03 June 2006

Asthma danger: more awareness needed say teen victim’s parents


Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe distraught parents of young asthma victim Jim McMillan have spoken of how they want to raise awareness of the medical condition after it tragically claimed his life at the tender age of 16.
The New Lodge teenager was extremely popular in the area and at his funeral on Tuesday hundreds of young people turned out to pay their respects at a packed St Patrick’s Church.
Jim’s mother Michelle McMillan said she wanted other parents to know the dangers surrounding asthma.
“I just want other parents out there to know that it can kill.
“We knew he had a bit of bother breathing, like when he played football. But never did we think in a million years, it would take his life,” she said.
Jim’s early death has shocked the local community, but it has also shocked the health profession following his death and that of three other young people who died the same way.
West Belfast teenager Bronagh Kelly died last Thursday (May 25) after an asthma attack as did 14-year-old County Down youngster Victoria Warneck who died from an asthma attack on May 22.
This follows hard on the heels from the tragic death of 30-year-old Scott Wasson who died from an asthma attack as he and his new bride waited at the airport to fly home from their honeymoon in Barbados.
An Irish asthma expert has called for health professionals to increase awareness of the potentially lethal respiratory condition.
Patrick McKeown, founder of Asthma Care Ireland 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.
Respiratory nurse consultant at the Mater Hospital Anne Marie McGurk said the recent tragic events served as a reminder that asthma can be a serious and potentially life threatening condition.
“It raises the awareness of how important it is to comply with prescribed medications and be aware of signs of deteriorating and worsening asthma and know how and where to seek the appropriate medical intervention,” she said.
The youngster’s parents Michelle and PJ said they were told by the pathologist that asthma was responsible for their son’s early death.
PJ McMillan said he never thought his son’s health was so fragile.
“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,” he said.
Jim was a popular young man in the area and he was known for his love of football.
His school friends from St Patrick’s College organised a touching farewell to him as part of his funeral Mass.
The teenager was named after his mother’s brother Jim Meighan who was murdered in cold blood by the UVF in 1987. He was 22-years-old.
Jim’s heartbroken mum said friends and family could not help but remember her brother’s death nearly 20 years later.
“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.”
Asthma is the most widespread long-term condition among children affecting 35,000 children in the North. There are on average three children in every classroom who have asthma. Figures show every year 44 people die from the condition in the North and there are over 2,445 people admitted to hospital every year suffering from its symptoms.

Journalist:: Staff Journalist

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