My Lab Makes Me Sick

I was fascinated to read the story of an organic chemist, LuAnne McNulty, who developed asthma that was triggered by the very lab in which she worked.

It’s only been a decade, but it feels more like a lifetime since all this started. At first, I just noticed that I would get these wicked coughing fits whenever I visited the walk-in coolers at work and it would get harder and harder to breath. I thought it was the cold air and, certainly, cold air isn’t exactly kind to me (although why I thought that was normal is another question entirely). It wasn’t until I went for allergy testing that I remembered exactly what I was doing in that job. I worked in a forest pathology lab, and I was carrying samples of mold back and forth. Many of the strains I worked with turned out to be strains I’m pretty allergic to. Did I mention that I can be clueless?

Throughout the course of the following years, I switched specializations a few times – each time working with a variety plants, critters and chemicals that triggered difficulty breathing. I got sicker and sicker, and eventually I gave up and found something else to do.

I whine about that sometimes, and my friend always helpfully reminds me that, you know, I did neglect my health for over a decade. What did I expect? It stings, sometimes, to think of how differently things could have gone had I made different choices. Either way, though, what’s done is done, and I am starting to regain control of my life.

Tomorrow, I’m heading to Toronto for a week of fun with an old friend. It’s been years since I’ve been down that way, and the last time I did I was pretty unwell.

A lots changed since then, and I’m pretty excited!

I am under no illusions that life will ever be the way it was when I was younger. There can’t always be accommodations for our struggles. Still,  I feel better these days than I have felt in a long time and there’s a lot that you can accomplish with a little creativity. I’m starting to hope that maybe I can own this asthma thing, instead of it being the other way around.


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