Getting a little out of breath after sprinting down a soccer field is normal for most kids. Waking up in the middle of the night gasping for air is not. Eight-year-old Genesis Avila began waking up during the night struggling to breathe. Her rescue inhaler, designed to relax the airways and allow air to move in and out of the lungs, was not helping.
“It was terrifying,” said Sarahi Avila, Genesis’ mom. “We made her sleep in our room to be right there in case she started struggling again.” Unfortunately, Genesis continued to experience these attacks three or four times a week. “We were constantly worried that she would just stop breathing at school, soccer practice or at a friend’s house.”
Her doctor, Nathan Rabinovitch, MD, a pediatric allergy and immunology expert with National Jewish Health for Kids, referred Genesis to the hospital’s new Asthma Tune Up and Wellness Program. “The program was designed for children who are having a hard time keeping their asthma under control,” explained Dr. Rabinovitch. “Over the course of three days, the program identifies trouble areas and then uses intensive patient education, hands-on learning and a new reminder technology to help patients and families learn more about asthma management.”
For Genesis and her family, the program significantly expanded their asthma knowledge and resources. “I used to think that an asthma attack meant that Genesis was not getting enough air into her lungs, but I learned from the Tune Up Program that it is harder for her to get air out during an asthma attack,” said Avila.
Patient education is a big part of the Tune Up Program. For instance, Genesis learned exactly what happens inside her body when her asthma is triggered. “The videos were fun. They helped me understand more about my asthma,” said Genesis. Her mom explained, “It made Genesis so happy to see in the videos how the muscles work during an asthma episode, and how the different medicines help her lungs calm down.”
The program taught Genesis how to use the tools around her medicine properly, including the spacer.. A spacer is a tube-like component that attaches to the inhaler. It holds the puff of medicine and allows the user to inhale it slowly. This ensures the medicine reaches the lungs instead of getting swallowed. “The difference was amazing,” explained Genesis’ mom. “At the beginning of the program, her peak flow meter reading (which measures air pushed out of the lungs) was low at 150 and at the end of the program it was 250, which is good for her.”
Another asthma management tool the program provided was a sensor/tracking device that attaches to her inhaler and sends a medication reminder to Genesis’ cell phone. We never have to remind her to take her medicine,” explained her mom. “She hears the reminder and immediately goes to her inhaler. It has even helped her little brother take his asthma medicine every day, too!”
Genesis and her parents are big fans of the Asthma Tune Up Program. “Genesis is back to sleeping through the night. She is doing great with using the tools to manage her asthma. It’s so good to see her tearing up the soccer field and not having breathing problems. This program has completely changed our lives,” said Avila.