Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In the Headlines, In Real Life

My writing may be a little more erratic than normal right now, but I still try to stay on top of the headlines. It’s the journalist in me; a day doesn’t feel right if it doesn’t start with skimming the newspapers, no matter how early. Every now and then, I come across stories that directly resonate with what’s going on in my own life.

As a New Englander, I am acutely aware of rapid and drastic seasonal changes and their effects on my lungs. I suffocate in humidity, cold winter months mean lots of infections, and the gray area between summer and fall and winter and spring are predictable only in their unpredictability.

I steadfastly maintain two truths about the weather and my health: my lungs are as accurate a barometer of weather changes as an arthritic’s joints, and the reason I did relatively well when I lived in Dublin was because although the weather was consistently dismal, it was consistent. No huge swings, no choking heat, no bone-chilling lows.

Anyone else sensitive to weather fluctuations?

Now, as I wrote awhile ago when I started this blog, I do not have asthma. However, when I read this NYT article on asthma and weather changes yesterday, I nodded along in agreement. The study found it is not just environmental or allergic factors that contribute to asthma symptoms:

“The study authors noted that many patients are well aware that weather fluctuations influence their asthma symptoms, but this is the first study to document the effect. In addition, it wasn’t just cold weather that triggered asthma problems but temperature increases as well.”

It’s what I’ve always known about my some of my own lung symptoms—wheezing, congestion, etc—even if they are caused by bronchiectasis exacerbations and PCD. Right now, I’m sitting here in summer-like conditions with newscasters warning of a big chill tomorrow—but I already knew that was coming. I could feel it in my chest.

Switching gear a little bit, I was so happy to see this wonderful newspaper article about the Chronic Illness Initiative at DePaul University. I have strong feelings about chronic illness and education. From students being proactive, anticipating their needs and problems, and communicating regularly to faculty and administration being flexible and accommodating, there are many steps we can take to ensure that students with chronic illness achieve their educational goals.

Luckily, the Chronic Illness Initiative (CII) is an institutional resource that helps both students and faculty navigate these complicated issues, and enables students to complete their degrees at an appropriate pace for their medical needs.

I’ve written about the CII before, but this recent article was particularly compelling to me because I spoke at a Symposium there last spring and was fortunate enough to meet several of these students, including some interviewed in the article. I was impressed with their commitment to education, but also with their enthusiasm for the CII itself.

Even more, this fall I’m actually teaching an online class through the School for New Learning at DePaul, the same school that operates the CII. It’s a class that explores how people with chronic illness exist in an otherwise healthy world (the personal and institutional challenges), and there is definitely crossover between the goals of the CII and course content.

It’s a great article, and personally, it is neat to see when headlines and real life intersect.


britta said...

What's with having to be 24 to be taking classes thru the CII?!?! I don't like that!

Emily said...

My biggest trigger (that I can't control) is the change of barometric pressure. As a storm approaches, my headaches get much worse.

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