Dear Christopher: I’ve had asthma since I was a one-year old boy, so basically I’ve had it for my whole life. The big challenge when I was growing up was that at that time, there were no asthma medications for use in the home. If you had a severe asthma attack, you could go to the hospital, where they would give you an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline). Eventually, my mother learned how to give me these injections. She would boil water and sterilize the hypodermic needle and then draw the epinephrine, and give me the injection. This was absolutely not for day to day use, only in bad emergencies.
The big challenge for me was that I wanted to go outside and play with my friends, which meant running around playing games, tag, or touch football, or soccer, and it would be where I was allergic to grass and trees and flowers. It was hard because I would have an asthma problem and couldn’t breathe, but I didn’t want to go inside and not play with my friends. So I just tried my hardest all the time, getting incredibly out of breath. I am certain that this situation made me very determined and persevering. I had to prove to myself that I could do those things that I wanted to do. And I think that one of the reasons I am out here in Vendée Globe is because of my asthma. I am still trying to prove to myself that my asthma is not a constraint that should stop me doing the things that I want to do.
This continued until I was in high school, which was when the first asthma bronchodilator became available. It was Amazing! It helped my breathing! Thank goodness there were dedicated doctors and scientists studying asthma who developed that drug, and the ones to follow.
Now there are five categories of asthma medications. I have used all five at various times, and here, on the boat, I use four of them: the short-term bronchodilator (Albuterol), a long-term bronchodilator (Serevent) in combination with a corticosteroid (Beclomethasone), and also another bronchodilator (Theophylline).
I am very disciplined about taking my medications every day on time. And also, I think that a person with asthma has to become a scientist about his or her own body. You have to notice what helps and what hurts your asthma, so that you can tell your asthma doctor who can then use that information in caring for your asthma.
Question submitted by Christopher, age 8, via News-O-Matic