Program help put asthma in check

Tyler Shovah, 8, was the fastest running back for Pop Warner football this year.

That may not sound enthralling, but "have you ever heard of a running back with severe asthma?" his mother Stacey Thompsen asked.

This was the first year of Tyler's life that he could play sports just like other kids. Asthma severe enough to send him to the hospital for days on end kept Tyler sidelined until he learned to control his asthma through the Asthma Education Program.

"Tyler has had asthma since he was a year old," Thomsen said. "It was uncontrollable. He would go into asthma attacks so quickly that before we knew it we were in the emergency room. He was probably hospitalized three to six times a year."

Carson-Tahoe Hospital respiratory therapist Kim Reyes started the program with local family physician Dr. Stuart Stoloff about 18 months ago to help people suffering from asthma learn to control the disease. The hospital supports the program, which is free with a recommendation from the family physician.

Reyes has suffered from asthma since he was 4 years old and understands the need for proper asthma education. He said most people don't know what types of things can be done to help asthma.

"It can really affect your quality of life tremendously," Reyes said. "You kind of gauge your life around it, and there's a problem in that. Asthma is very treatable. You can't cure it, but this disease can be well managed by working with your physician."

Reyes said about 250 people have gone through the 8-week program which teaches people everything from how to watch for asthma "triggers" and how to properly use an inhaler to providing up-to-date information on asthma treatments, maintenance and prevention. The group also has a monthly asthma support group for continuing education.

Thompsen said Tyler was the poster child for asthma until he went through the program. He took up to five different medicines daily. By following an action plan provided by Stoloff, Tyler takes only two medicines and plays football, soccer, basketball and will try his hand at snow boarding this winter.

"I can play sports, run around and ride a bike better than I could," Tyler said. "They teach people lots. If Kim hadn't taught me this, I would have been severe for a long time."

Asthma is a long-term disease that causes airways to swell and become smaller, said Stoloff, who speaks nationally about asthma issues. Stoloff is quick to offer statics to show the scope of how asthma affects Americans and Nevadans in particular.

Stoloff said about 17.3 million people in the United States have asthma with the highest percentage, 7.1 percent, living in Nevada. Asthma is caused by multiple factors including genetics, but Stoloff said asthma is increasingly being linked to obesity. Children with asthma miss 10 million days of school each year and up to 6,000 people die from the disease each year.

"This is a life-long disease, but there is a problem of underrecognition," Stoloff said. "This is a huge disease. This is not a disease that should result in deaths or emergency room visits. There is not reason not to recognize this disease and treat it aggressively. When controlled, people get the return of their lives."

Thompsen agrees, saying people shouldn't have to go through what her family did with Tyler.

"Tyler's incredible," she said. "We're entering cold and flu season and last year we would have been into the emergency room or on heavy antibiotics. This year we haven't been once. My son now gets a normal cold just like anybody else. I look at my life six or seven years ago and we are nowhere near the people we were because of education and knowledge. These people changed our lives."


If you go:

What: Asthma awareness lecture "Rising Up to the Challenges of Pediatric Asthma" by Dr. Stuart Stoloff

When: Tuesday, 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Where: Seeliger Elementary School Multipurpose Room, 2600 Saliman Rd.

Call Kim Reyes for information on the Asthma Education Program or the asthma lecture at 885-4338 or 881-7009.


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