Monday, 5 August 2013

Baker's Lung Occupational Asthma: In other words My Story

I am one of six New Zealand Adults who live with Asthma.
However my story is not like the norm!

My name is Lisa Taylor.
In 2009 I moved from Taranaki to Wellington to study at Victoria University. I was nearly 21 and had decided to uproot my entire life; To live in the Capital city of New Zealand. A place where I knew no one.
After I'd met some amazing flatmates who are now my best friends, and I had been living in Wellington a few weeks. I'd learned my way around the university campus and been going to classes where I met more friends.

I decided I needed to supplement my income with a part time job. So I searched around. One day I was in the local mall and saw a bakery position. I applied and naturally got the job.

After a period of around 18 months I found I'd become quite sick, all of a sudden over a period of around 6 months,  I had developed allergies, a constant cough (worse at night) and sort of wheezy breathing. I didn't know what was wrong. I'd also moved house and I was still studying and working at the bakery. It got so bad that I was seeing my doctor nearly every second or third week (luckily for me it's free when you're a student).

It was suggested to me to try to change a few things in my diet - one doctor thought it may have been a food allergy symptom. So I went Dairy Free for over 9 months, no changes. I went semi-vegetarian as well. I eliminated 95% of the dairy I was consuming. (I allowed myself yoghurt and even that was very occasional).
I also did a food/body awareness course through the university health clinic. This taught me that I was "dieting" all wrong, eliminating the wrong things for my body and it wasn't making any effect on my health/ allergy symptoms or cold house. This lasted for months. Months and months of sneezing, coughing, allergies... This became a daily battle with anti-histamines. Yes, I was treating what I now know to be daily asthma attacks with an anti-histamine. This is because I don't have "normal" Asthma!

One day my usual doctor was away so I saw someone else. They noticed my breathing wasn't normal. It sounded wheezy and I had a cough. They listened to my chest. They asked if I had Asthma? When I said no, they looked confused. The doctor gave me some medicine and it made my chest relax and my breathing improved. I coughed less often. I continued with the medication. I was sent to get an allergy test done. (Skin prick test). The tests came back negative.
After a year of getting the allergy symptoms, the night time cough, the chesty weird wheezy breath I finally had an answer: I could have Asthma.
I was given Pulmicort to take 2 x per day (morning and night). It is a preventer. http://www.medsafe.govt.nz/consumers/cmi/p/pulmicort.pdf
I was given Ventolin to take if I had another Asthma attack. It is a bronco-dilator (it opens the airways).
http://www.medsafe.govt.nz/profs/datasheet/v/VentolinCFC-freeinh.pdf

I had a bad Asthma attack when I was running late to a doctors appointment. (Luckily I was going there and not somewhere else!) I took my Ventolin as I'd been told to do. My doctor noticed I was very, very flushed (bright red face) and asked if I always look that red? I do have a skin condition/allergy on my face which means I flush easily - so I often look red. Never *this* red though! She realised I was having an allergic reaction to the Ventolin. The Ventolin had calmed my lungs and breathing (as it is supposed to), but instead it gave me another problem: Acute Sinus Tachycardia. In other words a very, very, very fast heartbeat.
With my heart racing out of control I was put onto a bed and an ECG machine was hooked up to me. Wires crossed my chest, legs and arms. I stayed lying there for hours. Three ECG's later, I was sent to the hospital. They inserted an IV line into my arm which left me in pain and bruised. (Curse thee tiny veins).

8 hours after I'd gone into the doctors with the initial Asthma attack I was finally allowed to leave the hospital.


A few weeks later I saw a respiratory specialist at the hospital. for my follow up They ran all sorts of tests. They tested my lung function, my ability to 'blow' into a machine. They re-tested my allergies, another SPT. Again negative for any allergies. My lung function is Normal for my height/size. I don't have anything wrong with my lungs. The only problem they found was that inhaled Flour Particles cause an Asthma type attack to occur. As such I have been formally diagnosed with Baker's Lung. (A form of Occupational Asthma).

When I was at the specialist, he also changed my medication, so I would be off Ventolin and onto something else: A green inhaler called Atrovent. http://www.medsafe.govt.nz/consumers/cmi/a/AtroventInhaler.pdf
Although - they left the Ventolin with me as well - if the Atrovent fails I take the Ventolin and go to hospital regardless. I also was told to leave the Bakery job immediately. I have been away from the bakery for over 2 years now, symptom free for months.

Although it seems like I have had a lot of turmoil and uprooting, my life (and Asthma) is better controlled and well balanced now. I live in a newer apartment, I'm warm and dry. I haven't had an Asthma attack in months.
My skin condition is still a daily challenge, but some days are better than others.