Breathe In, Breathe Out

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of CF May 3, 2012

Screaming and yelling.
Endless phone conversations.
The violin in a closet.
When the Saints Go Marching In” on the piano.
The trash compactor.
Ace of Base’s “I saw the Sign.”  

What do all of these things have in common? They were all familiar sounds of my childhood. Growing up in a family of 7, not to mention almost all over-dramatic females, I grew accustomed to noisiness. When it was quiet, it was weird. It either meant we were all doing homework, or that a fight just ended and no one wanted to break the awkward silence (though that was rare!). As an adult, I gladly admit that I can be loud—you can stop nodding your head in agreement. I do what I have to do to be heard, and I thank my upbringing for that. Having been surrounded by loud noises and voices for all of my life, I guess it just became a part of me, and little did I know this would prepare me for my life with Eamonn.

Now, my home is not full of so many voices, just Eamonn’s and mine, but that does not mean it is not full of many sounds and noises. Living with Eamonn I have gotten accustomed to new sounds—ones that make my skin crawl, ones that calm my nerves, and ones that wake me up during my sleep. These are some of the sounds of Cystic Fibrosis.

The first sound that comes to mind is when Eamonn is doing his physical therapy, twice a day. To describe the sound of the machine will probably do it injustice, but I will try. Imagine what a helicopter would sound like wrapped in a blanket–and it’s sitting on your couch. That is a sound that I fall asleep to at night and that I wake up to in the morning. Not to mention, Eamonn’s nighttime therapy is a good time for us to relax together and catch up on some of our TV shows, which means that the volume is turned to its maximum, disturbing our neighbor. Yes, he has knocked on our door a few times asking us to turn down the volume because he is trying to sleep. The loudness of the machine has also forced me to turn up my volume—it seems that I always have the most important topics to discuss with Eamonn just in time for the start of his therapy. In our old apartment, so as not to bother our random roommates, Eamonn had to do his jack-hammer-sounding therapy in our bedroom. Nowadays, in our current apartment, we are lucky to have a separate space for Eamonn’s loud routines, making it easier for me to, say, fall asleep.

As I mentioned in my very first post, another sound that I have grown fond of is Eamonn’s oxygen concentrator. Quite opposite from that of the therapy machine, this machine has a more calming, soft hissing sound that has actually become a sound of comfort to me. His concentrator is on for almost all of the time that he is home, so it has become the “norm” for us. When I don’t hear this noise the apartment feels strange and lonely.

Imagine waking up one morning, in a foggy, sleepy state-of-mind, to the sound of someone rummaging through your drawers, finding a bag of chips, and tearing them open. I wake up to these sounds most weekday mornings. Eamonn wakes up very early to start his therapy and this means grabbing all of his drugs. His drugs, which come wrapped in foil pouches, sound very hard to tear open. They are kept in our bedroom. Where I sleep.

An obvious part of Eamonn’s CF is his continuous cough. I consider this, often times, to have its perks. For example, when the windows are open in our apartment the sound of his cough echoes through our narrow street so I know when he is home. This is especially convenient when Eamonn is returning from the grocery store because it allows me to meet him downstairs to help him carry the bags. At the expense of sounding crass, I often times, however, can get severely frustrated at his coughing sounds. Most notably when he is getting into bed, cuddling with me while I am usually already sound asleep, and I am awoken by a loud throat clear directly in my ear. And Eamonn’s throat clears are not quiet—they sound like he is trying to push a kiwi out of his lungs. In general Eamonn’s coughing has become another background noise (though I do notice when he is getting sick and coughing more). Even though the coughs tend to interrupt us when we talk, I hardly notice them because they’re just a part of the conversation.

The sounds of CF are a part of my life now, making it hard to imagine my home without them. Even as I sit here, trying to concentrate and focus, I listen to the oxygen concentrator and it brings me peace of mind—it reminds me that Eamonn is only a few steps away, clanging the pots and listening to music, while making me dinner.

Be on the look out for a special post net time!