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Asthma: Speaking up about a silent disease

JonathanWhile many of us have known someone who has had asthma or have at least heard of the disease,  we may not know the devastating and fatal challenges asthmatics face. The more we can prepare ourselves and share accurate information, the more likely people who are struggling will find help for their symptoms.

Here is my story:

Johnathan Mckibben was 5 years old when he was first diagnosed with asthma. Since the age of 2, he was in and out of the hospital with bronchial and lung infections before he was properly diagnosed. Like many, he was given inhalers, a breathing machine, and a form of steroids to keep his asthma under control. For the most part, while growing up it was kept under control and he lived a normal life, well a normal life for an asthma patient. There were times that the asthma became difficult to handle and Johnathan was rushed to the hospital where he spent time in the oxygen tent and was given medications and monitored back to good breathing. As he got older, the asthma did not calm down any; in fact, it seemed to have become worse. When he was 26, his asthma had become so intense that one day while he was at work on a drilling location he began having a severe attack. He grabbed his inhaler and quickly realized it was not helping. As he and his crew were in the middle of nowhere he informed his boss who rushed him into town to the nearest emergency room. Johnathan began to lose consciousness and finally blacked out on the way in. By the time they made it to the hospital Johnathan was not breathing. The medical team worked on John and got him breathing again. He stayed in the hospital for a few days until he was nursed back to good health.

 Johnathan coded again a few months later and was once again nursed back to good breathing. At this time the doctors informed John that his lungs were weak and most likely were going to become weaker. He was advised to schedule an appointment with a lung specialist and discuss options for new medications that may help. Unfortunately, Johnathan would never get a chance to do so.

Jonathan 2On Thursday, June 16, 2016, 2 weeks after his 27th birthday, Johnathan started off with what appeared to be a normal day. He spent the day with various family members and ended with a movie night with his wife. He paused the movie and informed her he needed a breathing treatment. This was normal for him so he took his treatment only to say he felt he needed another one. With the medication not helping, Johnathan than collapsed and went into cardiac arrest.

John was given his EpiPen but nothing was helping. The emergency responders arrived where they worked on him for 20-30 mins before getting a pulse. Johnathan was quickly transported to the hospital where he had to be revived 2 more times. He was placed into a medically induced coma in the CCU unit where his brain activity was being monitored. It was later explained that John went for an hour with only 70 percent oxygen as his lungs were so inflamed and swollen they would not allow the tube to pass through his lungs. After a week on a ventilator and 24 hour medication and monitoring, it was determined John had severe brain damage.  On Thursday, June 23, 2016, it was as if John gave up his fight and went completely brain dead.????/

The truth is each day 10 Americans die from asthma and 3,630 die from asthma each year.

Asthma causes about 2 million emergency room visits each year. Each year asthma causes more than 14 million doctor visits and 439,000 hospital stays of which the average length stay is 3.6 days. It is the third leading cause of hospital stays in children and is the leading chronic disease in children. It is also the top reason for missed school.

So what is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung airways and bronchial tube with increased production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. People with asthma experience symptoms when the airways tighten, inflame, or fill with mucus. As asthma symptoms vary from person to person it can be any of the following; shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest tightness,  pain or pressure, neck and chest retractions, difficulty talking, feeling of anxiety or panic, pale, sweaty face, blue lips or fingernails, or worsening symptoms despite use of your medications. It has often been described as trying to breathe through a tiny straw.

Asthma can be hereditary however the cause is not fully understood and there is no widely known or acceptable cure for asthma.

I urge all moms to get educated, know the symptoms, or the symptoms of a loved one and get medical attention immediately if you believe someone is suffering an asthma attack. It is literally a matter of seconds that can save a loved one’s life and with proper medical care and maintenance, death from asthma is preventable.

This post is sponsored by Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center


RachelRachel Bissell works in the Radiology department at Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center. She is the proud mother to a 9-year-old daughter.




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