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Tomas - Interview 09

Age at interview: 16
Brief Outline: Tomas has had asthma since he was six months old. Apart from asthma, Tomas has developed various allergies and he attends a specialised hospital clinic. He says that the work that Asthma UK does at schools has helped to improve the understanding of the condition among teachers and children.
Background: Tomas attends high school. Lives at home with parents and his brother. His parents have always encouraged and supported him. He is a keen rugby player and thinks that his asthma is not stopping him from doing what he likes.

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Tomas has had asthma since he was six months old. Many of his childhood memories involve having attacks; of being given an asthma pump at the age of two; of feeling hot and unable to breathe and of spending time in hospital so that doctors could keep 'an eye' on him. 

At school Tomas had to limit what he could do and was not able to join in many activities. He remembers that everytime he tried running he would get out of breath and had to stop to prevent an asthma attack. He felt disappointed and sometimes angry at the fact that his asthma was preventing him in joining in with his friends. His asthma also meant that his school attendance was irregular.

After the age of ten his asthma attacks became less frequent and he also discovered that taking his inhaler before doing physical activities, helped him 'not to run out of breath'. He took up rugby as his main sport and has been doing regular training and playing games ever since.

Apart from asthma, Tomas has developed various allergies and he attends a specialised hospital clinic. He says that his consultant explains things to him in an 'easy to understand' manner and that during the consultation doctors ask questions about his life and interests in general and not just about his asthma. 

Tomas's medications have increased over time and he is worried that his conditions might be getting worse rather than improving. Doctors have reassured him that this is not necessarily the case and he should not be so concerned about it.

Tomas participates in social and sport activities but takes care not to overdo it, so as to not end up having an asthma attack. He refers to it as having the 'right attitude' to his condition by which he means controlling it well but not allowing it to limit his life.

 

Was diagnosed with asthma at age 6 months and was given his first inhaler at the age of two. He...

Was diagnosed with asthma at age 6 months and was given his first inhaler at the age of two. He...

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Oh yeah anytime. I was diagnosed when I was six months old and they said I had asthma. But at the time they didn't really know what to do because I was so young. So they just sent me off, just sent me off when I was six months old just to keep an eye on it. And then I was about two then and I came back and they, they thought I should have my first asthma pump because it was getting so bad that I, I needed something to help me. And yeah so, that was when I got my first asthma pump. And from then on it, it was just worse and worse. I started having a lot of asthma attacks and yeah but I carried on using my medication but still I was just getting worse and worse. And I just was really hot and I couldn't breathe or anything like that. And they were, just got really worried about me and I was in hospital for a while and yeah just loads of asthma attacks. 

And then it was about, must have been about nine or ten. It gradually, didn't have so many asthma attacks and started feeling a bit better. Started being able to do more things like sports and stuff like that. And just built my way up now until it's still bad but I can control it better. Just built up so I can control it basically.

 

Has more asthma attacks when the weather is bad, or if he does not uses his inhaler before doing...

Has more asthma attacks when the weather is bad, or if he does not uses his inhaler before doing...

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When are you more likely to get an asthma attack?

Usually when the weather is really bad and I'm out in it and I haven't got my blue pump on me or if I'm or if I haven't taken it before sport. I haven't taken my medication in the morning. That's usually when I'm most vulnerable to have an attack. Just lack of being responsible really. Just not making sure you're taking the medication. Just things you can avoid.

And because rugby is something that you train in winter also.

Yeah, so yeah. As long as you do make sure you do take it then you should be fine. But if you're not responsible enough to take it then you shouldn't really be doing it because you're just going to feel awful. And you're not going to be able to perform anyway because you're not going to feel up to it. So I think really you should just, just know you should be taking it.

You also said that you have other allergies. Can you tell me more about it?

Well I went for allergy testing about, must have been about six, seven years ago now because we discovered that my allergies has been affecting my asthma. So I had the tests and it I had a few allergies such as dust mites and grass pollen, different types of pollen. And it just made me be aware that if ever I'm close to any of them then I have to be extra careful with my asthma. Knowing that those allergies can trigger off my asthma at any time. So I'm just. That's just something I have to be aware of.

What do you do to prevent or to limit the effect of these allergies on your asthma?

Well I do take antihistamine which is prescribed for me which does help a lot and just. There's nothing you really can do apart from if, if you do feel bad from it then just take, double up on your medication and just if you don't feel well then see a doctor or whatever and they'll, they'll tell you what to do.
 
 

Has played rugby since the age of six and has found that if he uses his inhaler before any game...

Has played rugby since the age of six and has found that if he uses his inhaler before any game...

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Yeah, yeah. I do a lot of rugby right now.

Rugby?

Yeah. Yeah I'm doing pretty well as well. Just and I've been since, since I've been able to help my chest before doing it, I've been. I, I can do it properly and knowing that I've actually been doing really well in it, getting a few big games and stuff like that. So that's the, that's the really good thing at the moment. I've been able to, to do something like that after everything that's happened before. 

Will or does your asthma affect the rugby?

It does like depending on the weather and stuff really. If it's like damp that affects my chest. But like I said really if, if I take my reliever before playing then my chest is usually quite open and being able to get enough air in and not, not to be out of breath or tightness or coughing.

So they have advised you to do that?

Yeah, yeah they have.

And it has worked?

Yeah it's worked.

And when you go and play rugby you know that you need to.

Yeah before I leave the house I have my, my blue pump so I never forget to take it before training or a game.

Do you play any other sport, do you do any other sport?

I used to do football but obviously now that it's turning more professional I can't do rugby and football. So I've been doing set in my mind that I'm just rugby now. But I've had, I have so much training in games because I've been playing for my club and I have training for my club and I have training three times a week with my school. And I've been, I've been playing and training about five times every week so it's just like a lot to do as well. Just.

For how long have you been doing it?

The lot of training in games have been since the start of the season which was about late August, start of September. But before then it was just about only three times a week but it's just I've gone from the age of being in just the highest of one group to being the lowest of like professional. So this is then you've to up the tempo really and you have a lot harder training and a lot more training.

Must have been ten years now. And the youngest age group is actually under 8s which would be seven but because I was big for my age at the time I started when I was six and I made, I played. I've played for the same club for about eight years now. And I was just playing for the older age group and but now that everyone's a lot bigger I had to move down to my right age and which means that I've played an extra year compared to everyone else at my age. So yeah it's about ten years now.

I think it's just one of those things as a, as a child you think, 'Well I want to play rugby or I want to play football'. And you just find a club and you just have a bit of fun. And then from then that's when you decide if you do want to take it serious or not. And I've decided that I do want to take it serious as I can.

And your parents attitude has been?

Yeah fine. If ever I needed to go to an away game they've always been up for. And taking me in if ever I need to go to training. They'd drop me off, bring me back. So that's again supportive towards it.
 
 

Says that just knowing that he is able to play rugby makes him feel better.

Says that just knowing that he is able to play rugby makes him feel better.

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Yeah. I think it does just, just knowing that you're ok to play makes you even more you know, how could I say it, just makes you feel even better. Just like, like if, if you didn't have asthma then you could play anyway. But just knowing that you've got the chance to play makes you feel even better, just knowing that you, you've been given a chance to.

Yeah I think it can do yeah. If you feel you can't do something and everyone else doing it then you feel left out. And like that could be an issue. And if you've been left out then next time it comes along you might not even feel like doing it just, not even if your asthma is ok or whatever because you just don't feel as though you should be doing whatever it is you want to do or can't do or whatever like. And I think that's one, one major issue.

 

His PE teacher seemed not to realise the seriousness of his asthma and would sometimes ask him to...

His PE teacher seemed not to realise the seriousness of his asthma and would sometimes ask him to...

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I think what it is with P.E. teachers is they are. They don't know a lot about asthma and which means that they, they just see it as a thing like 'Asthma it's just a cough or something'. And they don't see that it can be life-threatening. And that, that's what I think makes them just want to, want to just force you to do sports sometimes and not. They just don't realise that some people are just genuinely can't do it sometimes and they just do see it as an excuse.

On the whole how has the school responded?

When I started my school originally there was. There's, there's been different P.E. teachers since I started and, and now. And the original one I had was really not, not good. He would force me to do stuff which I didn't feel as though I could do. And that caused me to have an asthma attack as well. But since I've had different P.E. teachers they, they seem to have a better understanding and I think that, that is because Asthma UK are getting into schools now and, and feeding information. I think it will gradually get better.

Just really that, that Asthma UK could start trying to get the message out to most schools just so, just so they do understand more about what it actually is and what they could or should be doing.

Ok. And when you had to take some time off when you were little how did the school respond then when you were in primary school?

Well in primary school I think they, they do see it more as a serious problem because you're a lot younger and they just feel as though if, if you're ill then you should be being taken care of properly. So they didn't seem to worry as much as like losing some education. But in, since high school I was off once for five weeks and  they just, they didn't really care. They were just sending work home and like you know, didn't really worry about me. Just that I wasn't getting my work done and that I couldn't, couldn't work in class or anything. So that's another thing that could be improved.

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