In February this year the unthinkable happened to my family. My precious daughter Breah, died from an asthma attack at only 17 years old.
Even now it doesn’t seem real.
How did this beautiful, vibrant girl, my little pocket rocket, die so unexpectedly and so tragically? She should still be here slamming doors like every other teenager.
But she’s not.
Breah had asthma all her life. She was diagnosed when she was about four or five. Her triggers seemed to be just about everything. Pollen, cold air, wood smoke. You name it, Breah was allergic to it. The list of things that were triggers for Breah just seemed to grow and grow over the years.
When she was 14, she had a really bad asthma flare up. She had run home from the school bus stop on a cold and windy afternoon. That was all it took to trigger her asthma. We started her asthma action plan, but nothing was working. So I put her in the car and we headed for the hospital. On the way she went into respiratory arrest.
She suddenly stopped breathing. It was terrifying.
When Breah recovered, I admit I became even more protective of her. I remember she wanted to play touch football, but we wouldn’t let her because she’d be playing outside in the cold night air. We were too worried about her having as asthma flare up.
After this episode Breah’s asthma seemed to settle down. She was pretty good for quite a while and the medication seemed to be working.
But that’s the thing about asthma, you just don’t know when you will have a flare up. That’s why research is so important
The night my beautiful girl had the asthma attack that killed her is still vivid in my memory. I don’t imagine I will ever forget it.
Breah went to a party with some friends. The party was outside and it was cold. The kids all stood around a fire. Wood smoke and cold night air were two of Breah’s triggers but if she stayed rugged up she was usually fine. Her friends thought she looked unwell and insisted she go home. Breah agreed and went home to bed to sleep off the symptoms.
But she just got worse through the night. Eventually she woke us. Her chest was really tight and she was struggling to breathe so we called the ambulance.
Suddenly Breah’s precautionary trip to the hospital turned critical. She went into respiratory arrest and then cardiac arrest. She was intubated (a breathing tube was inserted into her lungs) to assist her breathing. But she crashed again and had another asthma episode in the early hours of the morning.
The hospital told us she had to be transferred to Sydney from Taree. She had two more massive cardiac episodes.
These ultimately ended her life.
During the helicopter transfer, Breah also developed a clot which cut off the circulation to her legs.
My husband Ben and I were still in Taree while all this was going on and we had no idea what had happened. Ben rushed to be with Breah. I followed once I had someone to look after my two younger kids.
We were greeted with the news “Yeah, we’ve saved the leg, but now the issue is the brain. We’re not worried about the lungs. We’re not worried about the leg. It’s the brain we’re worried about now.”
I can’t describe how it felt to hear those words. It was like being in a nightmare. They did some tests which confirmed what the doctors already knew. My baby was brain dead. No-one can tell me why this asthma attack was so bad. In some ways that’s the hardest thing to come to terms with. Why?
My best friend throughout my childhood died of asthma too. She died 27 years before my Breah. I can’t believe in all that time we still haven’t found a cure.
I know Christmas isn’t far away and I am looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. In the midst of the celebration there will be huge sadness for our family because Breah isn’t with us.
So I hope you will give a donation to Asthma Australia to support research so no more families have to deal with the grief of losing a cherished child.