All 3 of my children have asthma. Austin had his first "episode" (they don't call them attacks anymore) when he was 4 months old. He would cough and gag so hard that he'd vomit, yet by the time we'd get to the ER, he'd be fine. Doctors looked at us like we were nuts and over protective. We even had one who gave me a little pat on the back and said "You know mom, you don't need to bring him in for every sniffle or tickle in his throat, he'll be fine. I was so frustrated.
After he was finally diagnosed, I was sad to learn he had asthma, but I was also relieved to know we weren't considered crazy or neurotic anymore, and he would get the help he needed.
Chelsea had her first episode when she was in Kindergarten, and Ashley had her first episode 2 weeks after Chelsea. At that point, I decided that if I'm being "forced" into being the mom of 3 asthmatics, I was going to learn all I could about it and that's what I set out to do. I devoured books and read articles. I joined a nationwide mothers of asthmatics support group.
The hardest part was during a flare-up. I remember one time in particular Chelsea was coughing so bad she had tears running down her eyes. She looked up at me and whispered "Mommy, am I going to die?"
One of the best things I ever found was a book called "The Lion Who Had Asthma" by Jonathon London. Or, as Austin soon called it "Yion Wif Azma". Here is part of a great review about the book:
In the story Sean pretends to be a Lion going about normal stalking activities in the jungle. When he suffers an asthma attack and becomes weakened he is no longer able to perform his boyish and lion-like activities with a lion's strength. The coughing and wheezing frighten Sean and the courage of the Lion vanishes as Sean lies down and is confined to his nebulizer.
Sean's mother offers him a new avenue to explore with his imagination when she suggests he be a jet pilot. The whirring of the machine and the mask on his face provide realistic props for Sean's visualization. As Sean's bronchial tubes dilate and more oxygen is able to enter his lungs, the Lion in Sean returns and once again Sean's imagination takes him away to his jungle adventures. This book would be particularly valuable to read to young children. They would understand and identify with Sean making believe he is a lion or a hippo in the jungle and then as a jet pilot. The text introduces the language of the special illness that Sean has. Words like asthma, breathe, cough and wheeze. The language also addresses the emotions that Sean goes through like fear, hurt, and the use of a lion obviously demonstrates the courage that Sean displays. The language is simple enough too for older children to read independently and introduces text challenges like the sound effects of the machine (nebulizer) and the lion - Rroooarrr, Zooom, Grrrrrrrrowwl.
When I bought this book, I read it to Austin during one of his nebulizer treatments. Normally, neb treatments were a battle. He didn't like being confined. He didn't like the mask stuck on his face, and he didn't like the steam from the medicine because he knew it'd make him cough (which is what it was supposed to do as his tubes opened). When I read the book the first time, he just sat there. Afterwards he said "gin mama" (again mama), so we read it again.
The "Yion" book became our constant companion during neb treatments, and as he got older he began to act out the story. He'd pretend to be the "aiopane" (airplane) flying through the "cowds" (clouds), and when he was done, he'd give a roar like a lion and then we'd both clap.
One time when he had a really bad episode, we took him to the ER and as they tried to do an extra strong treatment on him he cried "Yion, Yion!" and I told the nurse he wanted his Lion book. I grabbed it from my bag and they were amazed at how quickly he settled down.
After that, I ordered a few copies and gave one to the ER, a couple to pediatrics and one to the asthma specialists office. They thought I was being sweet, but actually I was covering my hiney in case we ever forgot to bring our own "Yion" book along. ha!
If you have any young children with asthma, or know someone who has, I really recommend this book. It's entertaining, yet written in a way that children can begin to understand what's going on, and that it's ok to be scared sometimes. We still have our copy on the shelf. It's now a part of our history and I just can't bring myself to part with it.
Now that my kids are older, they pop an inhaler in their pocket or purse and go about their day. However, not long ago Ashley asked about the "Lion book" and if we still had it. She works after classes at an elementary school and has obtained some babysitting jobs outside of that with some of the kids. One of those kids has asthma and she explained the book to the mom and she wanted to take the book to show her. It brings a smile to my face to know the "Yion" can still help kids with their roar.