A Simple Lesson Saves a Girl’s Life

Shortly after moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, 9-year-old Amanda Grabel’s asthma spiraled out of control with a series of colds that led to asthma attacks, emergency room visits and a stay in the intensive care unit of the nearby hospital. Amanda and her family were terrified.

Amanda Grabel was able to return to music and sports after learning how to use her inhaler correctly.
Amanda Grabel was able to return to music and sports after learning how to use her inhaler correctly.

“We were worried every time she stepped on the soccer field that she could fall down and die,” said her mother, Rori Grabel. “I was going to her school daily with nebulizer treatments, and our normally happy child was having panic attacks, crying and saying she was afraid of dying in her sleep. It is hard to comfort somebody when you are that panicked yourself.”

At the suggestion of two friends, the Grabels came to National Jewish Health for help. Immediately after arriving, the whole family met with Pediatrician BJ Lanser, MD, and Amanda’s care team. Dr. Lanser said it appeared that Amanda was not getting any medication into her system in spite of repeated doses.

After that initial meeting, Emily Cole, RN, watched how Amanda took her inhaled medications. She quickly saw that Amanda was using her inhaler incorrectly, preventing medication from getting deep into her lungs where it was needed. For more than a week, nurse Cole worked daily with Amanda on the proper technique to get the medicine into her lungs.

“Educating our patients and their families is crucial to good outcomes,” said Cole. “Whether it is teaching proper inhaler technique, how to monitor their condition or how to respond to emergencies, we give our patients the tools they need to care for themselves and live fuller lives.”

“It was such a simple thing,” said Amanda’s mother Rori. “But that simple mistake would have killed my daughter. I’m unbelievably happy it was so easily corrected. I know it wouldn’t have been discovered anywhere else.”

Almost a year after the assessment and training at National Jewish Health, Amanda uses only one inhaler and has had no asthma attacks.

“She no longer thinks she is going to die from her asthma in the middle of the night,” Rori Grabel said. “Her panic attacks and night terrors are over. She is back to being the cheerful, active child who gives us such joy.”