The Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Partnership

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Back on 10th December the news hit the headlines that Asthma UK  are to merge with the British Lung Foundation (BLF). It was met online with mixed reviews particularly by fellow asthmatics. I think there was a concern that asthma as a condition might get lost because the BLF covers such a wide range of conditions but this is where the partnership comes in. Asthma UK will still be just that for asthma and the BLF will still very much focus on its conditions. The partnership will mean that some costs can be merged and each charity can release that money approx. £2million each year to go where it matters most- to help us who have lung conditions.

I was a member of Asthma UK in its previous incarnation “The National Asthma Campaign” and was part of the “Junior Asthma Club” (JAC). I remember getting the news that The National Asthma Campaign was to change to Asthma UK and wondering what it would be like. Would the children and young person’s part of AUK be as good as the JAC (bearing in mind to me the perk of the JAC was the balloon, pencil and newsletter you got quarterly as this was pre social media)? Kick Asthma was just as good- if not better, there was a message board and kick asthma residential camps!! When I first heard of the planned partnership I did wonder what this would be mean but have been reassured that it is going to be a good step.

From what I have read so far the following will remain: the nurse helpline, the research programs and the website. The nurse helpline and Whats App service is a huge asset to Asthma UK that really sets them apart from others. I have used the helpline and found the nurses so helpful and reassuring. At first I thought maybe my reason for phoning was stupid but was put at ease and was glad I called and spoke to someone instead of googling!! Things like this will remain.

What benefits other than releasing money will the partnership bring? Due to soaring costs and being a relatively small charity Asthma UK could not sustain running their main office and then satellite offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as funding the research and support for those with or affected by asthma. It was a hard time hearing that the satellite offices were to close but this new partnership offers the opportunity for bases to be built in Scotland and Wales again through infrastructure already established by the BLF.

It is a really exciting time and I am really pleased to be involved in so many projects with AUK and separately with the BLF too (I joined their patient involvement group quite a while back). Everyone knows someone who has asthma or lung disease yet both charities are chronically under funded. If only we had the same money that Cancer Research UK or the British Heart Foundation has then we might be able to make headway in conquering lung disease but this partnership is a step forward to save some more money that can go back into helping us.

What is going to happen next?? We will need to watch this space but in the mean time I need to prepare and think about what I am going to do for my first week of The Blow It Away Challenges.

 

 

To my new family and my tribe #HealtheVoices19

Wow where do I start. It takes a lot for me to be left speechless but I am unable to put into words the emotion and feelings from this past weekend. It sounds a bit cringe to say but it has been truly life changing.

I have made so many new friends who I know will be friends for life.

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To all my new friends from HealtheVoices you all have no idea how much I have appreciated this weekend. The main reason for why it was such a big deal was in November I had a near fatal asthma attack. What was different about this asthma attack was that the asthma consultants were basically there right from the start of the attack. Then the ICU consultant told me if we didn’t turn the cornerstone we would be running out of options and I really needed to turn the corner ASAP. Thankfully I did turn the corner but the attack left me traumatised and I still am living in fear from it. I fear I may not be able to fight the next attack, I fear who will be with me if I have another attack and will they be able to cope. I was also terrified that I would not manage the flight. I know my family were really worried about me coming over on my own but I had to do it for me. I needed to be able to prove to myself I can do it.

Before I came out to Dallas I didnt know what I was going to do moving forward.

Asthma has cost me so much in life and it still does but being able to be among people who know what that fear is like and you don’t just pity each other or say “yeah I know what it is like” you answer it with comments about how you over came adversity and give ideas on how I might do the same. I also had to give up my job which I loved but despite this doors have opened and I will be moving on to great things and with the inspiration and motivation I have taken in from this weekend I will not be looking back.

The other great thing is that I know there is life beyond being ill and you can use your condition to better yourself and to better others as well. I may not be able to control my asthma and control my health but I can control what I do with it and use it to help make changes for others.

I feel so included in a very special group of people.

You guys are all my family and my tribe

x

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Harsh realities hitting hard.

I was reading another blog of someone I know who also suffers from Brittle Asthma which has been so badly controlled by Drs that she has a lot of lung damage as a result requiring oxygen 24/7 now. I found myself in tears reading the posts something which I don’t often find. Its not that I am not emotional but I try and stay detached when reading posts by others who have conditions effecting their lungs. It is purely selfish I do this because I then dwell on my own situation and can relate that to these other people who write about living with Brittle Asthma.

Not only is it a constant battle everyday with our lungs to stay healthy, take medications and just get through the day but there is the other fight. The fight to get the correct medical treatment when it is needed. The fight to get Drs to listen to us and for them to understand how far from normal activity you are. There is not your own personal fight but the bigger fight. The fight to change perception of asthma and how serious it can be.

Frontline staff still don’t understand that asthma they think you can wait before getting treatment. I never forget being taken into hospital laughing with the paramedics because I was not that bad but was bad enough to need hospital. I was left until it was my turn and because no one checked on me despite the paramedics telling the staff I had brittle asthma I was left. When I was seen I was in bad shape and taken into resus and on to high dependancy all this because no one took asthma seriously. A quick once over and a few nebs put on me which I could of done myself and I would have been out of there in under the target time but instead they left it. In the end, they needed more staff to look after me, more drs needed, more nurses, more medications, scans, a critical care bed which cost the NHS a huge amount of money which could have been solved by dealing with the asthma promptly or at least when I told them I was getting worse and needed a nebuliser.

I know people reading this will think that the unit was probably very busy and it couldn’t be helped. I would have understood that but when you ask a passing nurse for a nebuliser because you not feel that great and are told to wait my turn as they need to put someone on a bed pan first who needed it. I am sure the person needed the toilet but what is worse someone having to wait to use the toilet or someone having to wait for what is their life saving treatment. To me it is a no brainer. As a result I will never go actually un well to that unit again.

When you are told to wait when you are fighting for breath is the scariest thing. You don’t know how long the wait is. You sit puffing on your inhaler hoping that eventually after the 20 or so puffs you have had you might just get a little bit of relief but you don’t get any relief until it is past the point of no return and you need proper help in the form of IV and nebuliser drugs.

It is widely known among people with asthma that asthma is not taken seriously enough. But how can we make all those non asthmatics out there realise this to. People die from asthma everyday. I don’t want to be one of those that die but fear it is a very real possibility if front line staff do not change their attitude about asthma. I do a lot of work with Asthma UK and the centre for Applied Research but sometimes I do wonder what it is all for. Will change ever be made. Will we manage to get the word across that asthma won’t go away with a puff of a blue inhaler, there needs to be proper protocols and action plans in place not only for patients but for staff to.

I am terrified of thought of having an asthma attack that might kill me. Not so much about the fear of dying but the fear for my family. I have seen how broken my grandparents were when they had to bury their youngest son, my uncle who suffered a traumatic head injury. No parent needs to do that. This is my fear. My fear of what it will do to them. For me I won’t know about it. I am sure it will be scary but no scarier than any other attack as during every attack there comes a point when you are just too exhausted to keep fighting to breath but somehow you find that extra bit of strength to keep squeezing the air and out those tiny bronchi to keep you alive.

I can only do what I do to try and spread the word about how serious asthma is and how it can kill. I have a bigger platform than most to express how bad asthma is, share my story about living with asthma and where the short comings in asthma treatment are. I have my blog which some people read, I volunteer with Asthma UK but the biggest one is that I am involved with the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research where some of the greatest asthma researchers around are trying to make life better for us! For as long as I can I will keep doing what I am doing. Know one knows what the future holds for anyone. I take each day as it comes just now as each one if very different and never know what I am going to wake up to!

Spread the word on how serious asthma is and highlight the importance on the need for change.

Friends lost and why change is needed so desperately

It is this time of year where we are so grateful for our families and friends. We can celebrate Christmas and see in the New Year surrounded by those we love and cherish. That being said it is also a time for many families to remember those who are not with them. Those who have been taken too soon or those who have passed away due to old age.

I come from a very big extended family and have so many surrounding me but I still do not forget those who are missing. My uncle who sadly died far too young in a tragic accident and other members of the family gone to.

It is not only family that I think about but those friends I have made over the years that have lost their battle. That battle with asthma which kills roughly 3 people every day. To me people don’t die from asthma, they are killed by asthma. Why do I think like this?? because no-one should suffer such a bad attack or have their asthma so poorly managed that their life is cut short and taken because of an asthma attack and often the consequences there of.

When I spoke in Oxford at the first scientific meeting of AUKCAR in the PPI session, I closed rather emotionally saying that the centre would succeed in my eyes if after its first 5 years the number of people I personally knew who had died of asthma remained at 6. I am 28 (soon to be 29) and know 6 people who have died as a result of an asthma attack or the consequences of a poorly managed asthma attack. These 6 people all had asthma as a cause of death on their death certificate. This should never have been the case. Those 6 should still be living their life. Enjoying their family and friends as I am able to do. This is why I fight and volunteer for the Asthma UK Centre of Applied Research and Asthma UK to make sure everyone understands that asthma is so often mismanaged and poorly understood resulting in far too many hospital admissions and deaths.

My first experience of someone dying from Asthma was 8 years ago and it sticks so vividly in my head the day I heard the news. When I was living in Winchester I was often a patient on Shawford Ward at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital. This was where I first met Jeanette and her family. Her family adopted me so too speak as my family were up in Scotland and not able to come and see me very often. Me and Jeanette spent about 3 weeks in the same bay in the ward and I got to know her very well. We became firm friends. She was much older than me. She had her own kids and grand children but we got on so well. She made that hospital stay so much easier. I was in hospital that admission for 13 weeks. Even once she was discharged her husband would drive her in to see me every week. Once I was discharged I would often go round to her house and watch DVD’s and have afternoon tea. Her husband was the most amazing baker. (He would bring his cakes into hospital for me!!). Jeanette’e health slowly declined as her asthma became harder to control and more infections caused lung damage. I moved back to Edinburgh but when down visiting friends I would always arrange to see Jeanette and her family. The last time I saw Jeanette I was so shocked. She was in hospital- on Shawford Ward and very poorly. Her breathing was so bad and they just could not get it under control. Due to such a long period of poorly controlled asthma her heart struggled and eventually her body could not cope and she salt died. They did so much for me and it was such a pleasure to be able to repay those visits with my own visits.

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(The photo above was taken during that long 13 week admission. My friends on the rugby team were about to leave university. When joining the rugby we had initiations to the team. The members of the team not leaving decided to do initiations to life for the leavers. So as part of it the nurses allowed them to come in and visit me on the ward in fancy dress to cheer me up!!!)

The day I found out Jeanette died I was up in Edinburgh. I didnt tell anybody at first. I dent know how to. I almost couldn’t believe that she had died and it was because of asthma. Part of me was scared because I have asthma, I have poorly controlled asthma. I was asking myself could this be me, could I die? I could not make sense of what had happened. I was meant to be caddying for my step mum in a golf competition. I couldn’t focus. I forgot my golf shoes and had to buy new ones. I dealt with it the only way I knew how. I just didnt talk. When I don’t talk my step mum talks more and asks questions about why I am not talking- knowing something is wrong. I ended up snapping at her over something so small and insignificant I can’t remember what it was but i just came out with “Jeanette died and I don’t want to talk about it”. I don’t think I ever actually have spoken about it or how I felt. This is probably the most I have ever opened up about my first experience of someone I know dying from asthma.

I draw comfort in knowing that Jeanette will have died with those around her who loved her but also in a hospital ward which to this day I can not praise highly enough. Shawford Ward in Royal Hampshire County Hospital is one of the best respiratory wards I have ever been in. The staff are so caring and highly skilled. Even when they are stressed and run off their feet they make time for you as a patient. I remember countless nights struggling to breath and nurses would sit with me to make sure I was ok. The care assistants would come and chat and help me learn how to do my sub cut infusions myself. When I was getting better and on that long road of recovery to discharge they would get me helping them out doing the menus and the teas as this was the time many patients had visitors but being at university my friends would come in the day but my family were so far away the nights were hard. I don’t think I have ever really thanked them in person for all the did for me. So knowing that Jeanette was being looked after by them brings comfort. Rest in peace Jeanette.

There are 5 others along with Jeanette. They did not impact on me quite as profoundly as Jeanette’s death did and I don’t know why. I think it is to do with all she did for me and what her family did for me. I grieved for the other 5 as you would for anyone. From my own experience of severe asthma and uncontrolled asthma I did not feel particularly shocked that I had 6 friends who have all died from asthma. I think because 4 of them had asthma much like my own. I have had that feeling of not knowing if I can take another breath, or have the energy to continue to fight to breath and wondering if I will survive. It was not until May this year that I really took notice that I should not have so many friends who have died of asthma wether it be very severe or mild. The publication of the National Review of Asthma Deaths shocked me. I was gobsmacked. I knew asthma effected a lot of people but seeing in writing just how many people had died and how many had died needlessly made me sit up and listen so to speak. I realised that my 6 friends who make up the NRAD statistics should not be part of those statistics but should be pursuing their careers or enjoying their grand children. They should not be a memory or that person missing from a family.

I hope that in some small way I can help to make a change. Make people stand up and notice asthma. Promote good asthma management. I know that by telling all those at the meeting in Oxford that I had six friends die from asthma hit home. They took notice and saw the real life emotion and impact it has. Researchers can read statistics and know percentages but hearing from someone with asthma who knows what it is like to fight for breath makes so much more impact and hopefully will drive researchers to find ways of understanding asthma better and ways to manage it more effectively.

In the meantime I will continue to do my bit. Raise awareness, support research, be part of PPI for AUKCAR and do anything I can to help make the change that is so desperately needed.

I leave you with this poem written to me by a friend when I was in ITU after an asthma attack.