Chris, age 59, was only 7 when she was diagnosed with asthma. She is white British and is married with two adult children. She is a retired teacher. After her first asthma attack at age 7, she had regular and frequent episodes of illness throughout her childhood which often resulted in absence from school. Her last really bad asthma attack was when she was about 28 and since the advent of newer and more effective treatments she has been very successful at managing the condition so that it doesn’t restrict her life.
Chris had her first asthma episode when she was 7 years old at a time when her mother was ill and she was feeling upset and worried about her. After this first event she had frequent asthma attacks – which looking back now she thinks may have been induced and exacerbated by stress her father died when she was 9.
At the time the treatments for asthma were not as sophisticated as they are nowadays and she relied on ephedrine tablets and a large inhaler. She recalls that this drug made her feel high’ and tasted bad. At school there were few other children who had asthma and the teachers were unsympathetic to the fact that she was absent for long periods. One of the problems was that asthma comes and goes which made it seem to her teachers that she was putting it on’ when she felt unable to participate in sports and games. As a result, as a child she felt different from the other children and in an effort to try and do everything that the others were able to do she would sometimes over-medicate and be on a high, followed by periods when she felt tired and lethargic. Sometimes Christine’s asthma attacks were very severe and she was admitted to hospital six times. Anxiety played a big part at that time as she recalls her mother was often anxious about her and prevented her from doing things that she wanted to be able to do.
As a young teenager, it was suggested that her asthma was in part psychosomatic and related to difficult feelings around the death of her father, and she was given counseling/therapy which she felt helped to some degree. However, the feelings of difference continued throughout her teens and she found it difficult to maintain continuity of friendships because she was often ill at home and unable to join in with the group. Chris felt quite upset thinking about her childhood because in many respects it was very restricted and there was little understanding about asthma generally.
Chriss last really bad asthma attack was when she was about 28 and since the advent of newer and more effective treatments she has been very successful at managing the condition so that it doesn’t interfere with her life. Her main trigger is when or if she gets a lung infection, but these days she is usually able to pre-empt worsening symptoms by increasing the dose of inhaled steroids or occasionally taking steroid tablets or antibiotics. She is also allergic to some things such as dogs, and doing housework can be difficult because of the problem of dust; however she finds ways round these things and feels it is important to focus on things that she can do rather than worry about things she cannot.
Christine has developed a rational approach to her asthma now and is able to keep calm when she starts to feel her chest tighten as she knows that with the salbutamol inhaler it will pass in a few minutes. One thing she has learned over the years is that if you panic it makes it much worse.