Martin Scorsese: I was near death – stars asthma-induced health problems
Dr Ellie says to avoid using brown bags for asthma attacks
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Revealing that he was “absolutely shocked” by the news of Loitta’s “sudden and unexpected” death, Scorsese joined thousands of fans in remembering the talented director who died in his sleep. For Scorsese the death of his close friend may have triggered memories of his own health battle which saw him close to losing his life. The event in question occurred in 1978 when years of drug abuse and a childhood illness finally caught up with the director and he collapsed.
“[I was] out of time and out of place and also in turmoil in my own life and embracing the other world, so to speak, with a kind of attraction to the dangerous side of existence,” the director recalled looking back on the ordeal.
“Then on Labor Day weekend, I found myself in a hospital, surprised that I was near death.”
Only age 35 at the time, the director went on to explain that a number of things had happened in his body that contributed to his hospitalisation – not all drug-induced.
“Misuse of normal medications in combinations [to which] my body reacted in strange ways. I was down to about 109 pounds,” he added.
“It wasn’t only drug-induced — asthma had a lot to do with it.
“I was kept in a hospital for 10 days and nights, and they took care of me, these doctors, and I became aware of not wanting to die and not wasting [my life].”
Remarkably, this is not the only time Scorsese’s condition has caused severe problems during his life and career. In a past interview he spoke about being “struck down” by an asthma attack back in 1974, which left him bed bound.
And more recently with the looming effects of COVID-19, The Wolf of Wall Street star reported feeling a great sense of anxiety about catching the virus.
Revealing that “a new form of anxiety” developed as the prospect of him and his wife having to quarantine became a reality, the star’s thoughts turned to the possibility of his own mortality if he were to catch Covid.
The star reportedly said: “The anxiety deepened, and with it the realisation that I might not get out of this alive. I’ve had asthma throughout my life, and this is a virus that seems to attack the lungs more commonly than any other part of the body.
“I came to realise that I could very well be taking my last breath in this room in my home, which had been a refuge and which now became a kind of fortress, and was starting to feel like my prison.
“Here we were, suddenly living with the realisation that the very air around us, the air that sustains us, could kill us.”
Asthma is a common lung condition that affects around 5.4 million people in the UK, according to leading charity Asthma + Lung UK. The condition causes sensitive and inflamed airways and as a result individuals often suffer from wheezing, feeling breathless and having a tight chest.
Asthma can be triggered by numerous factors which can range from colds and viruses, pets, pollen, pollution and even stress, so when around these triggers, symptoms can become more severe.
Someone with severe asthma (which affects around five percent of all people with asthma) can have symptoms most of the time and find them very hard to control. But for every type of asthma, there is a risk of an asthma attack.
The most common signs that you may be having an asthma attack include:
- Your symptoms are getting worse (cough, breathlessness, wheezing or tight chest)
- Your reliever inhaler (usually blue) is not helping
- You’re too breathless to speak, eat or sleep
- Your breathing is getting faster and it feels like you cannot catch your breath
- Your peak flow score is lower than normal
- Children may also complain of a tummy or chest ache.
Having frequent asthma attacks can make an individual’s asthma worse over time as attacks cause scarring in the airways, gradually making them narrower. As a result, if your airways are scarred and narrow, you’re more likely to have worse symptoms more often.
However, the charity goes on to explain that the best way to stop asthma getting worse is to stick to a “good routine” of taking preventative medicines such as preventer and reliever inhalers.
Preventer inhalers aim to prevent swelling and inflammation in the airways. Whereas reliever inhalers are used to control specific symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and breathlessness.
For those who find it hard to stick to a treatment plan, “add-on treatments” may be used. These extra treatments include steroid tablets, preventer tablets such as Montelukast and a long-acting bronchodilator.
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