Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bad news: It's a terrifying disorder. Good news: It's got a name.

     Last Monday, I thought I was going to die in the lobby of the Blue Springs, Missouri, La Quinta Inn. I'm not being dramatic here. I seriously thought I was going to die. Like, the end...finis...that's all folks! I had just sat down to breakfast with my husband and, before I could take one bite of food or drink, I started to choke. My throat completely closed up and I could not get any air in through my mouth or my nose. This went on for over a minute (which seemed like five) until I finally started gasping for air, just as I started to faint. The thing is, this had happened before - five or six times a year for, say, the past fifteen years - but never that bad and never for that long. I decided to see a specialist. Near death experiences will do that. I explained the situation to my ENT and, after a few tests, he offered the diagnosis: Laryngeal spasm, a relatively rare disorder in which, for reasons unknown, the larynx spasms shut without warning. (It's been described as a charlie horse in the throat). Most cases strike people with GERD. Mine is probably caused by post-nasal drip (now there's a sexy diagnosis: "not tonight, honey, I have post-nasal drip").  It turns out that mucous thickens as you age and certain environmental factors - air-conditioning, antihistamines and inadequate water intake - can make it thicker.  The doctor assured me you can't die from this. "You might pass out, but that would immediately open the larynx....so find someplace to sit down next time, just in case." He taught me ways to relax my throat and offered ideas for preventing another attack.
     It's amazing how learning the name for what you have and realizing it's really a "thing" can drastically reduce your anxiety level. I'd been a total wreck all week, reliving the trauma over and over, being hyper-aware of my post-nasal situation at all times. It's still scary, but information is power and I now feel like I can deal.
    Here's the lesson: Don't wait until you think you're dying to see a doctor for something that's clearly abnormal. The older we get, the more dangerous denial becomes.
   Take care of yourselves, friends.  (I'm getting a massage this afternoon!)

7 comments:

AliMoonGoddess said...

Sounds terrifying!
Glad you were able to figure out what is going on & that it isn't more serious. Still hope that is your last attack.

Cathy Hamilton said...

It was, AMG, which is why it took me so long to blog about it. Thanks.

KJ said...

Good grief! Thank goodness you're okay!

Carol Starr Schneider said...

So scary.... so glad you're okay.

Nebraskim said...

I've not been here in months and found this. Holy moly that sounds scary. And sort of like something I have occ. experienced. I may need to have that looked at. My throat spasm occurs ONLY after I have eaten rice (which I eat almost daily) and only once in a blue moon....but it's like my throat completely shuts and it hurts like heck. Glad to know you're going to be OK.

Cathy Hamilton said...

Nebraskim, welcome back! You eat a lot of rice!! : ) For me, the last straw was that this episode went on for so long before the spasm subsided. Not being able to breathe for a minute or two (who knows how long it was, really?) just didn't seem normal. I'm embarrassed now that it took so long for me to investigate it with a specialist.

LuAnn Wilcox said...

Oh my goodness I could have written this post! This has happened to me many times and like you Cathy I never sought medical advice. Once the 30 seconds or minute is over I am back to being completely normal. But WOW how scary 30 seconds can be!! And like Nebraskim says it happens often when I am eating rice or some food with small pieces that I have thought that I may have inhaled and caused the problem. I will sneeze very hard 5 or 6 times before it stops. Dang, getting old isn't for sissies!! LuAnn