Taking time to learn about asthma

A recently formed support group for asthma sufferers wants to educate the people of the Cayman Islands about the disease and its seriousness.

Asthma Cayman was set up following the death of Alexandra Horner, who died in December 2010 after suffering a severe asthma attack.

The group has gathered several members and is hosting a major educational conference for medical professionals in Cayman this weekend.

Nick Quin, Ms Horner’s fiancé, was instrumental in setting up the group, which he hopes will help raise awareness of the condition on the Islands.

“This all started because of Alex’s passing and I wanted to do something to raise awareness about asthma in Cayman,” said Mr. Quin, who is currently off island preparing to run a marathon in Paris, in memory of Ms Horner.

“I don’t think people are aware of how serious a condition asthma can be and I certainly wasn’t, until Alex ultimately passed away from a bad asthma attack.

“Growing up, lots of my friends had asthma and I just thought it was a minor condition that can be easily treated with an inhaler – which it can be, but can also be very serious,” he said.

Ms Horner had suffered from asthma her entire life. When she was younger, her asthma was quite severe and she was hospitalised a few times with its effects.

“I never saw her have an attack and therefore probably didn’t realise how bad her asthma was, but she would use her inhaler regularly throughout the day and before exercise,” said Mr. Quin.

Last year, he and several others ran in the New York Marathon to raise awareness about asthma and to commemorate Ms Horner.

Mr. Quin said he hopes Asthma Cayman will benefit asthma sufferers in the Cayman Islands. “We’re already doing more than was previously done and if that helps make one sufferer’s life easier, then some benefit has come out of this tragedy,” he said.

The group is spearheaded by Melissa Shaw, respiratory specialist at the Health Services Authority, who said a multi-disciplinary approach for treating asthma was necessary in Cayman and she said she hopes this weekend’s conference, at which some of the most prominent asthma specialists from the United States will be speaking, will be a step toward that.

“We’re focusing on educating the public, the asthma sufferers and their family and friends and anyone else who has been affected by asthma,” she said.

According to the latest census results, released this month, asthma is the third most prevalent disease in the Cayman Islands, after high blood pressure and diabetes, affecting 28.3 people in every 1,000.

Mr. Quin said he had discovered running as a means of fundraising for the asthma awareness cause. “I will continue to fundraise – running is the easiest way and I’ve discovered that I love it! It probably means that I will have to do longer and tougher runs as people might need that extra incentive to support me, but I don’t mind, it’s for a great cause,” he said.

The conference for medical professionals, hosted jointly with the Asthma Educators Institute in Boston, will be held on Saturday, 21 April at Hollywood Theatres in Camana Bay.

Asthma Cayman will continue to raise awareness about the illness in the run up to World Asthma Day on 1 May.

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