Today I read the very sad story of the death of 10 year old Olivia Dennis from asthma. She’d been prescribed inhalers which she’d been using with increasing frequency yet she’d never had a diagnosis of asthma. Her parents were not really aware of the dangers and hadn’t realised the importance of her increased inhaler use.
Reading about her death has raised some uncomfortable feelings. The death of a 10 year old girl is a tragedy and I can’t begin to imagine how the parents are coping – my heart goes out to them. But my discomfort is more personal. My daughter has asthma. She was diagnosed at 6 months, but then seemed to ‘outgrow’ it by the age of three. When she was little I was utterly regimented about her asthma routine. Sometime we had to pin her down to get the mask on her; but she coughed all night and we were determined to get it under control. Then the diagnosis of reflux and allergies came, and the coughing stopped once we adjusted her diet so she came off all the inhalers and was fine.
Recently, however, it’s flared up again and she’s back on inhalers. Here’s the uncomfortable part – I’ve realised that I’ve not taken this a seriously as I should have. Sure…I ask her if she’s taken her inhaler, and ask how her chest is. But I do this sporadically, rather than methodically. I’m so busy fussing about her food and environmental allergies that the condition that can be life threatening has taken a back seat somehow.
I’m genuinely horrified by this – having logged onto the Asthma UK site (http://www.asthma.org.uk/) I can see all of the things we should have been doing and thinking about. A written asthma plan for a start! Molly has never had a serious attack, never been hospitalised, so somehow I’ve always thought of it as mild and therefore not life threatening. She has been in hospital because of her reflux so that’s always seemed the serious issue. Keeping her weight up, stopping the chronic vomiting, and figuring out how to cook for her always took priority. But reading about Olivia’s death has brought home a really serious message – the first serious attack can be the one that kills. Dear God…suddenly I’m terrified. Wondering if the days where she’s pale are in fact days when her asthma is acting up and we just don’t realise that. Right now I’m writing this article as the best way to stop myself from running to school to check on her.
I’ve been trawling through the Asthma UK site and this section really hit home:
In fact in recent years the number of people with asthma has risen. 1 in 11 people in the UK has asthma, including 1.1 million children, and their chance of good outcomes have plateaued and on some measures declined. Tragically, still the majority of deaths from asthma are entirely preventable. That’s why our focus in our 2014-17 strategy is to reduce the risk of life threatening asthma attacks; key to this will be ending the complacency about asthma.
And there it is…that terrible word that describes my recent attitude to Molly’s asthma – complacency. Sure…I took her to the GP’s. And yes, I took her back with the blue inhaler didn’t seem to work and we got a brown one. Things improved so I stopped worrying. In the back of my mind I knew that we needed to pop back to the GP to discuss how things where but I hadn’t made the appointment. I have today.
From now on every day I will check how her chest is, I know the coughing has stopped but maybe the tightness is there and I don’t know about it. It shouldn’t be up to a 10 year old to tell me – I need to be more proactive and encourage these conversations, just like I do with her reflux and allergies.
But today…right now…I did something quite important. I donated to Asthma UK to help with their work and research. Let’s make World Asthma Day a great fund raising day – here’s the link:
Today is the day I promise never to be complacent about Asthma again. Cross my heart.