“The 12-Week Asthma Support Programme gave me the tools to stop asthma ruling my life”

Mary Poole, 53, describes how taking part in the programme helped her take charge of her asthma

Mary Poole portrait “My first full-blown asthma attack was terrifying. It felt like I was trying to breathe through a squashed straw and I became panic-stricken. I expected the ambulance to come immediately but when it still hadn’t arrived 30 minutes later, my husband Reg called them again and I remember thinking: ‘If they don’t turn up soon, they needn’t bother.’ When the paramedics finally arrived, I was put on a nebuliser and taken to A&E.

“The next day I went to see an asthma nurse to discuss my asthma attack, and arranged a further appointment to change my medication as I’d lost confidence in it. But just a week later I had another asthma attack and I ended up in hospital again. I was told the attacks may have been triggered by a viral infection and prescribed a course of steroids.”

Feeling angry and helpless

“My asthma attacks had a devastating effect on me. I felt helpless and kept thinking angrily: ‘I did everything right, taking my prescribed medication religiously, and the attacks still happened ‒ where did I go wrong?’

“I’d also lost confidence in my local GP surgery. Although my medication had been changed, I felt like I needed emotional support and new tools to help me manage my asthma.

“In the weeks that followed I would regularly use the Asthma UK website and it became my ‘Asthma Bible’. One day I spotted an advert asking for volunteers for the 12-Week Asthma Support Programme pilot scheme – and it sounded like exactly what I needed to get my asthma under control.”

Making positive steps

The programme was amazing and the exercises were so enlightening – helping me to understand my asthma better. The first exercise, filling in a Discovery Diary, revealed I was in a negative cycle: every day I’d wake up feeling happy but by evening, I’d feel anxious about going to bed because both my asthma attacks had happened at night.

“I also really enjoyed the pie chart exercise. I used to think coping with asthma took up 80 per cent of my time, but using this made me realise it was more like 15 per cent. Asthma is actually a much smaller part of my life, and realising this gave me so much confidence.”

Using my new coping skills

“I had my third asthma attack in August after attending a country show, but thanks to the programme, I remained calm and got out my written asthma action plan, which I now carry with me everywhere I go. It showed me that I was in the amber section and needed help immediately.

“I went to the nearest medical centre, where I was put on a nebuliser and monitored until I was well enough to leave. I remember the doctor saying: ‘You’re very in tune with your asthma,’ and I know this is down to participating in the 12-Week Asthma Support Programme.

“I also noticed that my third asthma attack didn’t affect me anywhere near as much as the first two. Before, I felt I needed permission to call 999 but talking to the asthma nurses during the programme made me realise it’s vital to get help as soon as I need it.”

Amazing difference

“The 12-Week Asthma Support Programme has restored my confidence in my ability to manage my asthma. I’m much clearer about what my triggers are, how to prevent asthma attacks and what to do if I have one.

“One of my main goals was to make sure I only used my reliever inhaler when I needed to. After my first two asthma attacks I was so scared of having another that I used it up to six times a day, but after finishing the programme I went six weeks without using it once.

“I feel healthier and much less anxious and this has had a positive effect on my family too. The 12-Week Asthma Support Programme came at a time when I desperately needed it and it’s been life-changing.

Sign up to the 12-Week Asthma Support Programme 

Last updated November 2017