It’s Halloween. You’d think I’d be doing a post about why it’s my favorite holiday (which it is) or some other seasonally spirited blog. Apparently, you’d be wrong. The film seems to pop up in conversation again every year around this time; it was an iconic movie when I was growing up, and I’ve been quiet long enough. (If you take quiet to mean that I’ve ranted in person here and there but never en masse.)
The number one thing I took away from The Goonies is that Spielberg got it all wrong. That’s right, I said it. Spielberg taught us in The Goonies that asthma is just a state of mind. You go through something heroic and come out the other end stronger and viola, you’re cured. You can throw away your inhaler. I suppose that means that diabetics can throw out their insulin, people with emphysema can do without their oxygen and Artie from Glee can suddenly walk. Um, really? Let’s just get something straight, people with health issues have enough problems without folks trying to pull interventions to tell them it’s all just mind over matter. Did I have this happen to me, growing up with severe asthma? You bet. My own aunt tried to tell me that I “gave” myself asthma attacks to get out of work. Because yes, I was willing to potentially kill myself to avoid doing what other kids did without thought, though not necessarily without complaint. How on earth did she know? (For those like Sheldon from Big Bang Theory who might be sarcastically-challenged, yes, that was sarcasm or irony or anyway not to be taken at face value.) We have enough problems without getting teased or discriminated against or bullied for them. I’ve had teachers refuse to grant me passes to the nurse because they didn’t take the condition seriously, kids play keep-away with my inhaler…you name it.
So, let me debunk a few things from The Goonies. For one, they made a huge deal about the main character having asthma, yet he wasn’t using a prescription inhaler. He was using Primetene Mist, an over-the-counter, very poor substitute laden with dangerous side effects. For another, based on The Goonies, one could assume that life-changing events were also genetically altering. Yes, asthma is often genetic. Sometimes it’s environmental; certainly that’s why there are more and more cases every year. Asthma is generally either something you have from a very young age that improves as you get older or adult onset where it begins later and stays throughout the rest of your life. It can go from mild to severe and at the severe stage can and does kill. Yeah, let’s all go toss our inhalers and see how quickly we can wind up in the hospital fighting for enough oxygen to feed our cells? I was at the severe end of the spectrum. I missed a lot of school due to hospital visits; I came to know the nurses and the other inmates, those who ended up admitted seasonally just like me, very well. Of the three of us who were regularly in the hospital together, I’m the only one who made it to adulthood. You can maybe see the reason for my rant.
The medical field knows how to treat asthma a lot better now than when I was a kid. It’s no longer the stimulants and steroids dosed for adults that used to make me shake, brought on migraines and mood-swings and generally kept me feeling anything but normal. Now such meds are more localized, inhaled, controlled. However, the disease is not. Just a few weeks ago, I heard a heartbreaking story from a friend about a nine year old boy who had suffered a fatal attack. She was seeking donations to benefit his family and many authors stepped up.
Just so it’s loud and clear. Kids, asthma is nothing to joke about or take lightly. Teachers, it’s for real. Listen. Parents, friends and family of kids with childhood asthma, it gets better. It does.
I think The Goonies did everyone with asthma a grave injustice at the portrayal.