Wednesday, August 3, 1977

Narcissa G. K
Psalm 65
Got up medium. Today was Nana Narcissa's birthday. Don't remember too much. I do know we had a couple of big fights. The evening was nice, tho. I think I had a tight throat.

Thursday, August 4, 1977
Psalm 66
Got up ? Don't remember today, either. I think we fussed today too, and we may have gone to Biscayne.

So we did fight... we didn't get along all the time. My sister, a Gemini, could also be particularly recalcitrant. When she was like that, we'd call her by her "Evil Twin Name" Sarah. One day, I remember her being a pain, and I finally said to her something about Sarah needing to be "good," and she said defiantly "I don't care if I'm Sarah! I don't WANT to be good! I WANT to be bad!"

I guess I remember that because I always wanted to be good, and I kind of admired her freedom...

Nana Narcissa was Poppy's mom. Technically, she was barely African as her mother, Nana Jessie, was what used to be considered Quadroon, and her father was from Ponce, Puerto Rico. Narcisso came to the U.S on a ship on September 11, 1893, to roll cigars. He was very fair with hazel eyes and auburn hair; probably mostly Spanish and some Taino. But Nana Narcissa was brown like me; the darkest of her 8 siblings which amused her father and caused him to call her his "Negrita." Nana Narcissa died of tuberculosis when Poppy was 19. TB had gotten her father, as well.

I think I've only ever seen Poppy cry 3 times. And one of those times we were all sitting around the dinner table at the house on Montgomery, and he suddenly burst into tears. We all crowded around him to comfort him, asking "what's wrong? what's wrong?" and he said "I miss my mommy!" She never got to see us.

A "tight throat" was the name we'd given my asthma, because that's what it felt like. I started having asthma when we lived in Paris. I was two. I remember not being able to breathe and screaming at my parents "I'm tight! I'm tight!"

In Jamaica, I had many bad episodes. I am deathly allergic to cats and of course we had several (and I still have one), but stress or being upset was mostly what would trigger an attack. At our old house on Montgomery Avenue, Althea, the girl who lived across the street had it as well and sometimes in the middle of the night we'd hear them rushing her to the hospital. But I never went... despite having attacks that--had I been living in the States--would have been considered severe enough to land my ass in a hospital for several days. But a combination of the parents' profound faith in God, and my own faith in God, and a lack of funds and/or health insurance too, meant that for the whole 8 years we lived in Jamaica (and the next 8 years after we got to the States), we managed them on our own.

I remember being about 5 or 6 and truly thinking that I was going to die. I knew full well what death was, having lost several kittens. One evening they'd be fat and round and blue-eyed and the next morning when you went to check on the box, one of them would be lifeless and flat, eyes glazed over, mouth agape.

I wasn't afraid. I wasn't afraid when the kittens died, though I'd be a little sad if I'd gotten particularly attached to one. I remember crying big hot tears when my first cat (and the mother to countless kittens) Kiki died after being mauled by Tanya, the black Alsatian that lived next door. I knew that death was final, but I wasn't afraid... I just didn't want to go yet. And I remember Poppy holding me and trying to help me calm down enough to breathe, and saying "pray hard". And I did. And I lived.

As time went on, I don't ever remember the attacks being as bad as that one until I was an adult (and then I DID go to the hospital cuz I knew I didn't have the faith of a 5 year old child), but they would be long. Two or three days, sometimes a week. And the overwhelming emotion I felt was rage; I would be so pissed off at not being able to run and play, to eat, to sleep. No position was comfortable except either sitting straight up, or lying down with my arms stretched up behind my head. When the attack subsided, I'd be thin and ravenous, and every muscle in my back and neck would ache from trying to breathe. As I got older, I learned to recognize that often, there was some one or some thing that had upset me, or that I was stressed about, and very often figuring out what it was and talking about it would help me relax and breathe again. Now I have too many stresses to deal with on my own so I just suck on Advair. I figure it's less addictive than psych meds.

My mom taught me relaxation techniques, and they helped. She taught me how to visualize what was happening to my lungs, and taught me deep breathing techniques, and they worked. We learned how to recognize the things that set me off; dust, sudden chills, the cat, stress, and to avoid them, and it worked.

So I have a particular pet peeve with asthma medication companies (though I firmly rely on said Advair these days), and with all these "Asthma Initiatives" in NYC because nobody deals with the underlying causes of asthma... they only react to the reaction--which is what asthma is. This past spring, the Sun had a cold and a wheeze, and an ear infection. The wheeze didn't stress me too much (though God knows the sound gives me flashbacks) because he wasn't "retracting," but his screaming in pain about the ear infection prompted me to take him to see his pediatrician. It wasn't her scheduled day in the practice, and the associate who examined him didn't get past his lungs. "Asthma!" she said, almost excitedly, and loaded us up with two albuterol inhalers and two spacers. I had to remind her about his ear.

I was furious. Because my kid doesn't have asthma... I have lived with asthma up close and personal all my life and he doesn't have it. He certainly has the potential... he's allergic to a bunch of things and he has my gene, but so far he doesn't have it. It's one of several reasons I adamantly breastfed him until he quit (at 2 and a half) because everything I read said that breastfeeding helped to prevent asthma.

On Medicaid, every asthma medication is free (except maybe a $2 co-pay in NYC), so you don't realize how expensive it is until you have insurance. It also doesn't appear to cause any addictions or anything, so the medication isn't closely regulated the way painkillers are. In between the time I got kicked off of Medicaid and my insurance coverage began on my first real job out of Pratt, an Advair disc cost me $200. With health insurance coverage, I was shocked to realize that Advair was still going to cost me $30 a month if I took it twice daily as diagnosed. (Twice daily caused me some severe vertigo, so after talking about it with my doc, I take it once a day--no asthma and no head spins.) That's $360 a year. Multiply that by the supposed 12 million people in the US that have asthma and you have a lot of cash. If you figure that most of those 12 million people are poor, uninsured people crammed into moldy, roach-infested tenements in highly-polluted areas and who qualify for Medicaid... voila! That's one big-ass cash cow for drug companies. And one that won't be monitored like Methadon or stuff like that.

I have found with myself, and the Sun, that as long as our allergies are monitored the asthma rarely kicks in, but I find it sort of ironic that the stronger medications needed to treat allergies--like Zyrtec--are *highly* monitored. Medicaid won't pay for them unless the pharmacist gets a letter from your doctor. Just a prescription won't do. And God forbid the government actively attempts to force companies to clean up the environment, especially in poor areas.


Carrie said…
Wow Jesi -- that's pretty bad that the Dr didn't even think to address the underlying causes of Sun's wheeze and just went straight for the meds. Unfortunately that's ALL too common for many things. Good on you to have the knowledge of what's going on and what your Sun really needs to be healthy!
The Bear Maiden said…
Hi, Carrie! Yep, I saw it happen with another friend's baby, as well.

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