Meet Jamie Kinghorn, a site communications manager at our Montrose site in the UK. Here Jamie explains how he’s controlled his asthma from a very young age; and how managing his asthma enabled him to climb Mount Kenya to support Save the Children.
I’ve lived with asthma virtually all of my life, and when I was younger it affected my life considerably. It meant I was off school a lot, which impacted my parents who had to make arrangements to be at home to care for me.
Growing up, I also had to avoid things that could potentially trigger an asthma attack, such as feather bedclothes, which meant sleepovers with my friends were restricted. We couldn’t have any pets in the house and this meant I was also unable to visit any friends or family who had pets.
An asthma attack is a scary thing to experience. I remember thinking it was like being forced to breathe through a thin straw – you simply can’t breathe in or out as much as your body needs to. It’s suffocating.
Imagine not being able to breathe
Your chest tightens up and you begin to wheeze - a sure sign that the airways are severely restricted and it’s time to get help urgently.
As a teenager, I remember being self-conscious about taking inhalers in public. At a time in my life when image seemed so important, I saw it as an admission of weakness - though I usually found a way to be discreet.
Taking control of my asthma
Controlling my asthma is all about taking the right medicine at the right time in the right way. It’s a combination of ‘reliever’ treatment which eases the symptoms of an asthma attack as and when needed, coupled with a daily ‘preventer’ treatment which reduces the likelihood of an attack occurring in the first place.
I still have to be careful when coming in to contact with certain things but my asthma is now well controlled and those types of considerations are much reduced. Even so, I never leave home without taking my trusted reliever inhaler with me.
It’s reassuring to know that even though I rarely need it, my inhaler is there in my pocket just in case.
Trekking to the summit of Mount Kenya
Exercise is one of my asthma triggers. However, I was keen to take part in our Trek for Kids to support our partnership with Save the Children. This involved nine months of training to get fit enough to climb Mount Kenya, the second highest peak in Africa.
Following discussions with my doctor I found that taking an extra dose of reliever before exercise helped me keep my asthma under control and I managed to walk, cycle, run and swim to a new level in order to get fit enough to tackle such a physical challenge.
With altitude issues due to the thin air as a constant worry, I spoke to the GSK medical team to ensure it would be safe to embark on the challenge. With my medication, I had no more issues from a respiratory perspective than any of the other trekkers. I made sure I had all the medication I needed with me, and on the morning of March 3, 2017 I made it to the summit along with 35 other colleagues. An incredible personal achievement, thanks in part to the medicines that keep my asthma in check.
In the future I hope to do more trekking and am really keen to do the Inca Trail. I trained for Trek for Kids by climbing mountains (Munros) in Scotland and I now intend to climb all 282 Munros. I would also like to take part in a triathlon and one day hope to complete a marathon.
I hope for a cure or vaccination for asthma one day, so that others do not have to suffer as I have.