Life with Chronic Asthma

As a chronic asthmatic and volunteer I run across patients and their parents battling the same disease.

The American Lung Association recently held their annual asthma walk in Texas to raise funds for research and prevention of the illness.

Amber Richards, family team chairperson and “fighting asthma mom” is the mother of Colton, 6, who has battled the illness since birth. Colton was the walk ambassador for the walk this year and Amber was captain of “The Wheezers” team.

“We found out that he has this terrifying disease when he was 18 months old,” said Amber. “He was born eight weeks premature with undeveloped lungs and pneumonia.”

Colton had to go to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit immediately because he wasn’t breathing well on his own. They put him inside an Oxyhood with oxygen so he could breathe easier. After three long weeks in the NICU he was finally able to come home.

The family spent the next 17 months in and out of the doctor’s office and the emergency room. Amber said she got tired of no reprieve from Bronchitis every month so she took Colton to a pediatric pulmonologist, Dr. Richard Rembecki, on the board of the American Lung Association.

“As we walked into the room, the nurse told me that Colton was having an asthma attack and promptly gave him a breathing treatment to help him breathe,” said Amber. “I was shocked because this was the first time that anyone had mentioned the word asthma. After the doctor confirmed that Colton had asthma, we went home that day with a nebulizer, medicines, and a panicked feeling.”

Amber said she spent the next couple of weeks feeling overwhelmed.

“I was so scared that he was gonna stop breathing and I couldn’t do anything about it,” she said. “I didn’t sleep much for the next few months. I kept waking up in the middle of the night to make sure he was still breathing. I felt helpless.”

Amber stated that during this time of exhaustion she decided to learn everything that she could about asthma and how to help her son breathe easier. She read every book and article found at the library and on the Internet.

“I’ve even become the Family Chairperson for the American Lung Association to help find a cure for this awful disease,” she enthused. “I am also extremely lucky because Dr. Rembecki does a wonderful job of describing how asthma affects the lungs and how the medicine controls it. This wasn’t easy. Yes, I read the information. Now I just had to be able to understand it and make it work.”

Amber reports that the family has still spent many nights in the emergency room with asthma attacks.

“As the years have gone by, I’ve gotten better at knowing when to take him in and when not to, but nothing prepares you to take your gasping for air child who is blue in the face to the emergency room,” she wrote. “This disease determines how we live our daily life.”

Colton has been hospitalized twice since birth with breathing problems. The first time was at the age of two with pneumonia and a second time at the age of four with RSV.

Colton is on eight medications daily and a ninth as needed. He gets an allergy shot once a week and he uses a Peak Flow Meter every morning which helps Amber determine how much lung capacity he has, determining how much medicine he needs and if he can play outside. Of course, he can only play outside if it’s not an ozone day and Amber monitors the ozone daily as well.

“Colton is amazing about taking his medicine. He knows what they are for and has known how to take them by himself since he was two,” she said. “That is just incredible to me.”

Amber confessed that dealing with asthma hasn’t been easy. When Colton was younger it didn’t seem to bother him, but now that he is older and misses school because of it, it bothers him. He doesn’t like being different and having kids make fun of him and he wants to be able to play outside every day like the other kids. He doesn’t want to go to the nurses’ office everyday before lunch for his inhaler, just so he can play outside for recess and he frequently says, “It’s not fair.”

“Amazingly though he does cope with everything quit well,” said Amber. “It’s hard for me to watch him have to do this but we do it together as a family. My husband and I keep him strong and watching him act so big and brave, keeps us strong. “

Amber reports Colton did a great job playing t-ball for two seasons, tennis, floor hockey, soccer, and basketball.

“He is now playing baseball and doing awesome,” said Amber. “We don’t want to keep him from playing the sports he likes just because of asthma. He tries his best and then decides which ones he can breathe easiest with. I am so proud of my son and how overall optimistic he is about his disease. He has his down moments, when he has an attack, but once it’s over he moves on as if he didn’t have a problem. For that, he is my hero.”

Amber said she has learned so much about life, just from watching her son.

“So until there is a cure for asthma, we will continue our daily routine of medicines and enjoy life,” she said.

On April 22nd at 1:00 there will be a fundraising car wash in honor of Colton at the Hooters in McKinney, TX.

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