Rais­ing asthma aware­ness

Lo­cal fam­ily wants par­ents to seek de­tailed in­for­ma­tion when deal­ing with asthma

The Compass - - NEWS - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

Part two in a two-part se­ries

The Verge fam­ily in Har­bour Grace went through a hor­ri­ble or­deal.

In May 2014, eight-year-old Matthew had a spasm in his lungs and stopped breath­ing. He is asth­matic.

Asthma is a chronic in­flam­ma­tory dis­ease of the air­ways, which can cause is­sues breath­ing, lead­ing to wheez­ing, cough­ing, tight­en­ing of the chest, per­spi­ra­tion and many other symp­toms.

The nor­mally en­er­getic boy turned blue and lost con­scious­ness, but with the help of his sis­ters and grand­mother, they kept him breath­ing long enough for the am­bu­lance to ar­rive.

Af­ter be­ing air­lifted to the Janeway, he con­tin­ued to hold on each day. Af­ter a week in a coma, he woke up with no last­ing health-re­lated is­sues from oxy­gen de­pri­va­tion.

Matthew has been named the Chil­dren’s Mir­a­cle Net­work cham­pion child for New­found­land and Labrador. He and his fam­ily will go to Toronto and Florida later this win­ter.

But it’s what fol­lowed Matthew’s health scare that left the big­gest mark on the Verge fam­ily.

Learn­ing about asthma

Matthew — now 10 — and sis­ter Emily, who is 12, had both been di­ag­nosed asth­matic prior to the in­ci­dent. Since then, youngest sis­ter Alyssa, eight, has also been di­ag­nosed. Tay­lor, the Verge’s 15-year-old daugh­ter, is the only sib­ling that doesn’t have asthma.

The Asthma So­ci­ety of Canada web­site notes that some 250 Cana­di­ans will die from asthma each year. Luck­ily Matthew didn’t be­come part of that statis­tic.

Af­ter Matthew’s stay at the Janeway, mom Christina and dad Paul be­gan tak­ing him to an asthma spe­cial­ist.

It was then they re­al­ized that what they had known about the ill­ness their chil­dren had was min­i­mal.

“We don’t want some­one else to go through it,” Christina said dur­ing a Com­pass visit to the Verge home.

They de­cided to speak out as a group be­cause it was al­most los­ing Matthew that al­lowed them to get to know ex­actly how asthma works and what they could do to help their chil­dren.

“When (Alyssa’s) asthma acts up a lit­tle bit more, we’d bump up her med­i­ca­tion a lit­tle bit,” Christina con­tin­ued.

The fam­ily fol­lows the di­rec­tions of the physi­cian, and con­firmed the meds can be ad­justed ac­cord­ingly. Matthew and Alyssa see the same spe­cial­ist.

For Paul it’s about ad­vo­cat­ing for your chil­dren, some­thing many par­ents don’t re­al­ize they should do when their child has asthma.

Christina wants more in­for­ma­tion read­ily avail­able, but also for par­ents to get ed­u­cated on the ill­ness.

“Par­ents stop giv­ing (their child) a steroid when they’re feel­ing bet­ter,” she said. “Which you shouldn’t do.”

Life has changed

For the Verges, life has changed since Matthew’s at­tack. In fact, they are very cau­tious to keep stuffed an­i­mals and scented prod­ucts out of the house be­cause they can be trig­gers for at­tacks.

And with three chil­dren with res­pi­ra­tory is­sues, it’s im­por­tant for all fam­ily mem­bers to be pre­pared if any­thing hap­pens. Each mem­ber of the fam­ily is now in­formed of how their treat­ments work and what to do in case of an at­tack.

Each per­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence with asthma is dif­fer­ent, so the specifics to each case are not the same. So ev­ery treat­ment is per­son­al­ized to each pa­tient.

“What hap­pened to Matthew could hap­pen to any­one out there with asthma,” Paul ex­plained.

Christina agreed, not­ing they were com­pletely blind­sided when Matthew stopped breath­ing. The thought their son could die from an asthma at­tack was never in their minds.

The Asthma So­ci­ety of Canada of­fers a print out for pa­tients with asthma to bring to their doc­tor to cre­ate an ac­tion plan to help when symp­toms per­sist. It’s help­ful for those who might not re­mem­ber what to do in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions, but also to al­low oth­ers to help in case of an emer­gency.

The Verges have dis­cussed their own op­tions with the spe­cial­ist, and have a bet­ter han­dle on how to treat cer­tain types of at­tacks when they hap­pen. Paul says be­cause they have a grasp on their chil­dren’s con­di­tions now, they are much more at ease.

The fam­ily is hop­ing to or­ga­nize a walk in aid of asthma re­search in May, to cor­re­spond with World Asthma Day. It will also be the two-year an­niver­sary of Matthew’s at­tack.

“We want to raise aware­ness, be­cause there’s plenty out there (lo­cally for other or­ga­ni­za­tions), but noth­ing for asthma,” Paul said.

Matthew will be cel­e­brated as the cham­pion child for the Chil­dren’s Mir­a­cle Net­work on Fri­day, Feb. 5 at Wal­mart in Car­bon­ear.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO BY ROBERT THORN­HILL

Matthew Verge is the Janeway Cham­pion child for 2016. He sur­vived a se­vere asthma at­tack in May 2014.

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