Faisil, age 33, was diagnosed with asthma at age 3. He is British Pakistani, single and works as a civil servant. Faisil’s childhood and teenage years were difficult because having the condition sometimes set him apart from the other boys, particularly because he was unable to participate in sports. As an adult he has become more accepting of the condition and is able to self -manage his symptoms for most of the time, but there are aspects of having asthma that continue to impact negatively on his life.
Faisil had breathing problems from the time he was born, but wasn’t diagnosed with asthma until the age of three. He had regular asthma attacks as a young child and remembers being in and out of hospital and being taken to the emergency department sometimes. This would involve staying in hospital for a few days until his condition stabilised, and he remembers having steroid injections and courses of tablets frequently during these times. He remembers that as a child he often had a cold and felt wheezy.
His asthma was more stable during secondary school years, but he remembers feeling annoyed that he had asthma as it frequently stopped him from being able to run about and have fun with his friends. Sometimes he felt that he wasn’t always seen as a real boy’ because he couldn’t participate in sports and because sport is such a big thing for children he often felt like an outsider and that he didn’t fit in. During his early teenage years things became a little more stable and he noticed the symptoms less at that time, but during his final year at secondary school when his medication was changed to adult strength dosage, his asthma became very bad for a time and it was difficult to keep the symptoms under control. He recalls trying several different inhalers before eventually finding something which worked effectively. However the disruption at this time affected his performance at A level exams because he had missed some school, and wasn’t feeling well enough to work to his full potential. After this, it became an issue when he started looking for a job because he found himself having to explain his poor examination results. Even now as an adult in his 30’s he finds that stating that you have asthma during the job application process can make life very difficult and can impact upon whether or not he would be offered a job, as he feels employers can be reluctant to take on an employee who might potentially need to take time off sick.
In his late 20’s his asthma became more unsettled once again. He wonders whether the fact that he moved to a big city may have exacerbated his asthma because of air pollution. His main triggers now seem to be related to weather conditions, so he finds when there is a change in weather conditions he can feel wheezy, and also summer weather and the high pollen count can tend to affect his breathing. He can also be affected by certain foods such as fizzy drinks, cold milk and ice cream so these are things he tries to avoid.
As a child and young person Faisil feels that he didn’t get as much advice and help about his asthma as some of his friends did. His GP surgery didn’t have an asthma clinic or nurse. However after he was 18 his practice took on an asthma nurse and through seeing her and being monitored more closely than had previously been the case he learned more about how to manage his symptoms. At this time he was given a peak flow meter to use to help indicate how much medication he should take and when to increase the dose. He uses a preventer inhaler – usually two puffs twice a day, and a reliever inhaler when he feels his chest tightening, but if his symptoms start to increase he increases the number of puffs he takes of the preventer inhaler to try to calm things down. Usually he can self manage the symptoms in this way, but sometimes if things do not improve he goes to A & E so that he can be treated with a nebuliser, especially in summer when the humidity is intense as this exacerbates his condition. Faisil describes some of the side effects that he has experienced from long term use of steroid based inhalers which include sore throat and ulcers, and also significant hair loss from the age of about 17 which he found upsetting as it undermined his self confidence as a young man. He also believes that the drugs he has taken may have had an effect on his growth when he was a child as he says he felt he was much smaller than the other boys of his age, and again, this had an effect on his self esteem and confidence when he was growing up. More recently he has been diagnosed with several other conditions including a fatty liver and metabolic syndrome, which can led to diabetes if not monitored. He believes that the medication he has taken over the years may be partly responsible for the deterioration in his health. He has begun taking a number herbal and natural supplements to try to help him to lose weight and slow down the progression of these other conditions.
Faisil’s experience of health professionals has been mixed. He found the traditional family GP he saw when he was younger was dismissive of asthma and did not seem to take it that seriously, whereas he feels that more recently the asthma nurse and younger GP who he now sees seem to have a greater knowledge about asthma and are more responsive to his needs. Faisil finds the internet helpful as a resource to help him find out more about new developments in asthma treatments and to try to find answers to some of the questions he feels the health professionals tend not to get involved with.