LUNG FORCE Heroes
This is dedicated to the ones who lost their battle with COPD and the ones who continue to fight the daily battle.
Hi, let me introduce myself to many that may not know me. I am Jenn and I suffer from COPD at the young age of 42 years old. I don't even know where to start, so I will start from the beginning. I was 10 years old and living with my parents and grandparents in South City of St. Louis, Missouri. I was a very happy, loving, caring child, always wanted to be around the older people.
One day me and my older cousin decided to get a hold of a pack of cigarettes and try them in our grandfather's closet. Now that was a challenge due to our grandfather; you could not hide anything or sneak around him, and being Italian. We went in the closet I had the lighter, my cousin had the cigarettes; boy we were scared. If caught, we were gonna get it by grandpa.
It was now or never. I lit that cigarette for the very first time and inhaled it. At that moment I knew I found a friend for life, it was so good. I wanted more but at that next puff we hear, "Kids where are you?" Oh, we said nothing. "Shhh," I said. That's when we hear grandpa say, "Why is my closet on fire?" We said, "It's not on fire, we are smoking cigarettes in here." And that was the beginning of a very long love affair between me and my old friend, the cigarette.
Over the the years I stole, took and hid my love from my family and friends, through school and all. I was a very high-active athlete, into track, cheer-leading, cross country and dance. Never thought my love would damage and hurt me in my future to come.
My love was there for me even in my darkest times, my joys, my mishaps and disappointments.
Years later I found myself smoking two packs a day, getting short of breath. Others saying "we care about you, slow down," but every time they said it I would have another one. No one was going to tell me how to live my life, and what I put in my mouth. By now I knew the dangers about the love of my life and kept telling myself nothing will happen to me and it will not happen to me. Doctors told me the harms and the danger I was in, but it I still said no, it will not happen to me.
In October of 2015, I went to the ER and found out I had a TIA mini stroke. That was an eye opener a little bit, but still did not scare me enough to quit. From there I was getting worse with having asthma. Also, the shortness of breath was getting worse.
I then starting to get sick with bronchitis and pneumonia and having asthma attacks with long stays in the hospital. That's when my high anxiety hit even more.
Yes, I have used my rescue inhalers but they seemed to not work for me anymore. I did not know what was happening to me. I was now diagnosed with COPD, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, TIA and anxiety disorder, elevated lactic acid levels and renal insufficiency.
But that still didn't scare me just enough until that one day on Oct. 27, 2016, I went in to take a nice warm shower and I was very scared I was going to die. I could not breathe not a deep breath, I was turning blue and purple, gasping for air. I turned to my boyfriend and said, "I can't catch my breath, what was going on, am I dying? Call 911!"
Upon EMS arriving, I was minutes from dying from what they said. My boyfriend and those EMS saved me! I was in the ambulance and could hear them saying, "Get the tracheotomy tray ready, we may have to incubate her." I could not talk. I was scared I was dying, and my mother was waiting for me at the hospital. I was telling myself I can't have my mother watch my birth and now she will watch me die right in front of her.
God, I said, please help me, I love you and give myself to you, please let me live. On Oct. 27, 2016 I said goodbye for my final last time to my long love affair the cigarette. Two days later a good friend of our family died from the same thing I had just gone through. I said to myself and told my mother, why did God save me and let me live and took him? This world works in many mysterious ways.
It still has been a battle living with this. In and out of the hospital, meds (and they are very expensive ones), daily meals, walking, breathing treatments every four hours, showering, small tasks take forever, to just catch that breath is work. The swelling, the anxiety, legs propped up, resting every six mins; this is no way a 42-year-old should live but the damage is done and I blame no one but myself. I was warned and just did not listen, I am a Gypsy Soul with my own set of rules.
I have good days and bad days but I am alive and I am a survivor and will continue this battle, but will not fall into the self pity or shame. I am here to listen, I am here to walk this battle with you. I am a survivor of COPD and my name is Jenn. I am a 42-year-old female that thought this would never happen to this Gypsy Soul.
First published: February 10, 2017
American Lung Association is solely responsible for content.
Hero stories are the point of view of the Hero and not necessarily the American Lung Association. The Lung Association does not endorse any specific provider, facility or treatment.