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.”

Ernie talks about Kenji’s first asthma attack last year: