I could have died today. And no, I’m not exaggerating. Not at all.
On the way out to the pub, I grabbed a new batch of inhalers – Clenil Modulite, Serevent, and Atrovent – I have COPD.
At 13.00 my alarm to take my inhalers went off (if you take your meds by the clock – instead of just when you remember them – they’re far more effective).
I take my Atrovent inhaler last and, because its poor design means you can’t draw air through it, I tend to squirt it into my mouth as I inhale sharply (at home I use a spacer device). I forgot that, though, and sucked at it – and inhaled a foreign body. And immediately began to choke.
I was coughing violently and uncontrollably, and I didn’t dare breathe in, for fear I’d draw whatever it was deeper into my airway.
After what seemed like an eternity, I finally expelled it, seconds before, it felt, I would have passed out. And if I had passed out, I’d have reflexively inhaled, and drawn the object deeper into my lungs, and I’d be in hospital, not at home typing this.
When I’d recovered enough to look at what I’d got, it turned out to be a small piece of foam rubber, about a ¼ of an inch across, plus a sliver of cardboard. The inhaler was fresh from its box, and I make a point of keeping the pocket in which I carry my inhalers scrupulously clean**, so there is only one possible conclusion.
That conclusion is that the inhaler was contaminated at the factory. And believe me, if I could prove that, this would be a solicitor’s letter to Boehringer Ingelheim (Atrovent’s makers), not a pissed-off blog post.
With hind-sight (it’s a wonderful thing), I should have kept the foreign body and sent to it to Boehringer Ingleheim for them to locate the glitch in their system (assuming they’re not employing a psycho who’s randomly putting crap in inhalers, which is by no means impossible).
So, if you use an Atrovent inhaler, always make a point, when it’s fresh out of the box, of pulling out the canister and ensuring there’s nothing lurking in the mouthpiece than shouldn’t be. Because if it can happen to me, it can happen to you.
In fact, do ensure you keep all your inhalers clean at all times.
**That’s because one day, having slogged to the top of the steps at the Sacré-Cœur basilica, in Paris, a suck on my Ventolin inhaler got me a ball of pocket fluff, since when I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure it didn’t happen again.