When I was about 23 years old, early in 1995, I came down with food poisoning so bad that it compromised my immune system. While I finally recovered from the food poisoning itself –I still feel skittish about roast beef sandwiches even to this day — I came down with some sort of lung/bronchial/what-have-you that swiftly led to pneumonia.
I was young, stubborn, and uninsured, so I suffered through that bout of pneumonia in my studio apartment, curled up in a tight comma as I shivered under thick comforters. The sensation of trying to breathe through fluid-filled lungs I will never forget. My breath crackled — for lack of a better word — as it bubbled forth like released carbonated soda with every inhalation and exhalation.
And each breath HURT.
Breathing is one of Maslow’s Basic (aka Physiological) Needs, but it’s one of those bodily needs that we take for granted until we can’t do it. I took it for granted for the first 23 years of my life, until that day when I couldn’t, and I faced my mortality square in the face.
Like with the food poisoning, I eventually recovered as well, but my lungs became fragile things, prone to bouts of bronchial inflammation (aka bronchitis) with every allergy and flu season. Once I gained health insurance with my first full-time job, post-grad school, at an oil company, I became accustomed to filling out scrips for inhalers or occasional in-office sessions with nebulizers, if the non-breathing got that bad.
There was talk about perhaps developing asthma, which scared me silly.
Fortunately for me (with proper meds, healthier eating, and exercise), my lungs did recover to back to where they were before — after nearly ten years from that bout of pneumonia. The boogeyman that was acquired asthma passed me by, and I was spared having to depend on inhalers and nebulizers year in and year out.
But I haven’t taken breathing for granted, and I never will.