My name is Peter Montreuil …

…and I am in a relationship with the lovely Elizabeth Stevenson and we are living together in London. I am 6 feet, 2 inches tall.

While nothing else has changed, I used to be “10 feet tall and bulletproof”, as Travis Tritt sings.

When did things change? On the morning of Tuesday, September 29th, 2020.

Why and how did they change? Let me tell you, in the form of this cautionary tale.

Many years ago I was diagnosed with asthma. As part of my treatment, I was prescribed a couple of inhalers to use. I was given thorough directions not only on the use of these devices, but also on other medications as well as dietary and lifestyle advice.

It took me a while to get used to carrying the inhalers around, they are small but bulky and have push button activators which can be triggered by inadvertent contact such as is generated in the normal course of events. As each inhaler has a measured number of doses, much of your medicine can wind up being wasted, costing you not only healthwise a) but financially as well.

There could also be a humourous “edge” to possessing inhalers. I remember being invited to a party by a friend of mine. I got there and was introduced to a woman who was around my age. ( As an aside, I was single at the time.) The only other people at the “party” were my friend and his girlfriend. I introduced myself to the woman and sat down on the couch beside her.  Reaching into my pocket, I took my inhaler out and placed it on the coffee table. She jumped up and barked at my friend that she was not going out with a “crackhead ” b), before storming out of the apartment in a huff.

I broke the shocked silence that followed the slamming of the door by quietly saying that any attempt at explaining this situation on my friend’s part would be superfluous. The three of us spent a subdued couple of hours drinking beer and watching a movie.

For many years I continued to follow my health regimen, seeing my doctor on a regular basis. My prescriptions were kept up to date and I took good care of myself.

But I got careless, Loyal Reader.

I don’t know if it was familiarity breeding contempt or just weariness with the whole thing, but I began to pay less attention to staying current with my medications. After all, I felt fine. Or maybe I just thought I felt fine.

Sure, I had some raspy breathing and mild congestion, but I was getting older after all.

The last few years of my life have been a rollercoaster of emotions and stresses, culminating with a move to London with my beautiful Betty, the woman who has saved my lovelife.

Early Tuesday morning, she saved my life.

Monday we had driven to Toronto to clean up our old apartment. We weren’t able to finish, so stayed overnight at a hotel. It was quite an experience finding the hotel, but we finally got settled in.

We had not planned to stay overnight, so neither of us had any of our medications. Naturally, I thought that we were clever, that one night without medicine wouldn’t make any difference. Textbook case of “hubris ” in action.

We went to bed and I slept for about an hour or so. A fit of coughing woke me up. Betty was concerned, but I said that I was fine and would go back to sleep.

Except I couldn’t get back to sleep. My breathing was ragged and shallow and I began to gasp. I sat up in bed, I sat on the side of the bed, I lay down and tried to get back to sleep. I was afraid to go back to sleep, however. I was afraid that I would go to sleep and not wake up.

I got up and sat in a chair. Betty wanted to call 911. At first I refused, telling her that I would be fine. Then I realized that I was being selfish, putting my ego ahead of the needs of the woman I love, who deserved me by her side, not in a hospital bed….or worse.

Anyone who makes a disparaging remark about Ontario health care, especially paramedics, in my presence, is going to get punched in the nose. Tyler and Casey, the crew who took me to the hospital, were magnificent! They came into the hotel room, allayed Betty’s fears and strapped me onto the gurney.

They administered some medication to me in the ambulance and were very supportive and respectful to me during the ride. I remarked that I was feeling better. Tyler, who was riding with me, agreed and said that he had heard my breathing 20 feet away, through the door.

We got to the hospital and I had a good talk with Casey, who listened patiently as I babbled on about the beautiful Elizabeth, who was waiting for me in our room.

As soon as I got the chance, I phoned Betty and brought her up to date. She was tearful, fearful and very concerned. I told her that she needed some sleep, that I missed her and that I would keep her advised, before ringing off.

Tests of my blood and urine, monitoring my vitals and a xray were all performed and interpreted for me in plain, respectful language. The fact that my particular case was complicated by change of address and lack of current family doctor made absolutely no difference in either the speed or the thoroughness of my care.

I was given several separate inhalers during my stay in the emergency department and advised by the staff that they, ( the inhalers) were mine to keep, as they can only be used for one patient. The doctor gave me prescriptions for antibiotics and steroids, as well as another, more effective inhaler. They even gave me a bag in which to take them home.

As I returned to the hotel after 4 hours at the hospital, I was going to surprise Betty. But then I thought again. I was, once again, selfishly putting my ego ahead of my partner. So I called her. Her gratitude and happiness came through the ether and made me not only feel ashamed of my initial thought, but even and ever more in love with her.

Our exhausted reunion was subdued but joyous, and we went back to sleep for a few more hours in celebration of our good fortune.

We chattered away over breakfast, it was obvious that she was overjoyed at the outcome of the evening, and we discussed concrete measures that we would take to ensure that we were never caught by surprise without our separate medications.

We were back home by 3:30 that afternoon. CoCo was very happy to see us, apparently she forgave us for our unexpected absence. Or maybe she knew, via some inscrutable feline instinct.

I showed Betty my old inhalers and was frankly embarrassed. They had expired and in fact the labels were illegible. I disposed of them and took my new prescriptions to the local pharmacy to be filled.

You may wonder how I reacted to the outcome of that turbulent morning.

I was pleased, pleased to be reunited with my wonderful future, pleased to be breathing freely, pleased to be alive!

So I have begun a course of treatment, antibiotics and steroids, on top of my new inhalers. Antibiotics lose much of their effectiveness if you consume alcohol while you take them. I promised Betty that not only would I quit drinking while taking these drugs, I would abstain for the entire month of October. She quietly replied simply “I appreciate that. ” c)

So in spite of my arrogance, asthma and allergies, I “dodged a bullet “. I feel even more upbeat and positive, extremely happy with my good fortune and my decisions, which have been surprisingly good lately.

I hear you asking about how much this night of frivolity cost me? Well, I will get an ambulance bill for about $45.00. The cab ride back to the hotel was another $22.00. I tipped the driver rather generously, as one is prone to when their life has been saved.

I picked up 3 prescriptions today. Over the counter, I would pay $153.99. Thanks to the Ontario Drug Benefit Plan and the Public Service Health Plan, I paid $28.93. d). Maybe I will save a punch in the nose for the next fool who advocates cuts to taxes, which will, of course impact on our truly world class healthcare system.

So this lengthy effort comes to an end, but not before I leave you with this message. Take care of yourself. Keep your prescriptions up to date and in good supply. Last Tuesday morning I was literally fighting for my life, trying to breathe. Struggling for breath was one of the most horrible things I have ever experienced, and the fact that this was occurring in front of Betty, placing incredible emotional pressure on her only made things worse.  But she was there, and she persevered. We persevered. We will prevail.

See you soon

  1. a) If a number of “doses” wind up being wasted, it is possible to run out of this precious mist at a very inopportune time, such as midnight. This is a very scary experience. Ask me how I know about the terror of an uncontrolled asthma attack. In fact, I should have known better.
  2. b) That comment still makes me laugh.
  3. c) The sincerity of her reaction has convinced me to make even greater changes in that particular part of my life. I had already cut back on my drinking after meeting Betty, and she certainly warrants greater effort in that regard.
  4. d) One of these prescriptions alone would cost $28.33 over the counter.

2 Responses to “My name is Peter Montreuil …”

  1. Sherry Van Luven Amaral Says:

    So happy you are ok!! I know how scary asthma is! M y youngest daughter has it and we almost lost her a few times when she was young! It was the scariest thing I ever went through!! Her asthma always gets worse this time of year. She is 30 years old now and I still get worried this time of year! S o Peter please remember this time of year from now on is a very bad time of year for asthmatics. My mom was also an asthmatic and was always bad at this time too!

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