I've recently visited an allergy/asthma doc, who said that when you can't breathe like that it's due to a spasm in your vocal chords. That makes perfect sense in your case, since you've had vocal hoarseness symptoms after the attack.
He gave me a paper and asked me to practice what he calls "Relaxed Throat Breathing". Here's the procedure. He said the procedure should be practiced when there is no attack (it's called a "Paradoxical Vocal Fold Motion (Vocal Cord Dysfunction)")
RELAXED THROAT BREATHING EXERCISES
1. Sip water before and after doing these exercises.
A. Shoulders Down
This is the cue for you to relax
B. Hand on abdomen
This helps you focus on easy abdominal breath support--the best and most relaxed way to breathe.
C. Gentle, quick "sip" of air IN (sip, sip, sip)
Breathe through your mouth
about 1 second inhale each sip
D. Gentle blow OUT (blow, blow, blow)
Through slightly tight lips
about 2-3 seconds for each blow out
3. Practice 5 reps, 20 times per day when you are NOT having symptoms.
4. Make it automatic, and use it at the first sense of throat tightness to prevent or suppress the VDC. You may start with the inhale or the exhale.
5. Use it to "pre-treat" yourself before known triggers for VCD. (This would be difficult in your case, since it wakes you up...you could practice it, though, so you're ready when it happens)
6. This technique can also be a "stress buster" tool to use in other situations.
Actually, Protonix is also a proton pump inhibitor that is now in generic form, but not over the counter. Ritchg may mean OTC meds. There are acid pumps in your body that produce acid and send it to your stomach. The medication stops the pumps from producing the acid. It is much more effective than Zantac-type medications, although, as I said, with extreme reflux problems, both work well together.
I hope you will be able to visit a doctor soon. Until then, if you can get your bed elevated, it could make a real difference. Also, be sure to practice the breathing exercises, so if you get yourself into that situation, you can know how to breathe effectively without panic.
Glad you're with us, Denise. We'll do what we can to support you through, but as Kitt always says, we're not doctors, and your best course of action is to get to one as soon as you can to be evaluated and treated. Until then, you can try the things suggested here. Many have gone through similar experiences, so what we can offer is our own experiences. We can't diagnose, or provide you with medical advice...just our own personal knowledge, gained from our own struggles with GERD.
Good luck, and practice that breathing!