Have you ever felt like you couldn’t breathe? If you haven’t, consider yourself a lucky duck. Experiencing shortness of air sucks. After all, we need oxygen the way fish need water to survive. This theme was a major staple of my childhood. The first recollections I have involve some type of asthma attack in which I am in dire need of air. In the following story, I share one of the worst asthma attacks I remember from when I was 5 or 6 years old. Beware that it’s heavy stuff but at the end of the day, having endured and persevered such trying circumstances helped shape the perspective I have today. Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? Well, I can personally attest to that!
You are sitting on that uncomfortable bus seat. Your back is killing you. You don’t really know what to think but you keep visualizing a healthy version of yourself. Running around in dusty Santa Rosa with your little friends. Your mom is sitting to your left, on the window seat while you’re on the aisle seat. But you don’t care to observe the passengers this time. You are focused on… the next breath. Each inhale is a victory in and of itself. Enough to carry your life through the next, what, 30 seconds or so? Each inhale is shallow and your lungs seem to work at their maximum capacity to carry out this very basic function. It’s so fucking painful. But that’s all you have to do, patiently make it to the next breath. Not that this sensation is unfamiliar to you – a fish trying to survive without water. This has been your life since you have recollections of your memories. You’ve been sitting on this bus for a few hours now. You were driven to Santa Maria from Santa Rosa in the wee hours of the morning as the asthma attack was peaking. You felt like choking. And you knew right away what was happening. Here we go again… You called your mother and she immediately made moves. 3+ hours later of agony, Oscar dropped you and your mother off at Santa Maria, to wait for the Torreon-bound bus you are now riding. Your journey is now more than halfway through. You’re confident you’ll make it now. You’ll be there soon. They’ll hook you up to the oxygen thingy and your lungs will be so grateful. You’ll have travelled about 8 hours since you left your remote village in the mountains when you arrive in Torreon. To the concrete jungle with the big hospitals full of people wearing white coats. Where they have the state of the art oxygen machines. What a childhood! You’re 5 or 6 and about 80% of your memories revolve around this – asthma attacks, hospitals, doctors, trying to remain alive. Your poor mother. Cuando podra descansar, you wonder. In the midst of trying to breathe in and out, you think how fortunate you are that you have a dad that sends money to get your condition treated. That your mother can afford to take you to the city where the oxygen seems to be…. Every 20 minutes your mother worriedly glances at you and asks how you’re doing. You say “Un poco mejor. Ya no me duele tanto”. It’s a lie. You just don’t want to worry her any more. You’re sooooooo tired. Your lungs feel as if they are about to burst but at least the pain is now constant. Each time you take in a shallow breath, you focus on that small win and think that this breath will carry you through the next. Your mom says you’re doing great and that you will arrive soon, in a couple of hours. You admire her resilience. How can she stand this? To see her child on the verge of death, to see her struggle for the next inhale, constantly? You muse. You wouldn’t want to see what you look like now because it would scare you. Probably blue-ish, ghostly and exhausted. You wouldn’t know what to do with yourself. But somehow, deep down, you’re not scared. You don’t know or understand why. You just know you’re not going to die today. You have big things to do in this life. You suspect you live in a tiny corner of the world and based on what Nanito says, there is a lot of mundo to see. You hold on to that, your dreams. In your adult life, as you write this story, with tears in your eyes, you realize that all along, these future dreams that you are in the process of realizing, kept you alive. Your dreams along with the faith, love and care of your family. At least that’s how it feels in your heart.