Last updated on 01/02/2023

“He couldn’t breathe, so I gave him his EpiPen. He let out one gasp, then another and another. He was breathing again but only just.” Mum-of-two from Victoria, Joanne, shares her story with Kidspot Editor Charlotte Willis.

Republished from Kidspot with permission

An emergency dash during a camping trip changed how I manage my son’s asthma.

My son has extreme allergies and asthma. Due to his allergies, he is one of the lucky asthma sufferers that has an EpiPen.

Unfortunately, his asthma only started during COVID lockdowns so getting GP appointments has been challenging. Most are over the phone.

I have First Aid training – from Paediatricians and Paramedics – however, I did not have Remote First Aid skills – and only just enough medicine for him to survive.

I’m sharing this story so other people may learn from my experience, get better educated and see their GP for a written Asthma Action Plan, to make sure they are well equipped for anything.

I’m a teacher and I’ve learned that I need to advocate for Ky at school. He’s had to take many days off and the understanding at schools around kids asthma needs more visibility.

On the 28th of December 2022, my son was in extremis at 4am. This was not the first time, nor will it be the last time. But it was the first time he had been in extremis for asthma.

“He let out one gasp, then another and another”

Ky was in the tent next to me, I heard a noise that sounded like a cough coming from his tent. His dad, who was sleeping next to him, heard it too and thought it was just a snore. Five minutes later I heard him coughing. It was a dry cough, and he could not stop. I jumped out of my tent and into his with his medical bag in my hand. Somehow, he was still asleep.

His dad woke him up and gave him four puffs of Ventolin. He was still coughing and unable to properly draw in the Ventolin. I grabbed my phone and rang triple zero at 3:57am. I told my other son to wake up and get in the car. I told my partner to, “start the car, turn on the heater then come back and pick up Ky and put him in the car.”

I got Ky out of his sleeping bag and out of the tent, then I put all his medicine back in his bag and spoke to the operator on triple zero. Everyone was in the car ready to go. Ky was using his Ventolin continuously at this stage administered by me through a spacer. He was not talking and could only communicate via nodding.

He was silent and I could not hear him breathing. I could see he was trying but only a small amount of air was going in. His chest was puffed out and his breathing although sparse was laboured. His skin was going white.

I gave him his white puffer. Time was crucial. I told the emergency operator where we were and that we were about to leave to meet the ambulance because my 10-year-old son was not breathing and going white from asthma. I knew the information they wanted.

The location I gave him, Thredbo Diggings, was not coming up. Luckily, he and I knew the area. The last thing he said before I lost reception was, “Drive with your hazards on, the ambulance is en route.”

“He was breathing again but only just”

Ky’s lips were going white. His breathing had stopped.

He couldn’t breathe, so I gave him his EpiPen. He let out one gasp, then another and another. He was breathing again but only just. Not much air was going in.

I rang triple zero back again at 4:11 am: 14 minutes since I initially called the number, which was about two minutes after he started coughing. They kept saying you should be able to see the ambulance. We saw it, but time was now vital and it was decision time again. Give him his second EpiPen or work out a pullover place to meet the ambulance.

I choose the latter. I undid Ky’s seatbelt, scooped him up and ran to where the ambulance would stop. I stuck to my decisions even though it would not take long for me to give him his second EpiPen. The truth was I did not know how much I could give him, but I knew the paramedics would know.

I held Ky in my arms. He started to look at me, I could feel him breathing again.

I watched the ambulance driver do his three-point turn. Then they stopped and opened the sliding door straight away.

“I was so glad they had turned up when they did”

My phone record shows that the third phone call to triple zero lasted 1 minute and 56 seconds. It was now 4:13am – 17 minutes since I initially called 000, which was about two minutes after he started coughing. About 19 – 20 minutes in total. When I put him on the bed I was finally able to see how white and non-responsive he was.

They told me they would give him more adrenaline.

The paramedic in the back put the nebuliser mask onto Ky’s face, over his nose and mouth. It had salbutamol in it. Ky began to get colour back on his face. His lips were now a very pale pink and his breathing improved. I couldn’t see Ky’s face as I was at the end of the bed, but I could tell by the paramedic’s face that there was significant improvement.

The paramedic asked Ky a general ‘yes, no’ question and he responded with a one-word answer. I knew this was huge but not huge enough; we needed to see more improvement.

The paramedics kept communicating with each other and someone else on the radio. It was a blur, but I had so much trust in them, they knew exactly what to do. I was so thankful they had turned up when they did. It was still a long drive to Cooma Hospital – 73 km in total. I knew another ambulance out of Cooma had also been dispatched to meet us.

I had told the original 000 ambulance operator that he had asthma from grasses, dust mites, and mould as well as anaphylaxis to some foods, which is why he has an EpiPen.

My mind was racing, trying to think about what Ky had been exposed to that may have triggered this. The grass was all I could think of. But which grass was it? We were camping on a grassy bank of the Thredbo River, but we had camped there the night before and he didn’t get asthma then. We had also camped there the previous autumn and two summers prior to this. It was about the sixth time he had camped at this exact spot or at the campsite further up the river.

“I knew I had to be better prepared for this in the future”

Ky was starting to respond a bit more and I continued to thank the paramedics. I was so grateful he was improving, and I also realised how lucky Ky was this time. I thought to myself next time he might not be lucky – an ambulance may not be available.

I knew I had to be better prepared for this in the future. I also made a mental note that in the very near future, I would need to add a nebuliser with salbutamol, oxygen, and a defibrillator to his first aid kit.

Asthma is new for us, especially since it started presenting during COVID when all GP appointments were online. Getting information about Asthma was hard, it still is. I’ve since learned that Ky has unusual symptoms that are not typical textbook symptoms.

Things I’ve learned about asthma that are important for parents:

  1. Make a free phone call with an Asthma Australia Educator (Call 1800ASTHMA, that’s 1800 278 462) to go over information.
  2. Check out Asthma Australia’s BACK TO SCHOOL HUB on the website for more information and remember to
  3. Have an up-to-date, written Asthma Action Plan from your GP for your child before they go back to school.

Republished from Kidspot with permission