Having Respiratory Failure

It leads to death

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

About seven years ago I was diagnosed with an asthma-like condition. It was treated with Salbutamol (ventolin). This was not really effective but my problem was not serious at that time. I would get short of breath after walking or housework.

About four years ago, a friend lent me his pink inhaler Fostair. It was far more efficacious so I asked for Salbutamol to be removed from my prescription. Fostair was much better.

Some time after this I began needing paramedics to make interventions due to seemingly asthma attacks — when the respiratory system tightens and air cannot get in. These were fairly few but mainly in damp, cold, weather. This year I have needed more interventions than I can count. Mainly because the consultant I got was useless.

All these vapors going through my mouth and throat mean I must drink after using my inhalers and after nebulizing by paramedics.

Now, I use so many inhalers that my sense of taste is almost gone. In May last year, I was diagnosed as a carbon dioxide retainer. It means I do not exhale all the carbon dioxide my body converts from oxygen. It is very dangerous. It can cause coma or even death. I cannot be given oxygen except briefly. It will knock out my breathing as now my respiration is driven by CO2. I carry a huge medical alert card.

I retain not just carbon dioxide but fluids. There is fluid on my heart and other organs. My blood oxygen hovers around 90, but may drop to 83 or be a high as 97. These are percentages. A healthy person’s blood oxygen is 100.

I have started buying sour sweets. The kind that are chewy and jelly like. They make my mouth water and I can taste them. Brushing my teeth with toothpaste does not help, so I use salt, or a flavorful leaf on my toothbrush.

I eat honey by the spoonful. It soothes my throat which is always sore. Honey soothes the skin of my throat as well as my mouth.

I am now living with hypoxia as a result of respiratory failure — shortage of oxygen to the brain. It means my home needs prompts to remind me to do things and I keep my everyday things in the same place — my glasses, for example. Everything is easily placed so that I see what I need as I leave my back door. I’m grateful that my home is laid out to make this easy. I still forget things though.

I get confused. Writing here means words typed twice and similar. My keyboard bewilders me. I do, however, manage to shop and go to the town without mishap, except the occasional forgetting to go somewhere.

All this means I can make mistakes without realizing. It also means I could go into a coma or die at anytime. I am very vulnerable. I am 5 on the New Scale, and sometimes 6 but I refuse to go hospital unless an infection is suspected. The New Scale is what paramedics use to determine whether a person needs to go to hospital. Six is when they insist you must go. I have signed disclaimers countless times which say death is imminent.

The New Scale does not take into account that I have a neurological disease. It causes my resting heart rate to be very high. In the last two months my pulse has slowed to 83 due to the extra work it has to do. It used to be 113. Some paramedics freak out and phone clinicians and doctors. Others realize my normal is unique to me.

I keep antibiotics and steroids in my home. I can detect an infection. It’s called a “rescue pack”.

Three weeks ago, I was rushed to hospital with a respiratory obstruction. The trauma doctor was truly great. She recommended a drug that breaks down secretions in the lungs. Now I have reduced three a day to one a day as I was suffocating. My neurological disease prevents my ability to cough. My body is struggling to cope with the excess fluid from carbon dioxide.

I took my laptop with me, as I can’t relax in the ER.


 is someone who I love to read and we have talked a little about my health. 


 is someone I am close to and she is unwell too. We all have lives unknown to other Medium members. 

Lu Skerdoo

 is great friend to me here. I appreciate 

Julie KingGood


Patricia Hodge

 who have both recommended my articles.

There are many of you I appreciate and feel a bond with… 

Susan Wheelock

, who feels like a friend, 


Sofia Chen

Henya Drescher

J.R. Spiers

-he is a prose poem, 

Arbab Z.

Mike Knittel

,the only satirist I have found on here, 

Kim Zuch

Suma Narayan

Ellie Railton

, and so many more. Forgive me if you aren’t mentioned. My memory is faulty. 

David Perlmutter

E. Ardincaple

, my useful friend. 

Michelle Scorziello

 I love to read and 

Shin Jie Yong

 is a friend.

I am not old. This is a disease of any age, but my neurological disease triggered it. Pressure on my spine caused the first shortness of breath.

Thank you for reading this far…