was relieved that none of the other tests would need to be done!! I was a bit skeptical at first about what FeNo every two weeks would achieve but now I am 2 months down the line and can really see where it has been really useful and helped me and my consultant make progress in my prednisilone reduction. Before it was a case of reduce the prednisilone by a few mg and then see how I did. Most of the time I would reduce for a few months, be fine and then have an attack which meant y dose was increased again. This time was different. I would do the FeNo test then email my consultant tell her the result and she would make a recommendation about what to do with my dose. So this way we know what is going on at the point of reduction rather than waiting and seeing what happens. I have repeated the rewards from it as we have managed to stick to the plan and I have been managing to go every two weeks pretty much give the odd day late here or there!!

This is the first time I have felt an element of control in my asthma. Perhaps it is a bit of a psychological result as well because I have had so many failed attempts at medication reduction when we go by the wait and see plan however now with FeNo I know I am good, bad or indifferent so have that reassurance that we are reducing at the right time.

I guess the two weekly lung function or as it turned out FeNo was not as bad as I first thought!!! It has been really good and the benefits certainly are better then the pain of going down to pulmonary function. Fingers crossed for continued progress. I am sure there will be the ups and downs but I guess it keeps like interesting!!

I must recommend FeNo to anyone. More hospitals are bringing it in and give a far better picture of how your lungs are actually doing.