30 May 2006

Experts in alert for asthma awareness

Daily Ireland

Teenagers die after disease hits

Áine McEntee

An asthma expert yesterday called for health professionals to increase awareness of the condition after four young people died within days of each other.
Two Belfast teenagers have died in recent days after having asthma attacks.
Jim McMillan (16) died on Saturday after an asthma attack, while Bronagh Kelly, also 16, died last Thursday.
Fourteen-year-old Victoria Warneck, from Co Down, died on Monday, May 22 after suffering a similar attack.
On May 19, 30-year-old Scott Wasson from Belfast, died from an asthma attack as he and his new bride waited at the airport to fly home from their honeymoon in Barbados.
Patrick McKeown, founder of Asthma Care Ireland, yesterday said more needed to be done to highlight the severity of the condition.
“I would agree to a large extent that more needs to be done to highlight asthma. It’s very rarely the condition flares up with no warning signs and leads to a chronic attack,” he said.
“Education is a huge issue here. Methods of nasal breathing and such preventative measures are perhaps being overlooked, while sufferers become over-reliant on reliever medication such as inhalers.
“This only means the underlying issue of the inflamed lungs isn’t addressed and, when the inner airways are like this, the relievers don’t work and that’s where the danger lies.”
Jim McMillan’s mother Michelle and father PJ said they were totally devastated by their son’s death.
The pathologist told them that asthma had been responsible for their son’s early death.
Speaking from their north Belfast home, the distraught couple said they had never realised just how fragile their son’s health was.
“He was a strong boy. We thought: How could he not pull through an asthma attack?
“At that age, you’re fit and young. We’re completely baffled. We don’t understand how it happened,” Mr McMillan said.
Jim was popular in the area and known for his love of football.
His school friends from St Patrick’s College, Bearnageeha organised a touching farewell to him as part of his funeral Mass yesterday.
The teenager was named after his mother’s brother Jim Meighan, who was killed by the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1987 at the age of 22.
Mrs McMillan said friends and family could not help but remember her brother’s death now.
“It’s like history repeating itself. My mother had three boys and a girl. Jim, my brother, was the second eldest. My son Jim was the second eldest of the family as well. It’s just heartbreaking,” she said.
Asthma is the most widespread long-term condition among children.
On average every year, 44 people die from the condition in the North and 2,445 people are admitted to hospital suffering from its symptoms.
World Asthma Day was held on May 2 to highlight the condition.

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