Jude Barnes often pulls long overnight shifts as a paramedic in Hobart, responding to people in medical crisis, including asthma attacks. But when it came to acting on her own breathing difficulties, she admits she was partly in denial of having asthma, even to the point of being stubborn about treatment.
Big wake-up calls came to Jude courtesy of two severe asthma flareups. In her 20s, she suffered a serious asthma flareup that left her struggling to breathe all day.
“There was no known trigger, I had a full day of being on Ventolin just trying to breathe, to the point that I got quite sick at the end of the day, felt nausea and had the shakes,” Jude said.
The second serious flareup occurred years later during a family camping trip.
“At Waterhouse in Tasmania, which is a beautiful spot, but overnight I got very severe asthma, and it would have had to be a big pack-up of camp to leave, so I just pushed through it for the night rather than go seek treatment,” Jude explained.
“I have seen asthma episodes deteriorate to the point of people not actually making it, so I probably was the lucky one – probably not stoic, as such, but stubborn would be how I described myself.
“And I didn’t want to be a bother – something I often hear through work – to my husband at the time to pack up camp to get me to the hospital.”
As a child living in the coal mining town of Lithgow, near Sydney, Jude developed an allergy to coal dust, so the family moved to the Northern Territory. Her breathing improved. Her parents also both smoked inside the house when she was growing up.
“I did have a period where I didn’t have asthma for a long time because all my triggers had gone away, and just as I started getting older, I started getting viral triggers, and would have asthma flareups before a virus, but I didn’t really put it down to asthma because I didn’t have it any other time at that stage,” Jude explained.
“Probably in my late 30s, I learned that it was my asthma rather than just being unfit; by then I had started on steroid puffers and started writing notes when I had flareups, for the doctor to review.”
Today, she manages her asthma with her reliever puffer, and prepares for the onset of the colder winter months by using steroid puffers to counteract minor flareups.
“The other thing that has been an interesting journey, was I started doing yoga two-and-a-half years ago – Bikram Yoga – in which they do breathing exercises in the class, and my asthma has been pretty good since then,” Jude added.
With her own care back on track – through awareness, medical support and exercise – her advice these days to others is: Don’t delay flagging any breathing troubles with your doctor.
Asthma Australia advises people with breathing difficulties – including asthma – to visit its website for a wide range of supportive and helpful information: https://asthma.org.au/
“Untreated asthma can cause issues with your lungs later on in life, and with treatments now that are fantastic, it’s well worth going and getting checked up, and a second opinion with your doctor is well worth it,” Jude advised.
Jude also follows this advice, allowing her to live successfully with her asthma, and able to provide the vital care needed to her emergency patients in their times of need.
Breathing challenges like asthma can stifle every part of life – including career. Jude’s control of her asthma means it doesn’t hinder her work as a health professional helping those in need in her community.
If you experience breathing difficulties, talk about it with your doctor. The right advice can help you live successfully with asthma.
For more information about living with asthma, visit the Asthma Australia website: https://asthma.org.au/treatment-diagnosis/live-with-asthma/