Everything that we do works towards making sure that breathing isn’t a struggle or a risk. Here are some stories of people whose lives Breathe California has touched.
MARIA AND EMIRInequitably, lung disease is severely impacting the Bay Area’s most vulnerable communities: children, the elderly, and our lowest income families. Maria, the mother of three year old Emir and one of Breathe California’s recent program participants, shared this with us with a huge smile on her face.
Little Emir had a rough start at life. He’s only 3 years old, but due to his asthma he’s already spent his first two years in and out of emergency room. As you can imagine, his mother, Maria, was really worried she would lose her son to asthma. Last year was the toughest year she lived through.
“I was terrified,” said Maria. “I couldn’t help my son get better and I didn’t know what to do for him. I really thought I would lose him.”
After an incident where Emir was rushed to Stanford Lucile Packard with a severe asthma episode that kept him in the hospital two nights, they sent Maria home with a nebulizer machine and medication. Maria was still worried for Emir.
“Asthma was like this little monster that would pop its little face at any given moment. I just never knew when,” said Maria.
She would stay up at night to check on him, and this meant that during the day she was so tired at work. Eventually, she had to change jobs and was almost ready to give up working outside the home because Emir was always sick.
“It was very stressful because I would get a call suddenly and have to run home to take him to the emergency department.”
That’s where Breathe California’s All About Asthma program came in. The program helped Maria increase her knowledge, confidence and skills to manage Emir’s asthma.
“I have more confidence. I know what to do. That scary monster, Asthma, no longer has a hold on my Emir,”
she said with a big smile on her face.
“I’ve learned so much that this last time he caught a cold, I could talk with his doctors and knew exactly what to tell them even when my English is not that good.”
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COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: MARY BROWN
When Mary Brown first received an invitation to Breathe California’s All About Asthma Workshop she thought very little about it. Mary had never personally experienced asthma, nor did she have a history of asthma in her immediate family. So, for the sole purpose of being a better Day Care provider Mary, owner of Mary Brown Day Care, attended the workshop. Little did she know that her connection to asthma was going to get very personal.
“For three weeks my 16 month old daughter & I were in and out of the hospital, seeing different doctors. All of them said she had a cold. But her congestion wouldn’t let up.” Exactly a week after taking the All About Asthma Workshop, Mary’s 16 month old daughter, Cassie, was diagnosed as being asthmatic.
At the All About Asthma Workshop, a week before little Cassie was diagnosed, Mary was taught all the necessary steps to take during an asthma episode and how to avoid asthma triggers. She also got very familiar with the various asthma medicines and how to administer them to small children.
In the class, Mary participated in role playing different asthma scenarios. This helped Mary feel more confident in tending to her own daughter’s asthma. She has even taken what she learned at the workshop and has incorporated new creative ways to get her daughter to use an inhaler.
“My husband sings into her spacer’s mask and then gets her to do it. It’s all a big production, but it works.”
With the help of Breathe California, Mary is now equipped with the information and skills needed to provide a safe, healthy and supportive childcare environment for her daughter and all children living with asthma. Now, Mary wants to give back to Breathe California. When her schedule permits, she hopes to get involved as an All About Asthma Educator. “I’d love to get involved as a trainer. I am grateful for taking the class. The trainings have helped me when it comes to the kids at my Day Care and my own family.”
NICOTINE AND FANCY FREELike many young people, Adam* began smoking in high school. It was largely a situational decision. His friends were doing it, and when he came home after school his family was doing it. He was familiar with cigarettes, comfortable even, and before he knew it they were a substantial part of his daily routine. When Adam came to Ash Kickers after 30 years of smoking, he was up to smoking a pack a day
Ash Kickers is Breathe California’s adult smoking cessation program, and it was different from other programs Adam had attended. For one thing, it was fun. He didn’t feel threatened or talked down to, and he appreciated the fact that the instructor often used humor to drive points home during class. The Ash Kickers curriculum incorporates Stages of Change theory and Behavior Modification Components. Each class throughout the program is framed using a step in the Stages of Change continuum. The stages that helped Adam most were Contemplation and Maintenance. Not only was he in a supportive and encouraging environment at Ash Kickers, but when class ended he had the tools he needed to get through his cravings. In the past, one cigarette could easily derail his cessation efforts, but Ash Kickers taught him that the urge to smoke will undoubtedly pass whether you give in or not. This notion stuck with Adam, and with the guided process provided by Ashkickers, Adam quit the habit.
Everything has changed since he quit (for good) this past year. “I feel better about myself,” Adam says, “people feel better about me. It feels great to see family, friends, dentists, and doctors, and let them know that I’m not smoking anymore.” His health has improved. He can take longer walks than he could before, and he’s no longer depressed. Adam’s quality of life has substantially improved.
“I’m now getting out of the house more, and replacing time I would have spent at home smoking with going to the gym. I used to have chronic insomnia, […] my sleeping is back to normal.”
In addition to the tremendous impact smoking cessation has had on Adam personally, it has also affected him professionally. Adam is a mental health counselor who works primarily with people in recovery. “It means a lot to be a positive role model—having overcome my own addiction,” he says. As the saying goes, it can be difficult to help others if you have not helped yourself. By joining and truly committing to the incentives, resources, and nicotine replacement therapies of the Ash Kickers program, Adam most certainly helped himself.
*Names have been changed to respect agreements of confidentiality.
CAMPFIRE SMOKE ONLY
For many, it takes more than just will power to quit smoking. Mike* smoked for twenty-two years before he found the right reason to quit. For him, negative statistics and difficulty breathing weren’t enough to pull himself out of the habit, he needed something bigger than himself to take the first step. So, when he and his then girlfriend, now wife, decided to have a baby, the choice was clear. It was time for a major change.
As is often the case, Mike began smoking on and off in high school. His best friend was a smoker, and he realized pretty quickly that if he took a few drags off a cigarette he didn’t get a headache when they hung out in the same room together. In the summer between high school graduation and his freshman year of college, this coping mechanism became an everyday occurrence. Over the course of the next two decades, Mike quit smoking a few times, but it never lasted. Within a few days he’d be right back at it, as though there had never been an effort to stop in the first place. When he and his girlfriend decided to have a baby, their doctor strongly recommended cessation. Mike knew of Breathe California, because his office is in the same building, so he did some quick research, discovered Ash Kickers, and he and his girlfriend enrolled.
For the first two Ash Kickers classes smoking is permitted, but after that, participants are encouraged to stop completely. So, before stepping into his third class, Mike smoked his last cigarette. His greatest initial concern was that he would be tempted to smoke on his annual camping trip. The Mendocino County trip is a tradition. Every year, Mike and his buddies head up North for a couple days to hang out, and take in the outdoors. In previous years, smoking was just part of the experience, “A bunch of friends on the camping trip smoke, there’s a smoking area where all the smokers go. I figured within an hour I’d be driving back into Ukiah for a carton of Kools, but I didn’t.” This was a huge success. Cigarette smoking is so routine, so wrapped up in tradition that relapses often occur as a product of habit. Mike’s ability to go on the trip, and to have a good time without cigarettes, proved to be the best move he could make. Since those last few drags before his third Ash Kickers class, nearly five years ago, Mike has been smoke free.
Once he quit for good, Mike noticed that he didn’t get winded as quickly, his senses of smell and taste returned (admittedly he used to over salt and over season his food in order to make it taste good), and his clothes stopped smelling of heavy smoke.
“It’s amazing that when you’re a smoker you don’t smell it,” Mike says, “But now when I get in the elevator with a smoker, I think, ‘Oh, I used to smell like that – and they don’t realize that they do [smell like smoke].'”
In addition to quitting himself, Mike was also able to support his girlfriend in her cessation, and today they are both nonsmokers. The desire to start a family is the spark that ignited Mike’s drive to truly eliminate cigarettes from his life, and Ash Kickers provided the backing to follow through. Mike was able to see where his life was headed as a smoker, and he didn’t like it. The struggles people bring and their reasons to finally quit smoking may be varied, but the ability to move forward with your life smoke free, to take a deep breath and enjoy the fresh air is a shared, human experience that all should have the ability to enjoy.
*Names have been changed to respect agreements of confidentiality.
For more information about Ash Kickers and other Breathe California programs please visit www.ggbreathe.org/programs