‘It is truly frightening that asthma deaths are on the rise’

‘It is truly frightening that asthma deaths are on the rise’

By Maurice Garvey

COMPARED to other high profile medical conditions, asthma is often not considered with the same trepidation by the general public.

However, the inhaler image is shattered by startling figures from the Asthma Society of Ireland, that indicate a person dies every five days in Ireland from asthma.

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Ciara with her mother Emer who sadly passed away

“It is truly frightening that asthma deaths are on the rise in Ireland,” said Asthma Society CEO, Sarah O’Connor.

An Asthma Management survey, conducted in April/May with 1,081 respondents, highlighted a huge lack of awareness of how to manage asthma, revealing two out of three people in Dublin with asthma are at risk of a potentially fatal asthma attack.

One asthma sufferer who tragically passed away in 2018, was Emer Kelly (47), a young mother from Walkinstown.

Ciara Kelly (25), Emer’s only child, now campaigns for the Asthma Society of Ireland, in an effort to ensure 72,400 people in Dublin with asthma, are aware of the supports and advice which can help reduce the risk of a fatal attack.

“We didn’t know anything about the Asthma Society, the advice and things like the specialists they have on call,” said Ciara.

“Her own GP was unsure how to treat it. She was a chronic asthmatic all her life, but we thought it was under control. In the weeks leading up (to her fatal attack), it was not a bother. She was fine, no chest infection. It was such a shock.”

That fateful day arrived on January 3, 2018, shortly after Emer had enjoyed a “brilliant Christmas and New Year” with her family and friends.

Emer’s nebuliser wasn’t working, and although revived twice, the latter time in hospital, medical staff said there was no blood flow and nothing more they could do.

It was a devastating blow for Ciara, who recalls a “two sisters relationship” rather than a mother-daughter.

“It is crazy. She was so young and always trying to get fit but just wasn’t given a proper plan.”

The survey also found that half of people with asthma use their inhaler more than the recommended twice a week.

On occasion, Emer was known to use her inhaler four to five times a day.

Survey results also showed that most people wouldn’t know the necessary steps to take to save a life (the 5 Step Rule), in the event of an asthma attack.

Campaigning for the Asthma Society has helped Ciara cope with the loss of her mother and friend, whilst also educating other people of the supports available via Emer’s story.

“It is really so sad that this terrible thing had to happen, for other people to be saved,” said Ciara.

“Especially kids. I didn’t know six-year olds are on inhalers. My hope is that education will help.”

Asthma Action Plans can be downloaded from asthma.ie or ordered over the phone at the helpline 1800 44 54 64 (delivered for free) or picked up at any Boots pharmacy nationwide.

To support the Asthma Society, text BREATHE to 50300 TO DONATE €4. Text costs €4. Asthma Society of Ireland will receive a minimum of €3.25.

The Asthma and COPD Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64 allows users to call a respiratory nurse specialist for free to discuss their action plan and any other asthma related questions.

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