During National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, there are many ways to educate others about asthma and allergies and what it’s like to live with them. We offer several tools and ideas to help you get involved.
As part of this year’s focus, More Than Asthma, we want to highlight Leo Ignacio "Nacho" Adams. Faced with severe asthma from since he was an infant, Nacho's determination helped him become an active teenager, despite the odds.
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Leo Ignacio Adams – known as Nacho – spent his first birthday in the hospital because of an asthma attack. After several more severe attacks that damaged his heart and lungs, he wasn’t expected to make it to his 13th birthday. So when Nacho turned 13 last year, he celebrated with an “Expiration Date Party.”
There were moments in his childhood when his mother, Jodi-Renee Giron, didn’t know if he’d make it to his “Expiration Date Party.” And if he did, what kind of quality of life would he have? The doctors told her he would not be able to do highly aerobic activity if his heart didn’t heal and the scarring in his lungs got worse.
“When Nacho was 6 years old, he had a severe and life-changing experience with his asthma,” recalled Jodi-Renee. “After 11 days in the hospital – some of that time intubated to help him maintain his oxygen levels – the doctor made it clear that our primary job was just getting Nacho stable and keeping him alive. When I asked if he could be a normal kid and play the types of sports he wanted, the doctor looked at me and very seriously said, ‘He could play chess.’”
Nacho wanted to be active like any kid. Allergies – especially tree and other types of pollen – trigger Nacho’s asthma symptoms most of the time. But smoke and animal dander can affect him too. He also manages food allergies to tree nuts, dairy, wheat, corn, soy, pineapple and eggs. They moved so he could be in a better environment so they could better manage his triggers and have better access to the care he needed.
“He was clearly determined to do more than just ‘stay alive.’” said Jodi-Renee. “After a year of focused care and work, his respiratory therapist celebrated his progress and told him they needed a new goal. His answer: ‘I want to run.’ That became the new focus. I became a student of all things lungs, and we took advantage of every extra piece of free information we could extract from our doctors, trainer friends and his occupational therapist. His training includes stretches for his intercostal muscles, controlled breathing exercises, diet and specific kinds of interval work.”
The hard work has paid off. Nacho now plays soccer and run in races when he can. He even has hopes of going to college on a soccer scholarship. Through his drive and attitude, he works closely with his teachers, coaches and health care providers to reach his goals.
“My routines are complicated,” Nacho said. “To other kids, I want to say face your asthma. Don’t let it control you. Try out all the things you want to try and don’t let your asthma stop you from really living. Be part of the team with your parents and your doctors. Take all your medicines just like you brush your teeth – every morning and every night.”
Nacho still faces significant challenges with his asthma. He's missed 38 days of school this year. His morning medicine routine involves a nebulizer treatment, two nasal sprays, two allergy pills and two types of long-term control inhalers. At night, he has a nebulizer treatment, one long-term control medicine and one allergy pill.
His doctor says Nacho's asthma is very severe, putting him in a group of 5% of people with asthma. But the doctor feels his positive attitude and commitment to his asthma treatment plan help him defy the odds.
“He radiates a love of life!” said Jodi-Renee. “He doesn’t see himself as a sick kid – rather he’s a kid with a sickness. This viewpoint has had the most impact on keeping his outlook positive. We both work hard to remember that he is not a victim of this illness, but he lives with it and has choices in how he cares for himself and lives his best life.”
More Than Asthma
May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. This year, we want to dispel myths and help others see beyond the disease. We are raising awareness about how asthma and allergies are more than just physical conditions. They impact every aspect of life. But they don't have to define you. Show us how you are #morethanasthma.