Ernie McDade’s son Kenji finds a military-style routine helps him stay on top of his asthma

Ernie McDade’s son Kenji, 13, had his first asthma attack last year

VIDEO: Watch Ernie talking to Asthma UK about Kenji's asthma attack, and how the family now feel more confident managing his asthma. 

“My son is allergic to various things including salmon, and cat and dog hair, but he hadn’t had an asthma attack until last year. The cat had been accidentally shut in his room overnight, and then he started arguing with his brother – the stress was the final straw. But we still didn’t realise how much danger he was in so we took him to hospital ourselves rather than calling an ambulance. We didn’t really know he had asthma - he had wheezed a little on rare occasions that he had allergic reactions, but we had put this down to the allergy."

Ernie and Kenji McDade

We would do things differently if it ever happened again

“We’d had no need to know about asthma until that day, so we did pretty much everything wrong – we were beside ourselves, in total shock. Although he’s fine now, he spent two weeks in hospital and could very easily have died. The one piece of advice that I tell everyone now is that if the inhaler isn’t working, call an ambulance  – it’s as simple as that.”

Kenji’s daily routine helps him stay well and enjoy sport

"After the diagnosis and return from hospital, we got into a really good routine with Kenji’s medicines, because none of us wanted him to experience another asthma attack.

“An asthma nurse said something that’s really stuck with me – taking the brown preventer inhaler is more important than brushing your teeth. Kenji is religious about taking it now, morning and evening, and that reassures me that he’s doing everything he can to prevent symptoms or having another major asthma attack.

“Kenji carries an emergency bag with inhalers and epi-pen at all times, and has developed a military-like routine. Sometimes other parents can be uncomfortable, but he’s become an expert at explaining what he needs, and what to do in case of emergency, to his teachers, swimming coaches and everyone else.” 

We trust in steroids and in our son

“We feel confident that Kenji knows his body extremely well. His allergies and asthma make him very mature in some ways, and we trust him to know when he’s feeling worse, when he needs to stop what he’s doing, and when he can carry on.

“When we first heard that Kenji would have to start taking steroids every day in his preventer inhaler, his mother and I were both concerned, and so was Kenji. But when we weighed up the risk of not taking them against the possible dangers, and found that even if his growth was potentially slightly affected (it might only be by around 1cm), it became an easy decision to make.”

Kenji’s asthma action plan has really helped us

“I came into Asthma UK to share our story and see what I could do to help. One of the Helpline nurses suggested that Kenji should have a written asthma action plan. He’s made a few copies to give to his mates and the school has a copy too – everyone is trained up in how to help him if he shows symptoms, which makes everyone feel more confident and less anxious about his safety.”

Managing family time

“We have had to become more skilful at managing family time. Kenji is approaching national standard at swimming (and the liveliest of our three boys, too!) so it’s easy to get into the habit of him getting all the time and attention. We carve out time with the other children which is non-negotiable – my middle son is 11 and is a huge Northampton Town fan, so I go to the match with him every Saturday (home and away), regardless of what else is going on.”


Parents talk to Asthma UK – Ernie McDade

Ernie talks about his 13-year old son Kenji’s first asthma attack last year.

Video: Parents talk to Asthma UK – Ernie McDade

Ernie talks about his 13-year old son Kenji’s first asthma attack last year.
Transcript for ‘Parents talk to Asthma UK – Ernie McDade’

0:05 We’ve known throughout Kenji’s life pretty much that

0:09 he had some pretty severe allergies.

0:12 And asthma is of course related to allergies, but

0:14 we never really put the two together as such.

0:18 And there’s a lot to be said for anyone whose child who

0:22 wheezes having a basic education of asthma and you know

0:25 what, we’ve learnt a number of things.

0:28 We’ve certainly learnt its danger.

0:30 But the speed of the deterioration when it went from

0:34 unwell through to not breathing was something

0:37 which required truly urgent attention.

0:40 We were very lucky that Kenji survived.

0:47 The phrase we kept on being told or were certainly were told once,

0:51 or more than once or twice, it was kept on being told was,

0:55 taking the brown inhaler every morning when you brush your teeth

0:58 and every evening when you brush your teeth,

1:01 is more important than the actual brushing of your teeth.

1:08 Preventing the frankly traumatic experience, for Kenji in particular

1:14 but for everyone, from happening again, is paramount.

1:18 You see, the brown inhaler doesn’t appear to help in any way.

1:21 You take it, it doesn’t stop or start anything on the face of it.

1:25 So, with that, it’s a bit like people who stop taking

1:28 their antibiotics when they feel better, but

1:32 the discipline has to remain because,

1:34 while you can’t see an immediate effect,

1:36 it’s preventing what might otherwise happen.

1:43 The school are excellent.

1:46 All the teachers absolutely have had everything told about

1:51 what the illness is, what the dangers are, and what is required.

1:55 They are party to Kenji’s asthma plan,

1:59 which amounts to being a piece of paper, which says,

2:01 under these circumstances, you do this, under those

2:05 circumstances, you do that. There’s spare medication in the nurse’s room.

2:12 In a slightly more personal sense, the email exchanges I had

2:16 with his teachers to explain what was going on, how to respond and

2:22 also, to answer their questions, was massively impressive.

2:27 They really do care and they really do want to get this right.

2:34 The steroids is, well, was something which we worried about.

2:40 I mean, steroids, they’re a very important part of medical

2:45 treatment for asthma and many things beyond asthma,

2:48 but they come with a degree of almost a stigma, because of the name,

2:53 I think, it might be just because of steroids in sports or something.

2:56 So, we were very nervous about it, okay.

2:58 But we spoke about this and researched it and the

3:03 ‘stunting’ of growth is pretty minimal.

3:06 It tends to be a maximum of about one centimetre less in height

3:11 than where the person may have grown to, so to that extent,

3:17 you know, while you’d like that one centimetre, it’s negligible

3:20 compared to the risk of health of not taking the steroids.

3:29 In terms of how Kenji lives his life, it is, take the brown inhaler

3:35 when you brush your teeth in the morning and

3:37 when you brush your teeth in the evening, and he’s

3:40 growing up to be a very normal sized and shaped

3:44 and robust boy, frankly, so it’s fine.