“I shared photos online to show what it’s like to have a child with severe asthma”

After her son had life-threatening asthma attack Fiona took to Facebook to show how serious asthma is

Fiona and Jack - Having a child with severe asthma

After his life-threatening asthma attack, 12 year-old Jack and his mum Fiona want to tell people just how severe asthma can be.

Video: Fiona and Jack - Having a child with severe asthma

After his life-threatening asthma attack, 12 year-old Jack and his mum Fiona want to tell people just how severe asthma can be.
Transcript for 'Having a child with severe asthma'

0:00 Fiona: Jack has severe asthma and in June of this year he suffered the worst asthma

0:06 attack that he's ever had since he had his diagnosis at four years of age.

0:11 It was terrible to watch. No attack is ever nice to watch, ever. He was then picked

0:16 up and ran out of this house by a paramedic into the back of an ambulance

0:22 where unfortunately, Jack then took a further nosedive and stopped breathing.

0:29 Jack's heart rate had slowed down so much that it looked as though his heart had

0:34 stopped. Because he was so poorly it did mean an induced coma.

0:39 Jack: Asthma's given me a lot of restrictions in life but I have learned to deal with

0:44 it. But, when having an asthma attack, it is quite scary and traumatising. Especially

0:49 when I was little, because I didn't know what was going to happen to me. I didn't know

0:53 if I was going to get any better. And I often would worry whether I would

0:58 live to be older.

1:01 Fiona: You know every time Jack is admitted we document it. And it

1:06 was just phenomenal the amount of footage that I've got. You know when

1:10 everybody was sort of saying oh you know we didn't realise that it could

1:13 be this bad, we just, you know, we didn't realise that asthma was that bad. I put

1:17 together this little sort of video and I initially just shared it on my

1:23 on my Facebook page and one of my friends said to me, "Fi, change your

1:29 privacy settings I want to share this. I've got some friends whose little ones

1:33 have just been diagnosed with asthma, and I'd really love for them to see this."

1:37 Jack: Getting the message out there about my asthma will help me a lot, because I am at the

1:44 age were I like to go out a lot, like into town and places, on my own and with friends.

1:50 And if I have an asthma attack, and people

1:54 don't know what to do then that will be bad for me. So, I want to like spread the

1:59 word about how bad asthma can be so that people know what to do if someone's

2:03 having one

Related resources
Asthma and My Child booklet

Asthma and my child

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“It can be hard to tell when asthma attack is coming on. We’ve not been able to identify specific triggers, so it’s like suddenly, the asthma totally takes over. And this year, Jack had his worst asthma attack yet.

“It was a glorious Sunday afternoon in June, everyone was enjoying the sun. I’d been out for an hour or so when I got a call from Jack’s older sister, who told me he’d come downstairs asking for an ambulance. I rushed home, and we waited 45 frantic minutes for it to arrive.

“We hadn’t even pulled out of my street when Jack stopped breathing and lost consciousness. I was so scared but I tried to keep it together and not be the crazy emotional mum so that the paramedics and doctors could work their magic. And yet, at one point, it looked like Jack’s heart stopped.

“We got to the hospital where a Jack was intubated – a tube was put into his mouth to open up his airways. Fortunately, he woke up soon after being treated.

“Later when I told friends about it, they said things like: ‘I didn’t know you could call an ambulance for an asthma attack.’ Even people who know what we’ve been in-and-out of hospital since Jack was four (he’s 12 now) still think it’s ‘just asthma’.

“That’s why I decided to share pictures of Jack on social media and show people what asthma is really like”

Sharing our severe asthma story

I’ve been taking pictures when he’s been in hospital over the last few years because it’s hard for him to remember what happens and he wants to know what he’s like when he has an asthma attack.

“Initially I shared the pictures of him with a nebuliser mask on his face and cannula drips in a local group of parents to raise awareness about asthma. But the response went way beyond what I anticipated. Our story was picked up both by our local paper and TV station, so we were on the news. I’m glad because the more awareness there is about asthma, and the impact it has, the better.

Jack’s asthma affects all our family

“Jack having severe asthma is hard for us as a family. Because there are weekends when we have plans, Jack has an asthma flare-up, and we just can’t go.

“It’s the hardest on Ben, my youngest who’s nine. He just sees Jack as his older brother - I often need to remind him not to sit on Jack’s head or chest when they play fight, and sometimes he gets stroppy and says, ‘Oh Jack, why do you have to be so ill?’. Then Jack always apologises!

“My oldest, Abigail, is 14 and understands more. But they’ve both been shielded from everything a little bit, and I think this most recent asthma attack made them realise it’s more than the reason Jack has a little blue pump.

“But, we try to not let asthma control our lives, so I’ve just recently booked a holiday to Spain. We’ve not been abroad on holiday as a family before and I’m hoping that now Jack has some different medication we’ll have quite a few good months.

“Jack is such a good child – he never complains or moans. After his most recent asthma attack he said to me, ‘I’m really sorry I got poorly mummy and you had to miss work.’ But he has nothing to apologise for, because ultimately his care is more important than anything.

Feeling less alone

“Being a parent of a child with asthma can feel overwhelming times, and even a bit lonely. But that’s why I’m so glad I shared mine and Jack’s story – I know it’s made other people feel less alone. One mum private messaged me on Facebook while she was sat in hospital with her three-year-old son. 

“I gave her some advice – keep calm and ask questions– and she came back saying how good it was to know that she wasn’t alone, and asking whether the two of us could keep in touch.

“So even if my sharing Jack’s story helps no one else, I’m glad it made at least one person feel like their child’s asthma is more manageable.

“For me, I’ve found support on Asthma UK’s website and Facebook page – they’ve been a real comfort blanket for me. They’re somewhere I can go to where people know what we’re dealing with, and I can be reminded that there are other parents out there in similar situations.”

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Last updated July 2017