Alex has asthma, and has had it diagnosed for just over a year. He has had asthma symptoms for three years, however we were not aware of it until he had an attack last year. Alex also gets a restriction of the throat which makes it hard to breathe in, and he is currently under a respiratory specialist care. Alex was recently diagnosed with 'Paradoxical Vocal Chord Dysfunction', which is horrible - can't breathe out (asthma) and can't breathe in with the vocal chords blocking his air!
Photo: Alex off to the 2015 Inter-Regionals for cross country in Blenheim
Alex has been on a journey with his medications to make sure they are just right. When Alex was first diagnosed his Doctor started with the orange inhaler, moved onto a purple disk with dry powder, and is now on Symbicort and with the advice of his respiratory specialist he is taking the Symbicort preventer four times daily.
Often the changes in medications have been in reasonably ‘urgent’ scenarios, where Alex has been managing the prednisone in large doses, along with the blue inhaler. Throughout the changes in medication Alex has monitored his asthma using the peak flow meter and managed his inhalers, despite having a very active day and school along with a large number of additional activities.
Alex has started to learn the signs that indicate his asthma is no longer in control. He understands that when he becomes emotional he needs to check on his peak flow, and when the reading is dropping and he is coughing a lot he knows he needs to be ready to take more of the Symbicort and take his peak flow reading frequently! He is also aware when he is at the action time he needs to go onto prednisone. I have been so impressed with Alex taking it all in his stride, confidently talking and discussing action plans with his doctor and the practice nurse, and taking responsibility for doing it.
During the winter months we are at the doctors once every 6-8 weeks for steroids and/or antibiotics, so it is constant working together with our doctor and nurse, alongside Alex.
Not bad for a 12 year old!
Setting goals and achieving them
Alex has always set his goals for his achievements, and when it comes to running he is no different, despite (or is it in spite of) his breathing struggles.
When Alex was in year 3 (aged 8) he came first in his school cross country, and immediately set a goal to win his school cross country the following year. He started his training the following week and won his cross country in Year 4, without a doubt. He also won by a significant amount in Years 5 & 6.
When Alex got to intermediate, he set a goal to reach the Inter-Intermediates. Alex came 4th in his year at intermediate, and was 4th at Inter-Intermediates, and at the Wellington Regionals he came 24th.
For the following year (Y8) despite having been diagnosed with asthma, and having to have constant adjustments to medications, with visits to the medical centre and emergency department,
Alex continued to set his goals – and this time even higher!
Alex wanted to be one of the top 10 at the Wellington Regionals so he could represent at the Inter-Regional, the closest event to a national competition at intermediate age. To make this competition, you have to continue competing and training from February to October, so it takes a lot of commitment and management of asthma.
Alex had improved his times and performance due to absolute determination. He trained twice a day. Alex would be at the intermediate at 7.30am to do a 3-5km run, and be back at it straight after school. This year Alex improved his placing at school and Inter-Intermediates by two placings, and went on to represent Wellington at the Inter-Regionals in Blenheim after being successful at the Wellington Regional and getting a place in the top 10. For Alex this was a major achievement as just three weeks earlier he had collapsed at a major meet in Tauranga and had to have treatment in the ambulance.
Alex also plays football in winter, when his asthma is not so great. He has learnt to run around that football pitch with his inhaler on hand, coming off to get his puff, and getting right back in there. You will never see him give in, if there is any air able to get out of those lungs, he will make it! He has the same determination in his beep test, and the same goals. He constantly sets himself new challenges, and hits them.
He has been supported by his running coaches, who have said he can do it, and gave him the confidence to run with his inhaler in his hand. They have allowed him to keep pushing himself his limits, and Alex knows how far he can go. Nothing can stop him, even asthma! We just say thanks for the steroids and wonderful coaches, it allows Alex to live as close to a normal life as possible, and achieve his running goals.