Ray: A Bout with Asthma


Ray G. has long been a man at crossblades.


A competitive fencer and instructor in foil, saber and epee for over 30 years, Ray often found himself suiting up against more than one opponent on the fencing strip: asthma.

“It’s been a problem for me ever since I can remember. I was first diagnosed when I was an infant and began allergy shots at age seven. When I had an attack, it meant rushing off to the nearest ER for a shot of adrenaline. I started using maintenance medications in my teen years,” Ray said.

Participating in a sport that burns calories at a higher rate than pro football, Ray noted there were times when catching his breath was problematic.

“At my age (51), I don’t compete as often as I used to, but I do take part in some tournaments. And I’m always teaching fencing; that’s my job, as head coach for the Chesapeake Fencing Club in Baltimore,” Ray said.

He admits that, in the fall of 2012, his asthma took a turn for the worse.

“I was also dealing with some gastrointestinal and reflux issues and was due for an endoscopy. I really wanted to get my asthma addressed before the procedure. I had a friend, a fellow fencer, who recommended Dr. Polito at Mercy. We called that evening and Dr. Polito agreed to see me the next day,” Ray said.

A Breath of Fresh Air

According to Dr. Albert Polito, Director of The Lung Center at Mercy, asthma in adults like Ray typically manifests itself with coughing (particularly at night), wheezing, shortness of breath and a feeling of “pain and heaviness” in the chest.

Other symptoms that are commonly associated with adult asthma patients like Ray include feeling very tired or weak while exercising, as well as moody and grouchy.

Given what Ray does for a living, a teacher of a very physical sport, asthma is particularly challenging.

Ray would begin a 4-month course of anti-inflammatory medication to reduce mucus and control the swelling in his airways.

“I have a wife and two children, and like many people nowadays, the cost of health care is very expensive. But I was pleased to work with Dr. Polito and his staff to help me get the treatment I need at a price I can afford,” he said.

A year later, Ray is fencing and teaching and preparing for his club’s annual “all night” fundraiser, the FENCEATHON.

“Fencers throughout the state gather and we fence all night long. Believe me, being able to breathe when you’re fencing at 3 o’clock in the morning…well, it’s a beautiful thing!”

The Lung Center at Mercy offers highly-skilled physician expertise for the treatment of a broad spectrum of pulmonary disorders, including COPD, lung cancer and sleep disorders.