Why managing asthma is critical

I’m sharing this deeply personal story in the hope that it inspires you to act and save a life. To prevent a death from a condition that affects one in nine Australians.

In 2007 my son, Ryan, was enjoying a very full life. He had a beautiful girlfriend, was establishing his career, enjoyed an abundance of friends, loving family and had already traveled abroad. He had plans for his future and was deeply loved.

One Saturday, after playing soccer and spending time with his girlfriend they headed off to a party with friends. He was 19 years old, healthy and extremely social. In the early evening, he called and asked that I come and collect him from the party. He said his asthma was playing up and his medication wasn’t working. We got to the hospital around 9.30pm and at 11 pm Ryan had a serious asthma attack leading to a respiratory arrest.

I was taken to one of those special rooms in hospitals where bad news is delivered. They told me they had grave concerns for Ryan’s life and that he may not make it through the night. They handed me a phone and said: “call the family in so they can say their goodbyes”.

He was stabilised and taken to intensive care. We gathered we hoped and prayed, we cried, we tried everything to will him back. He made it through the night. This was the beginning of a roller-coaster ride of hope and despair that continued for a little over three weeks. Ryan died on  August 2007, as a result of the hypoxic brain injury he sustained at the time of the respiratory arrest.

Ryan had an asthma management plan in place. It was in his wallet but he had not been following it. I am sure at 19 he felt 10 foot tall and bullet-proof.

Like many other young men and women (and some not so young), Ryan did not take his asthma seriously enough. Just because everyone knows someone with asthma doesn’t mean it’s not a dangerous condition. Logically we know that breath is essential for life but …

Only 20 percent of people aged 15 and over have a written asthma action plan. The figures are better for kids under 15 but still, less than half (41 percent) have an asthma action plan.

The official stats show there are around 400 deaths in Australia every year from asthma but the numbers are higher. Ryan’s death was not included in the annual tally as his cause of death was due to hypoxic brain injury.

August 2017 marks 10 years since Ryan’s death – for the past 10 years, I have lent my voice to the asthma cause – telling our story, raising awareness and much-needed funds for research and education.

Why am I telling you this? In the hope that if you or someone you love has asthma that you get them to have their asthma management plan reviewed, to carry it and, most importantly, follow it. Sharing Ryan’s story is a way to build his legacy and bring something positive out of our family’s pain; out of this tragedy.

This month, I have participated in 5k A Day In May, an Asthma Foundation NSW and Queensland initiative to raise awareness of asthma and much-needed funds for asthma research.

During May people have either walked, run, or swum 5km every day, or supported someone who has.

Most importantly, you can share this story to assist in raising awareness of just how serious asthma can be if not managed well.


 This Opinion piece was first published by Fairfax Media

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