The New Zealand Respiratory Conference 2016 was proudly presented by the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ and Allergy NZ, and held on 24-25 November at the Pullman Hotel in Auckland.

The Foundation’s new celebrity ambassador Issac Luke opened the conference by telling his personal story with asthma, what drove him to come on board and support the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ, and also answers a few questions.

Why did you want to become an ambassador?

“I lived the dream for rugby league in Australia, playing for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and now I'm back home. My old man has very chronic asthma, and when I was younger I had to listen out to see if he was yelling or choking.”

“A massive reason I wanted to be part of the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ is because of my father, but also because two out of my four kids have asthma. They’re young kids, and asthma causes them to get emotional and have anxiety attacks. Two of my kids are really sporty, and asthma is a health issue they’re pretty affected by, so I'm happy to help.”

“Becoming an ambassador for the Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ means I can use my profile to help raise awareness for asthma and respiratory. It’s something that’s sat with me for a long while,” says Issac.  

What is everyone’s response about you being an ambassador?

“Overall it’s been quite a humbling experience, my Dad in particular is very proud. My rugby league team, the Vodafone Warriors have been incredibly supportive. Also my family is overwhelmed, knowing that I'm able to help other New Zealanders,” says Issac.

What motivated you to become a rugby league player?

“I left New Zealand at 16 years old to move to Australia and I was there with the Canterbury bulldogs. I had my first child very young, and the first thing was to find money for him. I was up and down the grades. When I was 19, I got a call to play first grade in Sydney,” says Issac.

What is the training like over in Australia?

"They have a different way of training over there. They put you in scenarios you don’t want to ever be put in again! As part of training, at the end of 2012 I went to an army camp. The guys who ran the training camp look after SAS in Afghanistan. I remember this one time, they woke us all up 11.30 at night and put us in a swimming pool. I swear I could have died about five times. These types of scenarios teach you to be mentally tough. You’re drowning and you come back up. If that happens on the field, you know how to come back up," says Issac. 

What's it like being a senior member of the Kiwis team?

“We’re called the koros, something I’ve been working towards for a while – to be a senior member of the Kiwis. I remember being a rookie and looking up to the older players, the older koros. Right now I try to spend a lot of time with the younger players, because that’s what the older players did for me. And I still have that same hunger and drive from when I first got selected.” says Issac. 

Have you seen a teammate suffer from an asthma attack? 

“In professional sport there’s lots of doctors that deal with that. A few boys have been hit with it during training and have had to rest. There was one time, I was doing a 2.4km run from Coogee, in Sydney, and one of the boys had to have an ambulance come and look after him. I ran past him, and stopped but didn’t know what to do for him. I’ve now learnt how to deal with it,” says Issac.

If you find yourself dealing with someone who is having an asthma attack, remember the steps with the acronym ASTHMA. Read about Asthma First Aid here

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