First posted on Silentbeads
My mum died of asthma when I was 17. She had severe asthma and could have three to four seizures in a month. Finally, asthma won. It killed her.
My senior brother has it too. I’ve seen him struggling for breath on a few occasions and it wasn’t a good sight to behold.
I have asthma too. I didn’t have attacks like my mom did or my brother had. It just lived in my body, peacefully and almost unnoticed.
I grew up and had a boyfriend. I was twenty-two and in my second year at the University. Evans, my boyfriend was also a student of the same university. He was a two-year senior.
After I had accepted his proposal, we planned a night out at one beautiful restaurant at the center of town. I looked my best for the night. It was our first night out and didn’t want anything to go wrong.
But the asthma in me had another plan…
We had been at the table for about an hour, enjoying our food and the music. The conversation got deeper and deeper but all of a sudden I started feeling warm and my heart started beating faster.
“It might be love,” I said in my head and smiled to myself. The feeling got intense. I started sweating and my breath span began shortening. I was struggling to breathe fine and all the while putting up appearances so Evans wouldn’t get a clue about what I was going through.
I couldn’t hold on for long. I glided off my chair holding my neck trying so hard to catch my breath. That’s when Evans rushed up to me asking what was wrong with me.
I remember the look on his face as he was trying to help. His voice started going up and by this time, other patrons at the restaurant have started staring at us and wondering what the problem was.
Evans tried pressing my chest to help me breathe, and then a certain woman walked to our end and asked: “Is she asthmatic?” “I don’t know” Evans responded. The woman continued, “She’s having an attack, let’s take her outside for fresh her and organize a car to take her to the hospital.”
That’s all I remember. I woke up at the hospital at dawn and saw the nurses and a gentleman next to me. I guessed he was the doctor. He said, “You’ll be fine enough to go back to school tomorrow morning. There’s nothing to be scared of.”
I was back in school and for three days I didn’t hear from Evans. When I finally saw him I asked why he was avoiding me. He answered, “Why didn’t you tell me you were epileptic? See the embarrassment you caused me that night.”
“I’m not epileptic,” I answered. “I have asthma and this is the first time I’m having such an attack. Forgive me.”
The relationship was over from that day on.
I completed school, did my service and had a job, all within four years and I never had an attack. I ate well and made sure I didn’t do anything to trigger an attack.
I found Eric. No…he found me. He walked passed eight tables at a dinner night just to shake my hands and have a conversation with me. We kicked it right from there.
At first, it was just “Ow he’s just a nice guy that I want to be friends with.” And some months later, it became “He’s a good guy I would love to be with.”
And then we went out on a date one night and out of nowhere, he proposed love to me. I knew he liked me but I didn’t anticipate he was going to propose. I was caught off guard but I had to say something, “You really think I’m the best person for you?” He responded, “You are. I’ve known you for a while now. You’ve never given me a single reason not to fall in love with you.”
Yeah, he mentioned “Love.” I think that’s what triggered it. Knowing I’m loved the way he said it made my heart twirled. I started feeling warm…and then my heart started beating abnormally. Slight headache some minutes later, then I realized what was happening.
Before I could say jack, I started panting for breath as though all of a sudden I’ve been choked. Eric was startled. He kept asking “Are you ok…are you ok…” He rushed to press on my chest….”Are you choking on something?”
The last thing I remember was seeing others rushing to our table. I was rushed to the hospital and I was made stable.
Twice, asthma has ruined a perfect night for me. On both occasion, I was with someone I was in love with. Surprisingly, those are the only moments I’ve had the attack.
So the theories started pilling; “It’s a curse.” “Your family doesn’t want you to find perfect love.”You’re married to a marine spirit who comes out to ruin your relationship.”
My mom had it. My brother has it. I have it too. It’s in our blood and couldn’t have been a spiritual agenda as friends wanted me to believe. The only issue was the way and manner I get the attack.
The doctor advised me not to ever go anywhere without my inhaler. I took that advise and never went anywhere without it.
I went a full year without an attack. Two years came without an attack. It only meant that I’ve gone two years without a boyfriend.
Well, I fell in love again. Prince came along. He was sure but I was scared. He wanted me but I wasn’t sure if he would want me again after an asthma attack. So right from the beginning, I laid it down…
“I’m asthmatic. It only attacks when my heart finds what it loves. I’ve lost two lovers to it already and I don’t know who’s going to be the next.”
He said, “It’s only a sickness. It can be managed.”
Still, I was doubtful, but something in me wanted him. I said yes to his proposal and we started dating.
We hang out at the cinema…no sign of an asthma attack. We went to a restaurant, still no sign of an asthma. My heart was racing, my fantasies traveled far and wide, still no sign of asthma.
Every night after I’d said my prayers, I end it with “Dear asthma, I’m grateful that you’re calm and I’m thankful that you’ve allowed Prince to stay. Let’s keep this new love going.”
Prince took me to his parents to introduce me. Dad was kind and mom was glee. They were happy to see me. And I think they were happy that their son had brought someone home at last.
At the dinner that night, his dad asked, “So Prince, when are you both getting married?”
That question was so unexpected and came very quickly…everyone at the table was looking at us—his mom, dad, his senior brother and his wife and another woman I later got to know was the aunt.
My heart twirled. I started feeling warm…and then my heart started beating abnormally. Slight headache some minutes later, my hand clutch around my throat, I started fading out.
Prince rushed to the room to find my inhaler, he couldn’t find it. I didn’t carry it along. They did the chest pressing thing and kept shouting “Keep breathing…breath hard!”
It’s easier said than done. I woke up in a hospital bed again. Prince was there with the father and brother. The father said, “Sorry I took your breath away.” I smiled. The way he said it was funny.
For once, the asthma attacked but it couldn’t shake the foundations of this relationship. This one stayed.
We got married a year later.
Here we are today, happily married with two kids. I’ve had some attacks in between but love has been so strong.
-Alice Fobi, Accra-Ghana.