A-Z

Esther

Age at interview: 41
Brief Outline: Esther, age 41, developed asthma when she was in her 20’s but was not properly diagnosed until sometime later, after having her first child. She is white British and lives with her partner and two children. She works as a primary school teacher. It took a while to come to terms with the idea of taking medication on a long term basis. She had a period of time a few years ago when she was very unwell after suffering from pneumonia, but more recently she has felt fit and healthy, and regularly exercises including running and jogging.

More about me...

Esther, 41, had her first asthma attack whilst on holiday during her late twenties, but did not realise that it was an asthma attack at the time. A few years later when she had her first child she lived in a place that was quite hilly and found she got breathless and wheezy when she was pushing the pram. Esther visited her doctor and was prescribed antibiotics as well as being diagnosed with asthma. She was given an inhaler and prednisolone, but found it difficult to accept that she had asthma and required medication and she wasn’t keen to take medication regularly.

Esther was unwell with pneumonia a few years ago and describes it as a ‘pivotal point’ in her health. She did not leave the house for three months and experienced fatigue for over a year afterwards. She now feels much healthier and goes running a couple of times a week. She uses her blue inhaler prior to running and says she finds exercise very beneficial. Her triggers include white wine, smoke, perfume and cold weather. When she was younger, Esther smoked around 20 cigarettes a day, and she thinks this may have had an impact on developing asthma. She admits to using her brown inhaler less regularly than she should, but does increase her inhaler use if she has experienced a recent episode of asthma. Esther once tried homeopathy when she had a chest infection. However the infection did not clear up and she was prescribed antibiotics by her doctor. She urges people to visit their doctor first to receive a diagnosis, before trying alternative therapies. Esther has check-ups with an asthma nurse every six months.

Esther’s daughter was diagnosed with asthma when she was 18 months old and during her early childhood was often in and out of hospital. Esther’s ability to work was restricted due the caring responsibilities she had for her daughter, because of the severe nature of the asthma. She feels her daughter’s asthma has also had an impact on her son, who has sensed her anxiety. Esther also reports developing ‘anxiety wheeziness’ of her own when her daughter is particularly wheezy. Esther’s daughter takes a steroid tablet as a preventer, and also uses brown and blue inhalers. Esther notes the importance of having a drink or brushing your teeth after using the brown inhaler to prevent sore throats. Esther feels that she has been restricted more by her daughter’s asthma than by her own.

Esther feels that the sharing of experiences, and raising awareness and understanding of asthma is important. She advises people to remember to use their preventer inhalers regularly, even if they are feeling better.
 

Esther thinks schools should be allowed to keep a spare reliever inhaler for children to use in an emergency.

Esther thinks schools should be allowed to keep a spare reliever inhaler for children to use in an emergency.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
The worst one I’ve had recently is with the primary school. They… she’d had a puffer, and she’d got the puffer that they had in the office, and she kept it in her pocket and she’d taken it home. And so they didn’t have one, so she was having an asthma attack. They phoned me up and I was at work last year, she was having an asthmatic attack, and they wouldn’t give her anybody else’s puffer, because it was illegal, and so she was having an asthma attack, and I was at work and I had to leave my work in a rush to get over to her school to give her puffer. All the time I knew, every moment’s delay I knew she was there [makes hard to breathe noise] not being able to breathe. It was absolutely horrendous and I just felt so cross that they couldn’t just. They had about ten or fifteen blue puffers in the cupboard, they couldn’t just, you know, give her a sneaky squirt of somebody else’s. ‘Oh no, it’s health and safety.’ I can’t tell you how annoying that is. They would watch somebody suffer in front of them. What if she had started turning blue with it? Given her one?

It’s a pity they can’t have a sort of a spare one, just for, in case anyone loses them or something.

It seemed a bit, I mean you obviously you can’t, I don’t blame the office staff, but at the same time I was furious that there was, there were ten or fifteen of those things there, just there, just sitting there, and if she could have had one it might have made her feel better. But no, can’t give it her, oh no, it’s not hers. So that was awful. And I kind of got the sack from that, because on a supply job, supply teaching, and they basically said don’t come back, because I’d left in a rush.
 

Esther’s young child has been in and out of hospital with her asthma and it has taken its toll on their family life.

Esther’s young child has been in and out of hospital with her asthma and it has taken its toll on their family life.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And then, when she was eighteen months old she became asthmatic. She had some episodes where we were in hospital, and from then on my life wasn’t really my own. Because she would get, if she had a cold, or if the weather was really cold, she might get wheezy, and would just be able to do nothing but sit on my knee for days. And just have to go and have medicine and keep a little, but she kept getting wheezy and the doctors were getting quite cross saying, “Are you giving her the puffers properly? Are you doing this?” But we did have several instances. She was in hospital seven times I think in those years. And it was, I didn’t really get a full time job. I worked from home, and I kept working from home, but couldn’t go back to work because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep a job down, because at any minute the nightmare might begin where she would be poorly and I’d spend three days just looking after her, and not being able to think about anything else, let alone other responsibilities.
 

Esther disliked the thought of using any kind of medication.

Esther disliked the thought of using any kind of medication.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
I realised that it wasn’t just a matter of fitness, it was actually a medical condition that I had then. And that was when I had to, kind of admit to myself that I was a wheezy person. I had a puffer, I had to take those, you know, I was given prednisolone to make me better. And it was quite a lot to take on board at first. I didn’t really believe in it. And I was really anti-medicine. I always had really avoided taking any pills and avoided taking medicines. So I found it quite hard to take on board that I was an ill person that needed to take medicine.

But I did have to. And then I realise now if I’m wheezy I have my puffer straight away. But I think I’ve, I resisted it for ages and didn’t like the idea of being dependent on drugs. I was quite a natural woman in those days. I was going through my really Earth Mother phase.
 

Esther’s daughter has been in and out of hospital with asthma. Esther is a trained teacher but found it difficult to manage a job and be available for medical emergencies. ‘My earning power has probably been dictated by her illness.’

Esther’s daughter has been in and out of hospital with asthma. Esther is a trained teacher but found it difficult to manage a job and be available for medical emergencies. ‘My earning power has probably been dictated by her illness.’

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And then, when she was eighteen months old she became asthmatic. She had some episodes where we were in hospital, and from then on my life wasn’t really my own. Because she would get, if she had a cold, or if the weather was really cold, she might get wheezy, and would just be able to do nothing but sit on my knee for days. And just have to go and have medicine and keep a little, but she kept getting wheezy and the doctors were getting quite cross saying, “Are you giving her the puffers properly? Are you doing this?” But we did have several instances. She was in hospital seven times I think in those years. And it was, I didn’t really get a full time job. I worked from home, and I kept working from home, but couldn’t go back to work because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep a job down, because at any minute the nightmare might begin where she would be poorly and I’d spend three days just looking after her, and not being able to think about anything else, let alone other responsibilities.

So, but I was fortunate, because I did work from home and I had a job I could do and fit around it, which was very lucky really. Otherwise I would have had no income.

She just had this, you know, recent incident. But I also think you know, she was in year six and there was all sorts of things going on. I also, oh I think I might be a bit mad, but I think that illness goes with periods in your life and emot, things that happen. And so my pneumonia I think was really a kind of a pivotal moment in my… I think sometimes, I think she’d got to that stage where there was a big thing coming up. She was leaving primary school and she got ill for it. And I wasn’t that surprised that she had a big thing. But I know that that’s not a conventional view of medicine [laughs] but I do think that it’s in there somewhere, in your life, you kind of, you know, you have an illness and then there’s a change. And I think that’s what was happening to her. So I’m trying not to get too worried about her suddenly becoming really badly, asthmatic again. But she’s, we just always have to, you know, you can’t let your guard down basically, and I had to take time off work. Oh I, basically I trained as a teacher when she was 8 or 9, after, after four years not going to hospital with her. After getting much less treatment, because it was the first time I really felt I could actually go out and get a job and work away from the home or away from her. But before that I felt I couldn’t at all. So, my, my earning power I think has probably been dictated to by her illness.
 

When she was first diagnosed Esther had a few years when she felt unable to do sports, but she started again when a friend who was a serious runner explained that he always used his inhaler before running.

When she was first diagnosed Esther had a few years when she felt unable to do sports, but she started again when a friend who was a serious runner explained that he always used his inhaler before running.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
Well the year after I had pneumonia I didn’t think I’d ever be able to ever do anything again, I felt like an old lady at first, when I first emerged from the house after three months. It was horrible.

And so when you took up running did you have your asthma in mind? I mean what did you think about how that might pan out for you?

I used to run before.

Did you build it up gradually?

Yes. But also, I’d always been a swimmer and a runner, well, I’d run at different points. I’ve always you know, done some form of exercise. And running’s basically the cheapest thing you can do. You don’t have to pay for a gym membership. And it’s nice and quick, because you’re at home and you just get changed here anyway. So I would often walk my daughter to school and then run back, and perhaps run round you know, and then start sort of adding a circuit of the park and then you know, having my shower and get on with my day. And that’s great. You’ve done your exercise first thing.

A lot of people kind of would be frightened I think perhaps if they’ve got asthma of taking up a kind of exercise like that?

Yes, well I have some friends here who are in the running club and really serious runners, and one of them said to me, “Oh,” he said. He said, “I always have a puff before I run.” And I suddenly realised, so what I had been doing, was running and worrying about whether I was going to get wheezy. Well once he told me that, to have a puff before you go, then you know you’re not going to get wheezy and then you can concentrate on the rest. Oh my goodness, it just changed my life [laughs]. So that’s why I can run so well, because I don’t worry about getting wheezy because I have a puff first. And when I was, you know, yes, if it’s really, really horrible, cold wintery coldness, I’ll have two puffs perhaps [laughs]. So I’m just sort of doing prophylactic puff.

Because I understand that actually doing exercise can be, is beneficial because it opens up the lungs and keeps them kind of active?

Yes, it’s better for you to do exercise now, yes, absolutely. Also it’s just better for you because it keeps your weight down, it makes you feel good, it gives you energy, you feel virtuous for some reason.
 

Esther joined Asthma UK because she wanted them to organise a talk in her daughter’s school about asthma. She has encouraged her daughter to contribute to the Asthma UK website by sharing a positive story about how she has adapted to having asthma.

Text only
Read below

Esther joined Asthma UK because she wanted them to organise a talk in her daughter’s school about asthma. She has encouraged her daughter to contribute to the Asthma UK website by sharing a positive story about how she has adapted to having asthma.

HIDE TEXT
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
We’ve looked at Asthma UK because we’re members, and we’ve actually contributed something on one of their websites, but no, I think the only reason I went to them was because I wanted, would quite like somebody to come in and talk to the school about it, because I think there’s a lot of, I think children need to know more about it. I don’t think lots of people really understand what the triggers are and what’s going on. And of course there are loads of different triggers, but for someone people, for us it’s cold weather and having a cold. But you know, I think there’s a lot of mystery around it, and I think I wanted somebody to come to school and talk to them.

There was an Asthma UK thing did happen recently. They had this sort of map of England and you could put your story, whether it was a sad story or a happy story. And ours was a happy story because we’d got better and we put that online, and [daughter] really enjoyed doing that as well, which I felt was important for her to be able to express her feelings about it, which is partly why I wanted her to take part in this. Because I think it’s good for her to be able to think about it and express it, because she’s suffered really and getting it out is good.

And there’s not always the opportunity is there to talk about it, what happened to you?

No, who can you talk to? No.

No.

So telling your story I think is a really important thing in life and giving her an opportunity to do that I felt might help her.

Do you think there are benefits or what benefits do you think there might be sort of sharing experiences, either on the internet or personally?

I just think there’s no doubt a benefit to being able to express yourself, to come to terms with it, to help you. How do you tell somebody else, you know, you are telling a story yourself and you’re looking at what happened and you’re coming to terms with it. I think that’s really important. I think, you know, it has felt really unfair that she had asthma and she couldn’t run around like the other children, and she’s just been able to really say that. And so letting her express that feeling will get that feeling out, and she won’t carry it as a burden. I don’t want her to be bitter and twisted when she’s big. I want her to get it out now. I’m a strong believer in expressing how we feel.
 

Esther’s daughter had severe asthma when she was very young. It had a big impact on family life.

Esther’s daughter had severe asthma when she was very young. It had a big impact on family life.

SHOW TEXT VERSION
PRINT TRANSCRIPT
And then, when she was eighteen months old she became asthmatic. She had some episodes where we were in hospital, and from then on my life wasn’t really my own. Because she would get, if she had a cold, or if the weather was really cold, she might get wheezy, and would just be able to do nothing but sit on my knee for days. And just have to go and have medicine and keep a little, but she kept getting wheezy and the doctors were getting quite cross saying, “Are you giving her the puffers properly? Are you doing this?” But we did have several instances. She was in hospital seven times I think in those years. And it was, I didn’t really get a full time job. I worked from home, and I kept working from home, but couldn’t go back to work because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep a job down, because at any minute the nightmare might begin where she would be poorly and I’d spend three days just looking after her, and not being able to think about anything else, let alone other responsibilities.

I do think that people should know how much it affects you. And I, with [daughter] illness obviously it’s affected her. She’s been ill, it’s been dreadful for her. She’s got an absolute horror of needles and she hates pain, and that’s probably because she suffered so much of it as a child.

But also the impact it’s had on my life is unbelievable, and it’s kind of very hidden isn’t it from policymakers and other people, that you don’t see that. But the knock on effects of a serious illness like that is huge, and I think I needed to express it really. I’ve suffered [laughs] from her asthma. So I wanted to make sure that people knew about it and how it kind of affects you.
Previous Page
Next Page